MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – This is the nature of the beast. Within moments of processing an impressive win at U.S Bank Stadium, the conversation quickly turned to whether Dak Prescott will be playing next weekend at AT&T Stadium.
That's to be expected when the Cowboys are playing without their franchise quarterback. And however impressive this 20-16 win against Minnesota might be, it does little to alleviate the urgency for Prescott to be back in the lineup.
For Prescott's part, he was confident that's a possibility when the Cowboys host the Denver Broncos a week from now.
"For sure. I was getting prepared to play this game," he said afterward. "I'm a guy that takes it day-by-day, moment-at-moment, and right now, I'm going to celebrate this win with the guys and worry about rehabbing and getting everything back in order tomorrow."
It's an understandable attitude. However frustrated he might have been to not play, Prescott was equally elated for longtime teammate Cooper Rush to win his first-ever NFL started. And, as had been pointed out time and time again during the buildup to this road trip, sitting Prescott down for this game may have been in the Cowboys' best long-term interest.
"We made a call at the end of having a chance to come out with win, without me playing, and be able to get healthy and not have something re-injure and linger past this week," Prescott said.
It all seems so simple and straightforward in the afterglow of an impressive win, but it completely belies one of the most dramatic pregame workouts in recent memory.
The Cowboys pushed back Prescott's timeline as long as humanly possible, having him undergo an extensive warmup in the hours before kickoff against Minnesota. And while team officials consistently stressed that Prescott could have played the game, the decision was ultimately made to sit him down.
"Trust me, we had all the conversations that y'all had," said Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy. "We had all those conversations, but at the end of the day you've got to trust the player and you've got to trust the rehab people."
Football coaches and executives wouldn't want to admit it publicly, but the rationale looked fairly clear. The Cowboys, at 5-1, held a solid lead in the NFC East heading into this game. With 10 games still on the docket, having Prescott healthy outweighed the value of one, single win.
There's no other way to say it. The Cowboys had their cake and they ate it, too. And whatever speculation is awaiting Prescott and his ailing calf this week, it'll be that much easier to stomach in the wake of a win.