Let’s call it how it was. Dak Prescott had an awful game last night, but there’s no need to freak out about it – at least not for now. No quarterback is immune to having a poor performance.
Aaron Rodgers watched his team drop three straight games to fall all the way down to 4-6, until he caught fire and returned to his winning ways, effectively silencing his critics yet again. In Denver’s 2015 Super Bowl season, there were discussions as to if Brock Osweiler would play in favor of Peyton Manning. Bill Belichick was once asked if he was going to bench Tom Brady after the Patriots were blown out by a then mediocre Chiefs to fall to 2-2 in 2014.
So, let’s not act like the sky is falling because Prescott had a bad game. Plenty of Hall of Fame quarterbacks have played far worse before. However, there is still cause for concern.
Sunday night’s loss falls solely on Prescott’s shoulders. Against the Giants, Prescott completed 17 of 37 passes for 165 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, and posted a 45.4 quarterback rating. The Cowboys were only successful on third down once in the entire ballgame, as Prescott held onto the ball too long, overthrew his receivers on multiple occasions, and forced passes into coverage.
To make matters worse, Prescott fell apart in winnable game. New York’s secondary is ranked 25th in the league against the pass, the Cowboys’ offensive line was phenomenal, Ezekiel Elliott had 107 yards rushing, and Dallas’ defense delivered their best performance of 2016, holding Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. in check for the majority of the game.
The Giants weren’t the better team on Sunday night, but once Dallas fell behind 10-7, it didn’t appear as if the Cowboys would be able to get back into the game. Before last night’s showdown, the Cowboys were in the NFC’s driver’s seat and had chance to clinch the division title and a first-round bye. Now, Dallas may need to win two out of three of their remaining games to take the NFC East.
Prescott is now in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable position, and will be put to the test against a red-hot Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are on a five-game winning streak, in prime time next week. In Week 16, he will face a 9-4 Detriot Lions, who are also on a five-game winning streak and currently own the second-best record in the NFC. Prescott will then finish off the season in Philadelphia, to take on a team he almost lost to earlier in the season.
If the Buccaneers get off to a fast start against the Cowboys, the pressure will intensify for Prescott to dominate right out of the gate. Dallas hasn’t been in this situation yet in 2016, so how they respond will be telling. Will Prescott return to his old form, or was last night a sign of things to come in the near future?
However, people calling for Tony Romo to replace Prescott are jumping the gun. In all but two games, Prescott has been sensational, leading the Cowboys to 11 straight wins in a variety of different ways. Prescott has won in blowouts, shootouts, and has won nail-biters by engineering improbable comeback drives. He was due for a little wake-up-call.
This loss may have been a blessing in disguise for Dallas, who is now fully aware they aren’t invincible. As long as Prescott learns from his performance last night and doesn’t let it get to his head, he should be fine. Prescott, who is still the most impressive rookie quarterback in 2016, will now have to deliver under adversity.