Goff, Prescott meet after wildly different rookie seasons
By SCHUYLER DIXON
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Jared Goff watched fellow rookie Dak Prescott's remarkable debut for the Dallas Cowboys last year while the top overall pick by the Los Angeles Rams sat more than half the season and struggled when he finally did play.
Now the second-year quarterbacks are set to face each other Sunday on Prescott's home field with Goff off to the better start for the surprising Rams.
"You get picked No. 1 for a reason and he's had a lot of success early this year, so he's good," said Prescott, who was the 135th overall pick in the fourth round before becoming NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2016. "He's slinging the ball and he's got some great weapons and he's doing a great job."
Goff had a career-best 145.8 passer rating to get the Rams (2-1) to the top of the NFC West in a 41-39 win over San Francisco last week. He has the league's third-best rating while Prescott languishes in the middle of the pack (88.9) a year after setting an NFL rookie record at 104.9.
"Anytime you go from Year 1 to Year 2, high school, college, the NFL, you just get more comfortable with everything, understand the system more and understand how the league works, how game day works and how practice works," Goff said. "So I think I just feel more comfortable."
Rams coach Sean McVay was in the NFC East with the Cowboys the past three years as offensive coordinator in Washington. So he saw the sparkling starts for Prescott and Philadelphia rookie Carson Wentz, who cooled off as the season progressed.
After getting hired, McVay turned his attention to Goff, who had five touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 63.6 rating while losing all seven of his starts as a rookie.
"I didn't sense a guy that was wanting to put any blame on anybody other than take the accountability himself and just look at it as I'm challenged in the right way to respond and return in Year 2," McVay said. "That's what you like about him."
Things to consider with the Cowboys (2-1) seeking the first four-game winning streak in a series that includes eight playoff games, all during the Rams' previous stint in Los Angeles:
GURLEY THE MAN: Rams running back Todd Gurley is tied with Kansas City rookie Kareem Hunt for most touchdowns with six. And like Goff over Prescott, Gurley has the edge so far on Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott, the NFL rushing leader as a rookie last season. Gurley has 241 yards rushing to 192 for Elliott.
"There's a lot of good backs in the league right now and Todd Gurley's one of the best guys," Elliott said. "It's going to be fun to be able to see him play in person."
FEEL THE RUSH: The defenses will feature NFL sacks leader DeMarcus Lawrence of Dallas (6 1/2 sacks) and one of the most dominant interior rushers in Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The All-Pro had his first sack against the 49ers after a holdout that sidelined him through the opener.
Lawrence already has more sacks than any Dallas player last season, and is 1 1/2 shy of his career high. "He's affecting the game as much as any defensive lineman around the league right now," McVay said.
TOP TARGETS: Goff got a big boost with the offseason addition of Sammy Watkins in a trade. Watkins leads the Rams with 194 yards receiving and has two touchdown grabs, along with Gurley. Dallas' Dez Bryant also has two TDs, but just 114 yards on 11 catches. Bryant's second score was a 15-yarder when he carried several defenders into the end zone with a helpful push from center Travis Frederick.
Prescott earlier had a 10-yard scoring run that ended with a flip at the goal line as he tried to dive past three defenders. "They're physical athletes," coach Jason Garrett said. "For guys to play the positions they do, sometimes you don't really think about that."
ANTHEM WATCH: The Rams haven't played since President Donald Trump's criticism of NFL players kneeling or sitting for the national anthem sparked the most displays since former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the movement last season.
The Cowboys haven't said what they plan to do in their first home game since Trump's comments after kneeling as a team before and standing during the anthem - both times locked arm in arm - prior to a 28-17 win at Arizona on Monday.
More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
Updated September 28, 2017