Cooper Rush Cowboys Up, Leads NFL to Best Week 2 Ratings This Century

Dak Prescott’s busted thumb didn’t dim the NFL ratings picture, as Dallas’ 20-17 home win over Cincinnati helped CBS deliver its largest Sunday afternoon audience in three years, and the biggest TV turnout for a Week 2 game in the 21st century.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the CBS national window, which featured the Bengals-Cowboys skirmish across the Eastern and Central time zones, as well as the Los Angeles market, averaged a staggering 27.4 million viewers and a 14.1 household rating. This marks CBS’ most-watched Sunday NFL broadcast since Dec. 8, 2019, when the Chiefs and Patriots battled it out in front of 28.1 million viewers while notching a 16.1 HH rating.

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Sunday’s showcase, which also included Arizona’s overtime win over Las Vegas, now stands as the 13th biggest broadcast of 2022. While it was reasonable to fear that a Cooper Rush-led Cowboys squad might stumble in the ratings race, the backup QB came through in the clutch, engineering a six-play, 33-yard drive that set up Brett Maher’s game-winning 50-yard field goal as time expired.

If Rush is largely an unknown property outside of Cowboys Country, he proved himself to be an able field general in Prescott’s absence, completing 19 of 31 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown. On the opposite sideline, Joe Burrow spent much of the game running for his life, as the Bengals’ papier-mâché offensive line once again failed to protect their signal-caller. Burrow was sacked six times, bringing his takedown total to 13 in two games this season, which puts him on pace to shatter David Carr’s unenviable record of 76 visits to the turf in his rookie season (2002).

In sneaking one by the defending AFC champs, Dallas helped the NFL’s network partners breathe a little easier. Prescott suffered a fractured hand in the fourth quarter of a season-opening loss to Tampa, an injury that seemed to cast a pall over the near-term ratings picture. But the thumb is said to be healing quickly, so while Prescott is almost certain to miss the Cowboys’ next two national appearances—these include next Monday’s clash with the undefeated New York Giants on ESPN and the Oct. 9 Rams game on Fox—the franchise QB should be back in time to face down the Eagles in the Oct. 16 Sunday Night Football window.

The NFL’s biggest draw is set to appear in 11 coast-to-coast broadcasts in 2022. Dallas last season averaged 23 million viewers over the course of its 12 nationally televised games, topping runner-up Green Bay by some 1.9 million viewers per outing.

Also putting up big numbers over the weekend were those very same Packers, who took the starch out of the Bears in a Sunday Night Football blowout that averaged20.8 million viewers, a figure that includes some 1.3 million streaming impressions. Aaron Rodgers is now 23-5 against his NFC North rivals, and currently riding a seven-game winning streak against the Monsters of the Midway. The last time Chicago beat Green Bay was in 2018.

Rodgers looked like his old self on Sunday night, steering the Packers to a decisive 27-10 victory by connecting on 19 of his 25 passes for a total of 234 yards in the air and a pair of touchdowns. While Chicago never posed much of a threat—second-year QB Justin Fields put on an eminently forgettable performance, passing for 70 yards, zero touchdowns and an interception—Green Bay still has a lot to clean up as it preps for its Week 3 duel with Tom Brady and the Bucs.

Set to air in the Fox national window, this will be the fifth meeting between the wily old No. 12s and the first since the Bucs beat the Packers in the 2021 NFC Championship Game. Tampa’s 31-26 win averaged 44.8 million viewers, peaking at 53.0 million viewers in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. The last time Brady and Rodgers squared off in the regular season was earlier that same season, when the Bucs stomped the Pack 38-10 in front of a TV audience of 22.3 million.

Through Sunday, NFL deliveries are up 4% versus the first two weeks of the 2021 campaign.

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