ARLINGTON, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys throttled the Jets, 30-10, on Sunday afternoon, reminding the visitors from New York — as if any reminders were needed — of what the rest of their season may look like without quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers lasted just three official plays in the Jets’ season opener last week before he tore his left Achilles’ tendon. The Jets (1-1) managed to pull off a 22-16 victory in overtime against the Buffalo Bills thanks to their tremendous defense and pounding run game.
The Jets’ defense did its part Sunday, too, stopping the Cowboys (2-0) several times in the red zone and forcing Dallas to settle for field goals on five drives. But Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott wore down the defense with short passes to neutralize the Jets’ talented defensive backs. He connected with wide receiver CeeDee Lamb 11 times for 143 yards. Running back Tony Pollard caught another seven passes for 37 yards and rushed for 72 yards on 25 carries.
In all, Prescott completed 31 of 38 attempts for 255 yards and two touchdowns, thrown to tight ends Jake Ferguson and Luke Schoonmaker.
Rodgers’s replacement, Zach Wilson, the second overall pick in the 2021 draft, picked up where he left off last season. Under pressure all game from Dallas’s fearsome front four, Wilson was sacked three times and threw three fourth-quarter interceptions, as the Jets tried to nip away at a scoring deficit. Wilson finished with 170 yards on 12 of 27 passing, leading the team with 36 yards rushing. He was hounded throughout the night by Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons, who had four quarterback hits, including two sacks.
Wilson’s few bright moments came early and with the assistance of his teammates. Dallas took an early lead on Prescott’s first-quarter touchdown pass to Ferguson, and added 3 points on Brandon Aubrey’s 35-yard field goal. Midway through the second quarter, Wilson opened a drive from the Jets’ 32-yard line by finding Garrett Wilson, the 2022 offensive rookie of the year, on a play-action pass. The receiver broke free of a tackle and sprinted 68 yards into the end zone to narrow the score to 10-7.
Ultimately, the Cowboys returned to the formula that helped them upend the Giants, 40-0, last week in New Jersey. Prescott got rid of the ball quickly and Pollard, who became the team’s top running back last season, kept the Jets from locking in on the pass rush.
Parsons also stripped running back Dalvin Cook of the ball on the Jets’ second drive of the third quarter, short-circuiting their attempt to close a scoring gap that had ballooned to 21-10.
Playing from behind and under pressure, Zach Wilson threw interceptions on the Jets’ final three possessions. The first of them, early in the fourth quarter, was picked off by Cowboys safety Jayron Kearse, who returned the ball 32 yards to the Jets’ 17-yard line. The Cowboys added a field goal to push their lead to 30-10.
The final two interceptions were nabbed after the Jets approached midfield and the Dallas secondary sat back on Wilson’s throws. The matchup, like much of the Jets’ schedule before Rodgers’s injury, had been an interesting measuring stick for a team with newfound postseason hopes.
Unfortunately for Jets fans and the television networks, the Jets, who were hyped on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” during the summer, are likely to struggle as they look for an offensive formula that works without Rodgers, the Hall of Fame caliber quarterback they expected to lead them this season.