Meaningful NFL games won’t be played for roughly another four weeks, but Saturday’s preseason action was a more than satisfying appetizer. Three of the four contests were decided within the final seconds, including the Rams’ first game back in Los Angeles in 22 years.
Nearly 90,000 fans flocked to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to see the Rams take on the Dallas Cowboys. The main attraction was No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff, whose NFL career didn’t get off to the best start. The quarterback’s second pass of the day was picked off, and he finished a lackluster 4 of 9 for 38 yards before being removed from the game with a shoulder injury.
But the Rams were still able to pull out the 28-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys when backup Sean Mannion connected with rookie running back Aaron Green on a nine-yard touchdown pass with 1:54 remaining. It’s possible that neither player will ever reach stardom, but they’ll always be credited with delivering the Rams a win in their homecoming.
Though August heroics are often forgotten as soon as the regular season begins, it’s the only football we have right now. If the rest of the preseason is similar to what we saw Saturday, that should be more than enough to hold fans over until Week 1.
Highlights of the day
1. The NFL appeared to move closer to eliminating the kickoff this offseason when the owners voted to bump touchbacks to the 25-yard line for 2016. The ploy is meant to discourage kick returns, which may be the most dangerous play in the game.
Player safety should override all of the NFL’s other concerns, so attempts to phase out the kickoff are understandable. But it still remains one of the most exciting sequences in football, and Cowboys wide receiver Buck Whitehead showed everyone why.
2. It’s rare when a game is decided when time is literally expiring, but that was the case when the Seattle Seahawks upstaged the Kansas City Chiefs, 17-16.
With five seconds remaining and the Seahawks trailing by seven, undrafted rookie Trevone Boykin uncorked a deep pass to receiver Tanner McEvoy in the end zone. McEvoy came down with the catch to bring the Seahawks, and Seattle converted its two-point attempt to walk away with the comeback victory.
As a senior at TCU, Boykin passed for 3,574 yards and 31 touchdowns while rushing for an additional 612 yards and nine touchdowns in 11 games. His performance Saturday may have put him in the early lead to nab the backup QB job behind Russell Wilson.
3. Boykin was one of three rookie quarterbacks who shined Saturday. Cardale Jones dazzled in his debut for the Buffalo Bills, completing 11 of 21 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown to go along with 34 yards on four carries.
Jones connected with Jarrett Boykin on a four-yard touchdown as time was running out to bring the Bills within one point of the Indianapolis Colts, but they wound up losing to Indy, 19-18, when they failed to convert a two-point try.
Jones, who led Ohio State to the 2015 national championship, is no stranger to playing in big moments. Though the Bills did recently sign Tyrod Taylor to a six-year contract extension, it’s probably comforting to know that Jones appears capable of leading an offense.
4. This offseason, the Tennessee Titans committed to rebuilding their running game. It paid off Saturday in their 27-10 win over the San Diego Chargers.
The Titans rushed for 288 yards as a team and scored three touchdowns on the ground as well. The big highlight came when DeMarco Murray unleashed a 71-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter.
Murray, who the Titans acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles in March, is just two years removed from leading the league in rushing yards. He showed Saturday there’s still plenty of gas left in his tank.
Jared Goff gets overshadowed by Dak Prescott
The real story coming out of Saturday’s Cowboys-Rams affair wasn’t Goff, but rather Dallas backup Dak Prescott. Thrown into the spotlight after Kellen Moore’s injury, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones praised the Mississippi State alumnus last week. Prescott’s dazzling performance Saturday, in which he completed 10 of 12 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns, indicates Jones may be onto something.
The Cowboys failed to win a single game while Tony Romo was sidelined for eight games last season. Prescott’s performance Saturday did a lot to ease concerns about the team’s quarterback depth chart.
Picking up where they left off
Dez Bryant and Marcus Peters are two of the best at their respective positions. They showed why on Saturday.
Bryant, who only played in nine games last season due to a foot injury, caught two passes for 28 yards. But one of those catches was a sensational touchdown grab he brought in while standing in the corner of the end zone.
Peters intercepted eight passes in his rookie campaign, and looks poised to terrorize opposing quarterbacks once again this season. He picked off Russell Wilson midway through the first quarter Saturday.
Marcus Peters made a pick. What, you're surprised? pic.twitter.com/NWhBwLAdH1— Laurie Horesh (@LaurieHoresh) August 13, 2016
As Arrowhead Pride points out, the most impressive aspect of that play is Peters’ awareness. He makes sure to drag two feet so he stays in bounds while tumbling out of the end zone. Combining that kind of savvy and skill is dangerous.
The real sign that football is back in LA
It’s debatable how much of an economic impact new sports stadiums have on cities, but parking vendors are unequivocally some of the biggest beneficiaries. Rams fans were reminded that prior to Saturday’s contest:
God bless America.