FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – This strange juxtaposition was the perfect mental image for such a bonkers football game.
In hobbled Dak Prescott, outfitted in a team-issued hoodie and a backward baseball cap, sporting a devilish grin. More notably, he was also sporting a hefty walking boot on a strained right calf.
"The elephant in the room," he said to reporters – a room full of people conflicted on which to ask about between one of the best performances of Prescott's NFL career and a late-game injury that's sure to dominate the headlines for the foreseeable future.
"I figured we weren't playing for weeks, so I'd give you guys something to talk about and speculate on this time, so there you go," he joked.
Officially, Prescott will be evaluated Monday when the Cowboys are situated back in Dallas. He'll undergo an MRI to determine the severity of the strain, though he said confidently several times that he thought he'd be fine. Regardless of what happens from here, it's clear the Cowboys' upcoming bye week is well-timed.
Timelines and breathless speculation lie ahead, but don't let that distract from the magnitude of the now.
The gaudy statline speaks for itself. Prescott completed 71% of his passes and threw three touchdown passes. He found eight different receivers. The tidbit that's going to get passed around the most – and rightfully so – is that his 445 passing yards are the most-ever against a Patriots defense coached by Bill Belichick.
"Honestly, didn't know I threw for that much until Zeke told me in the locker room," Prescott said.
The numbers are fun, but the way Prescott tallied them was the most impressive part. This was an offense that sputtered in the early going. There was a tipped pass that turned into an end zone interception early in the second quarter. Roughly 20 minutes later, Prescott fumbled a literal millimeter away from the goal line on a quarterback sneak, ensuring the Cowboys would go into halftime down, 14-10.
Now, contrast that with crunch time.
From the final six minutes of the fourth quarter until CeeDee Lamb's game-winning touchdown in overtime, the Cowboys touched the ball three times in one of the most frenetic half hours of football in recent memory.
Those three possessions led to a missed 52-yard field goal and a made 49-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein, and then the obvious walkoff. And in those three possession, with a 5-1 start on the line, all Prescott managed to do was complete 11-of-15 passes for 129 yards and the touchdown, concerting a crucial 4th-and-4 and picking up 24 yards on an all-important 3rd-and-25 along the way.
"Can't say enough about Dak Prescott, just the way that ball was being distributed and the calmness and confidence he had in the pocket," said Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy.
Back to the bit about juxtapositions. It's possible, maybe even easy, to make the argument that this was Prescott's finest performance. It also came at Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots were 109-3 when holding a halftime lead – and where Prescott had suffered through a nightmare start back in 2019, which saw his offense held without a touchdown.
How cruel, then, that such a wonderful high was capped off with a down note. The throw came off his back foot and found Lamb perfectly for the game-winning score. It also left him limping badly, as he worked his way slowly to the victorious locker room.
"Life keeps throwing punches, and I'm going to keep throwing them back," he said. "It's part of it. It's part of this game, it's a physical game we play. As I said, I'll be fine. I've got a lot of confidence in myself and the medical team."
Prescott didn't lose that confidence throughout a 15-minute press conference or the trek to the bus out of town. With what he's been through this past year, it's easy to understand why. And when you couple that confidence with what he's doing on the field, it's hard to bet against him.