Cowboys offense erupts when it's least expected, steamrolls Jaguars

ARLINGTON, Texas -- When Dallas offensive coordinator Scott Linehan spoke to the media last week, he said the Cowboys offense was close to being successful in so many ways.

It sounded more like something a coach had to say than anything based in fact, considering the Cowboys had not scored more than two touchdowns, converted more than five third-down opportunities or shown any consistency in the first five games of the season. It sounded a lot like Jerry Jones comparing the Cowboys’ offensive potential to the high-flying Los Angeles Rams.

And then Sunday’s 40-7 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who entered with the NFL's top-ranked defense, happened.

Dak Prescott was at his best, looking like it was 2016 all over again. He threw two touchdown passes to Cole Beasley, the first time they'd connected for a score since Week 9 last season. He ran 17 yards for a touchdown. He finished with a career-high 82 rushing yards on a career-high 11 carries. He threw for 183 yards on 17-of-27 passing.

Ezekiel Elliott finished with 106 yards on 24 carries and had a 15-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter.

As much as everybody wants to know where this offensive explosion came from, the bigger question that will determine the Cowboys’ success the rest of the season is: How do they sustain this kind of performance, especially on the road?

Three of the Cowboys’ next four games are away from home. In their first three road games, all losses, the Cowboys have averaged 12.3 points, 16 first downs, 276 yards and converted just 9 of 38 third-down tries.

But before going down that road, Cowboys fans can enjoy what was on display against the Jaguars.

Before Sunday, the Cowboys had not scored more than 26 points in a game. The last time they scored more came in Week 14 last season against the New York Giants in a 30-10 win. The last time they scored 40 points at home came in 2016.

Before Sunday, the Cowboys had not converted more than five third-down chances in a game. They converted 6 of 9 in the first half.

Before Sunday, the Cowboys had not scored on their first four possessions of a game since Week 4 last season against the Rams. They scored on all four against the Jaguars, with Beasley ending the first half with his second touchdown catch, a 9-yard reception with 41 seconds left in the half.

Now 3-3, the Cowboys will be in the NFC East race in part because no other team has been able to create any separation in the first six weeks.

Next week, they take on the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field, where Dallas has won five games in a row. The Redskins lead the division with a 3-2 mark but are hardly unbeatable.

A convincing win like Sunday’s can change a team’s mindset, especially when it comes out of nowhere.

Now the Cowboys have to show they can do it on the road.