If the Dallas Cowboys' defense plays like it did Sunday, Cooper Rush just needs to be good enough.
Rush was good enough Sunday for the Cowboys to get a huge win in their first game without Dak Prescott as the starting quarterback this season. Brett Maher hit a 50-yard field goal as time expired and the Cowboys beat the Cincinnati Bengals 20-17.
The Cowboys' defense came up big, including a key three-and-out on Cincinnati's last possession. Rush got the Cowboys in field-goal range after that and Maher came through. Rush was 19-of-31 for 235 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. The Cowboys will take that stat line from Rush for every game Prescott misses.
The Cowboys heard all week how they were in trouble without Prescott, who is out following thumb surgery. It wasn't quite that bad on Sunday.
Cowboys took an early lead
The Cowboys started very well. Noah Brown caught a 9-yard touchdown from Rush. After a Bengals field goal, Tony Pollard had a 46-yard run to the 1-yard line, then punched it in on the next play. For a team that lost its quarterback and other key starters the week before, then had to hear all week about how their season might be done, it was a nice jolt of confidence.
The Cowboys' defense played well most of the game, led by Micah Parsons and his two sacks. That was necessary because the offense stalled after halftime. That's going to happen as Prescott is sidelined. The Bengals eventually put together a touchdown drive, with Tee Higgins scoring in the fourth quarter. Cincinnati got the two-point conversion to tie the game 17-17.
At that point the defense had done a great job to keep the team in the game. Once Cincinnati tied it, the offense had to do its part to get the win. Eventually, it did.
Offense stalled after halftime
The first drive for the Cowboys after Cincinnati tied it started well, with Rush hitting CeeDee Lamb for 24 yards. On the next play Ezekiel Elliott was dropped for a 4-yard loss on a short catch. The Cowboys have very little margin for error on offense without Prescott, and losing 4 yards on first down is usually not going to lead to anything good. The Cowboys ended up punting just before the two-minute warning.
But the defense kept the Cowboys alive. Trevon Diggs made a great tackle on Tyler Boyd short of the first down on third-and-3, and the Cowboys' offense had another chance. Rush completed a couple passes to get Dallas into field goal range. Maher was good from 50 yards out.
Dallas is going to have to grind out wins as long as Prescott is out. Every one will have a ton of value, and the Cowboys can feel good about their unlikely win over the Bengals on Sunday.