NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys know they have some things to clean up. Starting a two-game road swing to wrap up the regular season with a victory is all that matters.
Prescott threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns to Dalton Schultz and the Cowboys beat the banged-up and resting Tennessee Titans 27-13 on Thursday night for their sixth win in seven games.
The Cowboys (12-4) posted their first back-to-back 12-win seasons since 1994 and 1995, when Dallas won the last of its five Super Bowl titles. Fans were chanting “Let’s go Cowboys!” throughout the game.
“This was a game we needed to get, and we got it done,” Dallas coach Mike McCarthy said. “Whether we get any style points (or not), that’s OK. We’re still at 12 wins.”
The Cowboys still need to finish the regular season by winning at Washington with Philadelphia (13-2) losing out for a chance at a second straight NFC East title. Otherwise, they will be locked into the No. 5 seed in the NFC.
Ezekiel Elliott had a a 1-yard touchdown run, his ninth straight game with a rushing TD. That made him the fifth player with such a streak since 2000, joining Shaun Alexander (2005), Priest Holmes (11 in 2002), Jonathan Taylor in 2021 and LaDainian Tomlinson (18 between 2004-05).
The Titans (7-9) lost their sixth straight hours after placing quarterback Ryan Tannehill on injured reserve, ending his season unless they reach the AFC championship. They have 22 players on injured reserve and lead the NFL using at least 83 different players.
This game was meaningless for Tennessee in the standings, with next week’s regular-season finale at Jacksonville deciding the AFC South title. So the Titans scratched seven starters, not counting two others put on IR with Tannehill. Those watching included Derrick Henry, the NFL’s second-leading rusher.
“I’m sure that everybody expected us to just lay down,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “I know that we didn’t do that.”
The Titans gave Joshua Dobbs, signed Dec. 21 off Detroit’s practice squad, his first NFL start instead of rookie Malik Willis, their third-round pick in April. The former University of Tennessee star played his last college game on this field, a 2016 Music City Bowl win over Nebraska for a very long wait between starts.
“Oh man, it was a long time, that’s for sure,” Dobbs said. “It definitely was a long time. A lot of working out and you’re like, ‘Dang, I don’t even know.’”
Dobbs had more yards passing by halftime than Willis managed in any of his first three starts. Dobbs finished with 232 yards and the first TD pass of his career, a 7-yarder to Robert Woods, that pulled the Titans within 17-13 late in the third.
The Cowboys scored the final 10 points. Prescott capped a 75-yard drive with his second TD pass to Schultz for a 24-13 lead early in the fourth. Brett Maher added his second field goal for the final margin.
Dallas led only 10-6 at halftime thanks to three turnovers, including two interceptions off Prescott by two-time All-Pro safety Kevin Byard that set up field goals by Randy Bullock. That gave Prescott a career-high 14 picks, tying him with now-benched Raiders quarterback Derek Carr for most in the NFL.
That’s despite Prescott missing five games with a broken thumb. The Dallas quarterback has been picked off in six consecutive games for the first time in his career.
“Whether it’s off your guy’s hands or whether I throw it behind the receiver and the cornerback makes the play, they’re all frustrating and somehow or another they’ve got to stop,” Prescott said.
Prescott took advantage of the ailing Titans defense, finding CeeDee Lamb for 11 catches for 100 yards. Lamb also became only the third Cowboys player with 100 catches in a season, joining Michael Irvin (111 in 1995) and Jason Witten (110 in 2012).
When undrafted rookie cornerback Tre Avery was flagged for grabbing Michael Gallup on third-and-19, Prescott threw a 6-yard TD pass to Schultz on the next play midway through the third for a 17-6 lead.
The Titans were penalized 10 times for a season-high 124 yards, three on defensive pass interference flags for 74 yards. Dallas was flagged three times for 35 yards, and Vrabel made clear he thought an official missed a pass interference when Titans rookie Treylon Burks was held.
“I think his left arm got grabbed,” Vrabel said. “Same guy, all those 50-yard pass interference penalties didn’t see it the same way on our sidelines. I don’t know what to tell you.”
Dallas center Tyler Biadasz hurt his right ankle when Titans defensive end DeMarcus Walker rolled up on his leg late in the third quarter. That forced Connor McGovern to slide over from left guard, Tyler Smith from left tackle to guard with Jason Peters coming in for Smith. Biadasz did not return.
Titans defensive back Andrew Adams hurt his right knee on Schultz’s second TD catch and was carted to the locker room. Titans cornerback Davontae Harris hurt a hamstring early.
Dallas wraps up the regular season at Washington.
The Titans visit Jacksonville trying to beat the odds and win a third straight AFC South title.