EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It's a scenario that has long been discussed around this Cowboys team, and it finally played out on Sunday night.
Facing a ferocious New York defense, rookie quarterback Dak Prescott slumped to the worst performance of his young career in a 10-7 loss. In stark contrast to Prescott's struggles was the form of a healthy Tony Romo – watching from the sideline.
But if there were calls l to see Romo from fans and media, they fell on deaf ears. In fact, to Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones, the question of whether to insert Romo never even entered his mind.
"No – not at all," he said.
That's a rational reaction, given the things the Cowboys have achieved with Prescott under center this season. It was certainly an ugly loss, but it was also the team's first loss since Week 1 of the season, when this same New York defense downed the Cowboys, 20-19.
In the time between those two games, Prescott helped the Cowboys reel off 11-straight wins and secure a playoff berth.
"What he's been able to do this year and accomplish, he just continues to answer the bell every step of the way," said Jason Witten. "He's been really good in the huddle, even when we had some adversity tonight. It just says a lot about who he is as a person."
Still, the scope of the Cowboys' offensive ineptitude can only be viewed as concerning. Dallas went 1-of-13 on third down against the Giants, bringing the tally up to 2-of-24 over the past two games.
Prescott was a big part of that, as he struggled to just 165 passing yards, completing 17 of a whopping 37 attempts. He also doubled his interception tally on the season, as he threw the first multi-interception game of his career.
"It starts with me in the passing game and communicating with the offensive line on protection, getting the ball to those guys out wide," Prescott said. "It starts with me, so it's frustrating."
The rookie quarterback allowed that Sunday night was as frustrated as he's been at any point this season – which is understandable given that the Cowboys managed just seven points.
As frustrating as it might have been, there wasn't bound to be much finger-pointing from an offense that managed just 260 total yards, along with three turnovers and five costly penalties. Asked about his quarterback's problems after the game, Dez Bryant balked at the notion of Prescott being at fault.
"It's not his, it's ours," he said. "It wasn't our best night. We all made mistakes, and we're going to go back in and fix them. Don't try to single him out."
That's the nature of the quarterback position, unfortunately. As the old adage goes, quarterbacks tend to get too much of the credit when things go well, and too much of the blame when things go poorly.
But even with the readymade storyline of a quarterback controversy, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said there was never any consideration of a switch.
"We feel good about Dak Prescott playing quarterback for us right now," he said.
So now the next challenge begins. All season long, Prescott has consistently checked off the important boxes – responding to adversity, leading his team back from behind, keeping his composure. He's had the added benefit of gaining all that experience in the wake of wins.
Now, he'll add the experience of shaking off some poor performances – not to mention the negative publicity that comes with that. Having followed Prescott to this point in the season, though, it sounds like another obstacle he's well capable of overcoming.
From the sound of it, the Cowboys themselves share that confidence in their young signal-caller.
"Not much has to be said to me. I'm hard on myself and I'm my biggest critic," Prescott said. "That's the way it is for a lot of those guys. It's all about moving forward."