Halfway through the season, the Dallas Cowboys find themselves atop the NFC East with a 6-1 record after downing their division rival, the Philadelphia Eagles, 29-23 in overtime. This win also puts the Cowboys at the top of the league rankings next to only the New England Patriots, a far cry from what was initially expected out of rookie quarterback Dak Prescott at the beginning of the season. Being mentioned in the same breath as the almighty Patriots does not happen because of sheer luck; it happens because of a rookie quarterback playing beyond his years.
If Tony Romo does not step onto the gridiron again this year for the Cowboys, Prescott’s poise in this Week 8 matchup against the Eagles will forever be known as the reason why. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the word poise translates into an “easy, self-possessed assurance of manner.” It’s a shame that Prescott’s name is not listed under the synonyms, but his resiliency on the field transcends the realm of simple textbook definitions.
For the first three and a half quarters of Sunday night’s matchup, Prescott did not exercise the same decision-making that was so prevalent prior to the bye week. While in the red zone before the end of the first half, Prescott made arguably his worst decision of the season when he forced a pass to wide receiver Brice Butler on a slant route only to have it intercepted by Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks. On their next drive in the second half, Prescott executed a poor read option and fumbled the ball when he mistimed a handoff to running back Ezekiel Elliot.
The offensive line also failed to both open up running lanes for Elliot and free the play action pass for Prescott. This lack of adequate coverage inside the trenches flushed Prescott out of the pocket and forced him to make a few uncomfortable throws downfield. Furthermore, Prescott did not get his most reliable receiver, Cole Beasley, involved until towards the end of the game.
Nonetheless, the momentum shifted in favor of the Cowboys in the middle of the fourth quarter when Prescott orchestrated a pivotal 90-yard scoring drive. What made this even more impressive was the first play of the drive, a 63-yard run by Elliot, being overturned by a holding penalty, yielding a 1st and 20 deep in the Cowboys’ own territory. Prescott made high percentage throws to the right receivers—Beasley tallied half of his receptions on this drive—and showcased his ability to use his feet when the pocket collapses. He capped off the drive with a 22-yard strike to none other than Dez Bryant, returning from injury to make four catches for 113 yards and the aforementioned touchdown.
Looking like a seasoned veteran once more, Prescott was locked-in at this point, and nothing could get in his way. On the game-winning drive in overtime, he found Beasley two more times for 31 yards prior to calling his own number on a gutsy 4th and 1 call. Tight end Jason Witten caught a five-yard pass wide open in the end zone to complete the unanswered 16-point comeback and finish the game.
Rewind to Prescott’s days at Mississippi State when the Bulldogs were ranked #1 in the Associated Press college football poll. Prescott entered Death Valley and took down #8 LSU at the time. At home, he had no problem taking care of #6 Texas A&M and #2 Auburn. Thus, Prescott has a track record of going into hostile environments and dismantling SEC teams littered with talent without any problem. Translate this to the professional level, and you have a quarterback who is not fazed by a few bad passes and what the scoreboard shows.
This quarterback goes by the name Dak Prescott, and he is currently taking the NFL by storm.
Photo: Getty Images