ARLINGTON, Texas – Where to even start with rehashing a performance like this.
The obvious place might be the stat that's following Dak Prescott in the wake of this comeback. In this, the league's 101st season, Prescott just became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 400 yards and rush for three touchdowns.
Always quick to share the credit, Prescott pointed out the role his teammates had in making that happen.
"Credit the offensive line. Two were quarterback sneaks, they allowed me to get in," he said. "And credit those receivers. They went out there and continued to get open. Yeah sure, I had to find them and I had to make some plays here and there, but that was a team win all the way around."
Prescott can downplay it all he wants, but it has to feel gratifying. In a situation that looked absolutely hopeless, he helmed an offense that outscored Atlanta, 30-10, in the second half. He completed 72% of his passes on the day, bombing away for 450 yards – the third-highest total of his career, and he led the Cowboys on five touchdown drives of 74 or more yards.
It's also worth noting that he did so without either of his starting offensive tackles. It didn't seem to matter, as – once they were able to overcome an early fumble problem – the Dallas offense hummed its way to 570 yards and converted 54% of its third downs.
"We put ourselves as players in a hole by not taking care of the ball, so we had to go out there and just stay at it – stay believing in the game plan, stay believing in one another," Prescott said.
None of this even accounts for the fact that Prescott was forced to leave the game for two snaps in the third quarter. In an effort to find Dalton Schultz for a seven-yard touchdown strike that would have cut the deficit to 29-24, he took a vicious shot from Atlanta linebacker Deion Jones and was forced into the NFL's concussion protocol.
"I was sure I was fine. The ref told me I had to come out, but other than that I knew I was fine," he said.
Prescott took to the team's sideline medical tent to answer cognitive questions while Andy Dalton fired an incomplete pass and handed off to Ezekiel Elliott. Moments later, Prescott returned to bull his way into the end zone from one yard out.
And after all of this, if there was any doubt that the Cowboys' quarterback follows the narratives around him, he let it slip himself. At the end of his postgame press conference, Prescott was asked about finally winning a closely contested game, and he was very prepared for it.
"I was waiting on that one-score game question," he joked. "Definitely, I'm proud of the team. As I said last week, it's about just getting one underneath our belt and getting a win in these close games, and it'll start rolling from here."
Yes, as has been well documented, Sunday was Prescott's first game-winning drive since the 2018 season, when he came up clutch on six different occasions through the year. That facet of his game seemed to disappear last season, as the Cowboys either won their games going away – or came up short crunch time.
Only time will tell if this is the start of a new trend, but Prescott was adamant that a result like this can have a ripple effect..
"It just gets everybody confident – exudes from the offense to the defense to the coaches and the fans, as well," he said.
Exhilarating as it all was, these aren't necessarily new developments. While not always consistent, Prescott has shown these aspects of his game many times since his rookie year.
It fits his character not to make too much of them, but it's still meaningful to see them on display here in 2020. And while his teammates might not be surprised by his performance, they do realize how much it could mean to this team.
"No matter what the score is, Dak always has that same mentality – that we're going to be able to come back and win that game," Elliott said. "And he's going to lead us to come back and do that. For him to go out there and be as clutch as he was and make the plays that he made, him and those receivers – it's special."
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