The Dallas Cowboys were here to send a message.
Never mind that the Los Angeles Rams left all but two starters at home for the first preseason game in Hawaii since 1976.
The Cowboys were without 13 injured players and plenty of others who didn’t play for precautionary reasons.
Oh, yeah, and Ezekiel Elliott, who has returned briefly to Dallas but is still holding out for a new contract.
There was a message to be made in the Aloha state in what turned out to be a 14-10 Cowboys victory, snapping a five-game preseason losing streak dating back to last season.
Quarterback Dak Prescott was impressive in his lone drive of the game, one that he directed 97 yards for a touchdown on the opening possession without Pro Bowl tackle Tyron Smith and Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin.
Prescott completed all five passes for 64 yards.
This came without Elliott, Smith and Martin and also without receiver Amari Cooper.
“It is always a challenge coming off your own goal line,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We call that a “coming out situation.” One of your goals is to get a first down and change field position. To be able to have a 13-play drive and cash it in for points was big for us.”
The big plays were a 31-yard pass to receiver Michael Gallup and a 10-yard pass to tight end Jason Witten, playing for the first time since 2017. He retired and worked for ESPN last season before deciding to give football a try again.
Witten did not play in the 17-9 preseason opening loss to the 49ers.
Rookie fourth-round pick Tony Pollard ended the drive with an impressive 14-yard touchdown run.
It was the first score for the Cowboys in three preseason games dating back to last season.
“It felt really good. I was very anxious to get out there and play,” Witten said. “It is just the next step in the comeback. I worked really hard to get back in shape. I hold myself to a high standard, so I can say it was not perfect. I got a little antsy early but had a big third down conversion on an option route. That was big. Thirteen plays, it was a good drive for us offensively. I think this is just the next step.”
Pollard rushed five times for 42 yards on the opening drive. He also caught one pass for 9 yards to show that there is possibly life without Elliott... or, at the very least, that the Cowboys can survive briefly if Elliott is still holding out when the season starts.
“I thought Dak (Prescott) was in total command,” Witten said. “We were backed up on our three-yard line, and he said, ‘Let’s go 97,” and we did. It was a mixture of the pass game and the run game. I thought Tony Pollard did a good job hitting the hole. Of course, the big explosive play; we converted some third downs and Gallup’s big catch down there. That’s what we have been working on is finding those plays. We did it as a group, going 97 yards, and that’s a big step for this team in moving on from last week. We still have a lot of training camp left.”
After forcing two punts, the Cowboys defense let the Rams off the hook when Reggie Davis muffed a punt. Backup quarterback Blake Bortles cashed in with a seven-yard touchdown pass.
The Rams led 10-7 at halftime.
Cowboys kicker Brett Maher missed a 52-yarder in the first quarter. It was his second missed field goal of the preseason.
“I just wanted to see what he can do,” Garrett said. “He has been such a good kicker for us from that distance. With the conditions, with the wind, outdoors, all that, I just wanted to put him in that situation, and he will grow from that experience.”
Cooper Rush came on in the second half to lead the Cowboys to victory and take control of teh backup quarterback competition.
Rush completed 10 of 16 passes for 83 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Devin Smith in the third quarter to give the Cowboys the lead.
The defense made it stick with a third-quarter interception from linebacker Justin Phillips and number of stops in the fourth quarter.
Mike White came on for Prescott in the first quarter and played into the third quarter in what was a night to forget. He completed 7 of 13 passes for 30 yards and had an interception on the first drive of the third quarter on an under thrown pass, sending Rush into the game. It was the second straight dreadful game for White.
Again, the Rams came to Hawaii without 20 of 22 starters, including quarterback quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley and defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
The Cowboys came to Hawaii with a number of injured players, including receiver Cedrick Wilson, linebacker Kyle Queiro, linebacker Luke Gifford, defensive end Robert Quinn, guard Connor McGovern, Martin, Smith, tackle Brandon Knight, cornerback Byron Jones, receiver Noah Brown, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, defensive end Tyrone Crawford and guard Cody Wichmann.
Linebacker Sean Lee, Cooper, tight ends Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz and safety Jeff Heath made the trip but did not play.
The Cowboys return to Dallas Sunday and will have Monday off before resuming practice on Tuesday at the Star in Frisco.
It ends a training camp odyssey that began when they reported for camp in Oxnard, Calif. on July 25. It included 15 practices and two preseason games.
“It’s been a great experience,” Witten said of the trip to Hawaii. “I have been fortunate enough to have played in the Pro Bowl; you come on this field; so many greats have been here. It is a great opportunity, even though it is preseason. This community loves football, and it was great to spend some time with them. Their hospitality has been off the charts.”