Witten, Elliott lead as Cowboys stifle Giants 19-3 in opener
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Tough guy Jason Witten scored the game’s only touchdown while setting another franchise record for the Dallas Cowboys, perhaps the most prestigious yet.
Ezekiel Elliott took care of the tough yards, churning out another 100-yard game two days after learning that his six-game suspension over a domestic violence case is on hold.
While Witten and Elliott helped Dallas produce points, the Cowboys shackled a New York offense missing dynamic receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in a 19-3 victory over the Giants on Sunday night.
“You just enjoy the journey,” said Witten, who began his 15th season by breaking Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin’s club record of 11,904 yards. “I’m just trying to devour where I am at this moment. It’s a great time in my life.”
Elliott, last year’s NFL rushing leader, had a rugged 104 yards on the ground and another 36 receiving in a game that he knew he would get to play regardless of a federal judge’s ruling in his bid to have the NFL’s punishment overturned.
“You just have to block it out,” said Elliott, who could play the entire season depending on the next legal move by the NFL. “You just have to focus on being the guy I need to be for this team. I think I am good for this locker room.”
Dak Prescott was turnover-free while throwing for 268 yards as the Cowboys dominated their NFC East rival that swept them during a 13-3 season that topped the NFC and was fueled by the sensational rookie years for the quarterback-running back duo. Dan Bailey kicked four field goals.
Eli Manning didn’t have Beckham in his 200th straight start after his top target sprained his left ankle in a preseason game. The Giants were outgained in the first half 265-49, with just two first downs, while falling behind 16-0.
“We have plenty of players who can make plays on the offense outside of Odell,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “That’s no excuse.”
Manning was 28 of 37 for 211 yards with an interception and connected with new receiver Brandon Marshall just once, late on a desperation drive with the outcome already settled.
Witten scored the Cowboys’ first touchdown on a 12-yard catch and finished with seven catches for 59. Witten, already the franchise leader in catches, now has 1,096 receptions for 11,947 yards.
The 35-year-old Witten is the only tight end other than Tony Gonzalez with at least 1,000 catches and 10,000 yards. He broke Irvin’s record on an 11-yard catch early in the second quarter.
Elliott had to work for his yards after the crowd cheered loudly when he was introduced and kept up the “Zeke” calls while he made his trademark feed-me gesture after first downs. His biggest play was a 30-yard catch-and-run, easily the most open field he saw against one of the league’s best run defenses a year ago.
“I think every person (who is) a part of the Cowboys was lifted by that decision,” owner Jerry Jones said of Friday’s court ruling. “Although he was playing in this game no matter what, the idea that we could have him for an extended period of time was certainly inspirational.”
The Giants had a nearly 10-minute drive to start the second half but settled for Aldrick Rosas’ 25-yard field goal after a second-down sack of Manning, Dallas’ third of the game and the first of Charles Tapper’s career. DeMarcus Lawrence had two sacks for Dallas.
Anthony Brown all but sealed the win for the Cowboys when he was the first to get his hands on a throw from Manning and won a tug-of-war with Roger Lewis Jr. for the interception midway through the fourth quarter.
DID YOU SEE THAT?
Dallas receiver Cole Beasley made a crazy catch in the fourth quarter to keep a drive alive. He got his hand on a wobbly ball as he was approaching the sideline and reached behind his head with his left hand, trapping the ball against his shoulder pads and helmet as he tip-toed inbounds. Beckham seemed impressed , offering a subtle nod.
With Beckham missing, running back Shane Vereen led all receivers with nine catches and had 51 yards. Rookie first-round pick Evan Engram, a tight end, had four catches for 44 yards. Second-year receiver Sterling Shepard had seven catches, but for just 44 yards. Lewis had four grabs for 54 yards.
LONG TIME COMING
Jaylon Smith made his debut for Dallas after missing his rookie year recovering from a knee injury in his final game at Notre Dame. He was second to All-Pro Sean Lee with seven tackles and forced the game’s only fumble.
Cowboys: CB Orlando Scandrick broke a bone in his hand in the second quarter. The Cowboys are hopeful the injury won’t keep him out long.
Giants: Home against Detroit (1-0) on Monday night next week.
Cowboys: At Denver on Sunday.
Corrects previous version with one catch for Brandon Marshall instead of no catches.