FRISCO, Texas — It was labeled as a "mark the date" type of matchup when the NFL released its 2023 schedule and Aaron Rodgers was set to visit the Dallas Cowboys in his shiny new uniform. Unfortunately, in his first game with the New York Jets, he suffered a season-ending torn Achilles that changed things quite a bit for Week 2.
Dak Prescott, who suffered a season-ending broken ankle in 2020, can certainly empathize.
"It's tough," said the two-time Pro Bowler who, along with the entire Cowboys team and coaching staff, were watching the Jets' matchup against the Buffalo Bills on Monday night. "My heart broke for him [at that] moment. You could tell by the way he went down that it was something more serious than an ankle. I know he's got a lot of support so I'd say lean in on that.
"Everything happens for a reason. We don't [always] see it or understand why but you just keep faith, take the small victories and, somewhere or another, good is going to come out of it."
It goes without saying there's a certain level of disappointment in a consummate competitor like Prescott, who wanted to face Rodgers on Sunday. Anyone even remotely suggesting there's a sigh of relief in Dallas is wildly uninformed and so far off-base that they're standing on the warning track.
"Sh-t no," said Prescott. "I wanted to play against the guy. I've had a lot of great battles with him over the years. Hell of a player, and it sucks that he's not going to be out there."
Don't count on he and the Cowboys, on any side of the ball, overlooking a Jets team that also features one of the best defenses in the league, though.
"To say that it diminishes an NFL game would be wild of me — especially understanding how great this defense is," he noted. "Go watch the way they won that game the other night. They've got our respect and haven't lost any of that but, yeah, it's tough not playing against a guy I've enjoyed competing against for the entirety of my career."
For the Cowboys offense, one that was mostly muted by heavy rain at MetLife Stadium and, to be honest, didn't need to expose an entire playbook thanks to a double-digit lead gained by Dallas' defense and special teams, returning home may present the opportunity to show what they can be in 2023.
Though Prescott would love it if his defense kept up the great work.
"I'm looking forward to it, but wouldn't mind another 16-point lead — obviously that serves nice," said Prescott. "You get to keep some of your tricks in your bag and not show everything that you need to. But knowing we'll be playing indoors and knowing it's going to be better conditions, and to get the passing game going, yeah, a lot of excitement.
"We've worked hard on this to get to where we are, to get as comfortable as we are as a full unit. We're planning for a lot of it to come to fruition."
It won't be an easy task against a Jets defense that forced Josh Allen into four turnovers, including three interceptions, en route to an overtime win on a walk-off punt return.
"Well-coached defense," Prescott said. "[It's a] vision defense with eyes on me. They can get after it. They've got a great pass rush. You watched that game on Monday, they held a hell of an offense to just a few points, so we know the challenge that we have on our hands."
One thing to keep an eye on when it comes to the Cowboys' offense is just how quickly Prescott pulls the trigger on his passes. He was logged as having the fastest release in the entire NFL in Week 1 — a blistering 2.11 second window from snap to throw — and that's not by accident.
It's a staple of what the Cowboys plan on doing with Mike McCarthy calling the plays.
"Texas Coast," said Prescott with a grin. "It equalizes a pass rush. Those guys, and honestly these guys coming in, just being able to get the ball out of my hands quick says a lot about the receivers flying off of the ball and getting into their spacing, getting into their timing, getting to where they need to be, feeling comfortable in my reads, the communication we put it during the week about what I'm going to see and what I'm getting at … there's a lot that goes into that. But credit those guys on the outside.
"They deserve it for understanding the purpose of the plays. It's not always about beating the defenders. Sometimes it's about beating the pass rush."
And, every time, it's about winning the offensive series.
All the world is watching to see how often that comes true for the Cowboys going forward.