ARLINGTON, Texas – Dak Prescott lived another dream on Sunday: starting at quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs with a chance to chase a championship.
Prescott's rise from third-string fourth-round pick to full-time starter didn't have a happy ending – at least not this season.
The Cowboys' 34-31 divisional-round loss to the Green Bay Packers at AT&T Stadium ended a storybook year in Dallas, but even in defeat, Prescott showed again why he held onto the job after Tony Romo returned from a back injury in November.
"He was everything that you could dream about if you had a make believe situation on a rookie quarterback," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said. "He played in a veteran way."
Prescott led the team back from a 28-13 fourth-quarter deficit, directing two straight touchdown drives and a successful two-point conversion on a quarterback draw that tied the game with just over four minutes to play.
The Cowboys tied the game again at 31-31 after Prescott and the offense drove 42 yards in six plays for a 52-yard Dan Bailey field goal with 58 seconds left.
"We don't give up," Prescott said. "We're not going to stop no matter what the score is, no matter the game. It shows the true character of this team."
Ultimately, it wasn't enough. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers got the final drive and the last word. His 36-yard pass to Jared Cook on third-and-20 set up Mason Crosby's 51-yard deciding field goal.
Prescott did his best to match Green Bay's star signal-caller.
He completed 24 of 38 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns (a rookie postseason record) for a 103.2 passer rating. In the second half he was 14-of-20 for 173 yards and a touchdown, leading the offense on those three scoring drives.
It took a furious rally to overcome a slow start. The Cowboys settled for a field goal on their opening drive, then punted twice as the Packers raced out to a 21-3 lead.
"Offensively, I think as much as anything else, there were a couple of self-inflicted wounds," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. "We had a good first drive, went right down the field and kicked the field goal. The second drive, we had a big play that came back because of a procedural situation. It was a 15-yard penalty that got us behind the sticks and all the while, they were up and down the field. I felt like we were in good rhythm offensively. We just had a couple of things that got us behind the chains and forced us to punt."
Prescott's lone interception in the third quarter – a great anticipation play by Packers safety Micah Hyde on a quick hitch route – was matched by Jeff Heath's pick against Rodgers eight plays later.
"The guy made a great play. Bad pick," he said. "Wish I could have held the ball at that point but we stuck together. Nobody flinched. The defense went out there and did their job and gave us the ball back."
Rodgers had the ball last, and made sure the Cowboys' 13-3 season – tying a franchise record for wins – wouldn't continue.
Prescott believes the 2016 team will learn from a disappointing defeat.
"It was a great atmosphere. AT&T (Stadium) was amazing today, the fans," he said. "It was a great game all the way around. Just hate to be on the losing end, obviously.
"But this is games that I dreamed as a little kid of playing in. I plan to play in many more of them."