ARLINGTON, Texas – It feels cliché to write that Dak Prescott had been here before – but this time it’s eerily accurate.
Two years and a few weeks after the fact, Prescott had once again overcome some early adversity to lead the Cowboys into overtime against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Then just as now, he was part of a crucial decision to go for it on 4th-and-1 in opposing territory, gambling to win the game. Back in 2016 it was Prescott sneaking the ball for the must-have first down, on Sunday it was Ezekiel Elliott’s turn to play the hero.
The hero changed again just a few players later. Two years ago, Prescott scrambled and found Jason Witten for the walkoff points in a 29-23 win. On Sunday evening, his pass bounced fortuitously off of Rasul Douglas and into the hands of Amari Cooper – the walkoff points in a 29-23 win.
“Some things just kind of happen that way, and I said I guess we just have to go finish it off the right way,” Prescott said. “We were able to do that.”
The end result is the important one, but the stat sheet doesn’t do justice to a bonkers game and a memorable moment for Prescott. Officially, he set milestones across the board – his 54 attempts, 42 completions and 455 yards were all career highs by a considerable margin, and his three passing touchdowns tied a career high.
“You talk about mental toughness, that guy we’ve got playing quarterback for us, he’s a tough son of a bitch now,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. “You saw that today. You saw the physical toughness, you saw the mental toughness and you saw him throughout the game overcome adversity and make the critical plays at critical moments.”
To Garrett’s point, the simple stats hide the full story of the game, as Prescott struggled through a woeful first half to get to that point. As the Dallas offense failed to score points despite a dominant edge in the box score, Prescott struggled as badly as he ever has with ball security.
He missed an early opportunity to find Cooper for a touchdown in the second quarter, when Douglas broke off his coverage and intercepted what could have been a wide open touchdown.
“He came off of a corner route on the tight end and made a great play,” Prescott said.
The third quarter saw him overthrow Michael Gallup on a wide open post route, with the ensuing interception returned to the Dallas 2-yard line for an eventual touchdown.
“It was a high throw. It was the right way to go, it was the right read, I just missed that throw,” he said.
The low point came just a few minutes later, when Michael Bennett got home in the pocket and stripped Prescott, recovering a fumble that would eventually allow the Eagles to tie the game.
“I’ve got to stop fumbling the ball in the pocket,” he said. “That’s the one that’s going to bother me.”
It might bother Prescott after the fact, but it didn’t seem to rattle him in the moment – because right after the third turnover is when the fun started.
The drive immediately following that turnover spanned 75 yards over nine plays, and it culminated with a 28-yard dime to Cooper for the first touchdown. Four minutes later, he found him in one-on-one coverage again for a 75-yard score.
From the outsider’s perspective, it came out of nowhere after what had been a forgettable day. Obviously, Prescott and his teammates didn’t share that viewpoint.
“I’m never going to give up and I’m never going to stop,” he said. “When you have teammates and you have coaches that support you and push you and believe in you, then no matter what goes on – no matter the interceptions and no matter the fumbles – they’ve always got your back.”
That fact probably emphasizes Prescott’s value to the Cowboys more than any stat sheet. It showcased itself on Sunday, and – at the risk of sounding dramatic – it showcased itself against the Eagles in 2016, helping Prescott eventually cement himself as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback.
“He’s just a tremendous leader,” Garrett said. “The guys look at him and he’s got this look in his eye, like ‘Hey, don’t worry about me. I’m gonna keep coming.’”
On this particular night, that feels like an understatement. And it’s not that the Cowboys needed a reminder, but they certainly got one.