When Micah Parsons was on the sidelines during the game in Philadelphia on Sunday, there were times the star pass rusher watched the Dallas Cowboys offense and had the same thought.
“That’s Dak (expletive) Prescott, bro,” Parsons said. “He’s a dog. He’s a warrior. I got unbelievable amount of confidence in him. I thought he had a great game. I think people need to put more respect on him. He outplayed everyone today.”
When Dak Prescott’s primary playmaker, wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, was asked what he learned about his quarterback after Prescott threw for 374 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, Lamb was taken aback.
“I ain’t learn nothing,” Lamb said. “I already knew what he could do. It’s all on him showing the world what he could do.”
The game against the Eagles is the latest sampling, one in which Prescott engineered a highly efficient offense. The first drive was a quick three-and-out, an unfortunate tradition for the Cowboys. However, that was the last time a Cowboys drive didn’t get into Philadelphia territory, and it was one of just two times on the day the Cowboys punted.
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Prescott is on a heater right now, and it extends beyond the performance Sunday. In the last three weeks, Prescott has a quarterback rating of 120.7. Not only is that the best in the NFL since Week 6 but it’s 8.4 points higher than second place Joe Burrow. According to TrueMedia, that is the largest gap from one quarterback to the one right behind him among the top 30 quarterbacks with at least 60 pass attempts. In other words, Prescott hasn’t just been the best quarterback in the NFL the last three weeks but he’s been that pretty comfortably.
Getting that sort of performance against the Eagles was an important data point in evaluating Prescott, given how lopsided many of the Cowboys’ games have been this season. Given his history against the Eagles, it isn’t surprising that he performed well. Still, the Eagles boast a talented defense, have the best record in the NFL and Philadelphia is a hostile environment.
“It was outstanding, the game that he played” Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said on his radio show on 105.3 The Fan. “We should be able to get there if Dak will play games like that. I know that’s maybe a little different thing to hear from me but if Dak can have those kinds of games, I think we can get where we want to be this year.”
The week before the Eagles game, Prescott went against Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles Rams. He had to overcome getting taken to the ground in three of the first four offensive plays. In the game before that, he matched up against arguably the coach who knows him best at the NFL level in Los Angeles Chargers offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. In both games, Prescott helped lead the Cowboys to victory.
“Extremely comfortable, extremely confident,” Cowboys offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “Watch his feet. His feet tell you all you need to know. He’s back there, his back foot is dug in and the ball is coming out. Not only is he on time but the accuracy and where he’s throwing the ball has been elite.”
Prescott has been playing at a boosted level recently but his entire season has been solid. Coming into this season, one of the biggest questions around Prescott was about his interceptions. Despite missing five games last season, his 17 interceptions led the NFL.
This season, Prescott has thrown five interceptions halfway through the season. He’s completing 70.2 percent of his passes and if he maintains that pace, would set a career-high and be the first time he crosses the 70-percent mark. According to Pro Football Focus, Prescott has five turnover-worthy throws this season for a turnover-worthy pass percentage at 1.5 percent, second to Burrow’s 1.4 percent. Despite the struggles of Michael Gallup and the lack of involvement of Brandin Cooks, Prescott is top 10 in the NFL in touchdown passes, too.
“Just exceptional,” Schottenheimer said. “The confidence that he has right now is really something I wish that you guys (and) the fans could sense. Just sitting over there on the sidelines talking to him, doesn’t matter the score of the game — 28-17, 17-14, doesn’t matter. We had no question in our minds we were going to win that game. We were going to find a way to win that game.
In his recent stretch, Prescott has rekindled his scrambling and rushing ability, too.
“There’s a confidence, there’s an ownership, there’s an elite decision-making that he’s making right now,” Schottenheimer said. “And again, our ability to play above the 2.3 (seconds after the snap) is maybe something we were missing early in the season.”
That feeling Schottenheimer references with Prescott, the confidence of being able to win any game, is an intangible that Prescott brings to the locker room that those in the building comprehend best. For those around Prescott, that trait often jumps out first, even before his on-field performances.
“The first thing that jumps out is that he is an elite competitor,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “Like, elite. There are guys in our league that are excellent competitors — I mean, quite honestly, every person whose playing in this league is — but then just like most things, he’s the special forces of competitors. He’s at the top of the top. … To see him stand in, take a shot, knowing he’s going to get hit and deliver with accuracy.”
Prescott is not perfect. He’s still a quarterback who falls under the top tier. He needs sufficient talent around him in order to set him up for success. A good offensive line is critical. A true No. 1 receiver is necessary and a trusted tight end is important, too. The team he leads is probably set up best for success if the defense can be the backbone and Prescott’s offense can be a strong supplement.
Aside from the handful elite, most quality quarterbacks fall under that similar definition.
Not all 32 starting quarterback jobs in the NFL are the same. Being the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys comes with a few added layers. For some, Cowboys fans and detractors alike, Prescott’s success in recent games and on the season overall is a footnote to what happened in San Francisco on Oct. 8. For others, anything Prescott does in the regular season is an afterthought to what his postseason history — in terms of wins and losses — has been.
As an eight-year starter behind center for the Cowboys who has yet to play in a conference championship game, that’s the reality of Prescott’s situation. That’s the burden he carries — fair or not — of a championship drought that is closing in on three decades for his organization. For a certain segment of people, Prescott won’t win them over until he gets it done in January, and perhaps even February.
In the organization, though, Prescott has the support.
“Quite honestly, a lot of us want to win for him, because of the leader that he is and the man that he is and the teammate that he is,” Quinn said. ”Not only is he one of the best competitors, he’s somebody you want to fight for. That’s a pretty rare quality to have. He’s got the whole package that goes with it. That’s what makes him so unique and so special. Aside from the talent, he’s got all of the other things that you look for in a guy.”
(Top photo of Dak Prescott: Mitchell Leff / Getty Images)
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