By Nick Shook
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Week 2 wasn’t friendly to road teams. It rarely is.
Before Monday night’s game, only five of 15 road teams came away with wins this week. Two of those wins required late, go-ahead scores to secure the win. One called for 25 unanswered points to overcome a 20-point deficit — to the Browns. Simply put, it was tough sledding for the guys coming from the hotel.
But stars still emerged. Thursday night saw a blast from the past, even if the uniforms looked more like something from the future. And a young kid shined in the nation’s capital. These are your best road warriors of Week 2.
Greatest on the Road …
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Prescott’s Cowboys fell in crushing fashion to open the season. He failed to find his best target. He wasn’t to blame, but there was room for improvement.
Improve he did in Week 2, and by quite a margin. Prescott looked comfortable from the jump, finding Cole Beasley on a well-sold play action bootleg on the very first play from scrimmage. Prescott completed 5 of 8 passes on the drive, which resulted in just three points but established a rhythm for the Cowboys‘ offense.
For the second straight week, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan effectively implemented designed rollouts to get Prescott where he’s dangerous with his legs and comfortable throwing: outside of the pocket. The Redskins‘ focus on stopping the ground game — something with which they struggled mightily in Week 1 — was exposed with the multiple play actions, including a gutsy call late in the first on fourth-and-1 that required an impressively quick and athletic throw from Prescott to tight end Geoff Swain and went for a big gain.
That drive ended in six points on a Ezekiel Elliott run and gave Dallas a 10-0 lead. Prescott made his mobility and size combination into a weapon and scored on a scramble up the middle in the third, but Washington rebounded and took the lead into the fourth, where it officially became Dak Season.
Prescott found Bryant for a chunk of yardage, then hit on another bootleg for a gain of 14 to set the Cowboys up near midfield with eons of time left in the fourth. Perhaps his best play game on second-and-4 from the Washington 44, where Prescott, 10 yards deep in the backfield and surrounded by defenders on all sides, managed to avoid a sack by dumping it off to Swain, who made it back to the line of scrimmage, avoid a disastrous loss of yards. The play drew a roughing the passer penalty and a fresh set of downs, and a few plays later on third-and-11, Prescott stood tall in a mostly clean pocket and found Beasley for another first down. A completion to Witten on a drag put Dallas inside the five, setting up Alfred Morris for a revenge touchdown to take the lead and the win for Dallas.
The final line for Prescott: 22-of-30 passing (73.3 percent), 292 yards. He was shut out of the end zone through the air, but added that rushing touchdown. He looks more seasoned than the most tender steak and aged well beyond his years, like the finest of wines. Not only would that make a good dinner pairing — it also makes for a good quarterback on the road.
Also considered …
Matt Forte, New York Jets
Who says running backs 30 or older aren’t worth anything?
Forte spent all offseason battling the narrative (fueled by his departure from Chicago) that he was over the hill. He talked about how he mixed training techniques (weightlifting, yoga) with weekly skeletal adjustments. He couldn’t wait to take the field as a Jet. And in Week 2, on the Thursday Night Football stage, he proved he still has some tread on the tires and plenty of gas in the tank.
Forte churned up 100 yards on 30 carries and gave the Jets an offensive pace that allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick to flourish. Forte’s hard-running style was valuable inside the red zone, where he reached paydirt three times, including a late touchdown from three yards out that essentially sealed an emphatic win for the Jets.
His yards-per-carry average isn’t beautiful, but Forte’s game was more about what was on film than on the stat sheet. For a 30-year-old back, Forte ran with purpose, quickness and power. He’s the lead back New York has largely missed since Ladanian Tomlinson’s last effective season as a Jet, which feels like ages ago. It’s a welcome sight for Gang Green.
Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens
This one has a little extra meaning to it.
Dennis Pitta has endured a brutal stretch of bad health. Prior to Week 1, Pitta hadn’t played a game since Sept. 21, 2014, when he dislocated and fractured his hip. He returned to the site of the injury Sunday in Cleveland, when the Ravens and a healthy Pitta faced the Browns.
He made the most it, catching nine passes for 102 yards with a long reception of 30. And as the Ravens clawed their way back from a 20-0 deficit, each time Baltimore faced a third down, there was Pitta to catch a pass and keep the drive going.
No disrespect to Crockett Gilmore, who showed he’s valuable too with his one reception for 22 yards (and another new set of downs), but simply put, Baltimore struggles to complete the comeback without a reliable option like Pitta. Though he was shut out of the end zone, he was the go-to guy who moved the chains time and time again, which was key to the Ravens‘ road win and a 2-0 start.