FRISCO, Texas – If he said it once, he said it 10 times on Thursday.
"It's a new year. It's a new team."
While Dak Prescott was asked to recall last year's game in Atlanta several times during his weekly interview in the locker room, he never really took the bait.
Sure, he remembers the 27-7 loss to the Falcons. And he not only remembers, but might still feel those eight sacks against him, including six alone from Adrian Clayborn.
"That was last year. That game wasn't pretty," Prescott admitted. "You can turn on the tape and see in any aspect, you can see that game wasn't pretty."
More than just the lopsided loss, but the way both the Cowboys and Falcons responded in the second half of the season made that game even worse. Both teams were 5-4 after the game, but the Cowboys limped to the finish line, ending the regular season at 9-7. Meanwhile, the Falcons finished 10-6 and used the game as a springboard and not only made it to the playoffs as an NFC Wild Card team, but advanced two rounds after upsetting the Rams on the road. The Falcons were throwing into the end zone in the NFC Divisional round against the Eagles and nearly knocked off the eventual Super Bowl champs.
Some critics have even gone far enough to say the Cowboys weren't the same team after playing in Atlanta and Prescott himself hasn't been the same as well.
"It's not something I want to speak on or what it did to this team's confidence," Prescott said. "I know we're confident. It's a whole new year. I'm not really worried about last year's game. It's one of those ones you watch and speed-through watching it. You watch it because it's the same people we're going to play. But it's a new team from our standpoint. We've got our running back. We've got some players healthy and didn't play healthy. And it's a different team from their standpoint."
Dak's reference to "our running back" is certainly pointing out the difference in the Cowboys playing with Ezekiel Elliott, who began his six-game suspension from the NFL last year with that Falcons game.
He's played every game this year and had arguably one of the best outings of his career last Sunday night in Philly, rushing for 152 yards and a TD with 36 more yards and another score in the passing game.
While it's hard to imagine a bigger change than having Zeke in the backfield, Prescott has to be excited with Tyron Smith playing in this year's game. Smith is also coming off one of his better performances Sunday night. He battled injuries all last year, missing either all or parts of five games. One of which was in Atlanta, where backup Chaz Green had no answers for Clayborn around the edge, giving up six sacks and even more pressures hits from the blind side.
Green is now in New Orleans as a backup, and the Cowboys have admitted they used that game as benchmark to realize a depth upgrade was needed in the offseason. That prompted the team to sign veteran Cameron Fleming, re-sign Joe Looney and draft Connor Williams.
However, only Looney is expected to start this week for an offensive line that is coming off an impressive showing in Philadelphia.
Perhaps, this year's game will be the one that sparks a Cowboys team in the other direction.
"Last year, we lost and it derailed us," Prescott said. "This year, we're catching our strides and feeling good about the direction we're going and we've got to continue to improve on that. This is a good game to do that against a good defense that is well respected."