SEATTLE – Even when he's not supposed to, Dak Prescott finds ways to thrive.
At long last, the Cowboys' celebrated rookie quarterback was supposed to take a backseat for the all-important "dress rehearsal" preseason game.
That storyline went out the window just three snaps into the game when Tony Romo left the game with a back injury. In his place, Prescott had to do something he hasn't done since his sophomore year of college -- come off the bench for an injured starter.
For those keeping score at home, it's not like it made much difference.
"I prepare just like I'm going to start the game, and I'm ready at all times like I'm going to start the game – or if I've got to go in at any second. It was no difference," Prescott said.
Working against Seattle's vaunted first-team defense, Prescott continued his meteoric rise through the preseason. At halftime, he was 15-of-19 for 106 yards and a touchdown, having led the Cowboys on two scoring drives. His final quarterback rating was a solid 99.2, which is his worst rating of the preseason so far.
"You can't really – nor do you ever want to – script that scenario," said offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. "But I thought he did a great job of going in there and continuing to grow at the position for us. I was real pleased with a lot of the stuff he did."
Prescott played the vast majority of the first half and one series in the third quarter. Perhaps his most impressive work of the preseason came in the second quarter, when he led a 12-play, 54-yard field goal drive in the two-minute drill – against the Seahawks' starters, no less.
"It was all their guys," Linehan said. "I think that was a great test for him to go play a full half, and then part of that third quarter against one of the better defenses we'll face all year. I know it's preseason, but they were bringing it. I thought he did a really good job of going out there and playing winning football for us."
As impressive as it might have been, the circumstances were hardly favorable. Everyone in the Cowboys' locker room – from executives, to coaches, to players – breathed a hard sigh of relief afterward that Romo's injury apparently isn't serious.
But looking past that fact, it's genuinely remarkable that Prescott has been able to put together such a large body of work in such a short amount of time. Considering the limited amount of reps available to non-starters, Prescott has been on the field for a large portion of all three preseason games, not to mention a sizable amount of practice.
"I'm very fortunate for the reps – for the opportunities I get to have each day at practice, and definitely in the games," Prescott said. "When I get in the game situations, all the practice reps are definitely allowing me to get comfortable and become a better player."
Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones adamantly agreed with the rookie's analysis. The unusual circumstances contributing to Prescott's playing time provoked some fascinating perspective from Jones – who pointed out Romo's own fight for playing time when he was a reserve quarterback a decade ago.
"I said the other day, he's going to end up with more snaps than Romo had his entire play time before he was the starting quarterback," Jones said.
He added: "We've got him in what I'd have thought would have been two or three times as many snaps over a two or three year period. It's an ideal situation for a young quarterback getting in position to be a good player."
If the circumstances are unusual, Prescott certainly makes them look routine. Thursday night provided yet another challenge – a true dress rehearsal at backup quarterback – and he passed it yet again.
"That's the nature of a backup quarterback is that you don't know," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "Oftentimes in the first preseason games, it's scripted -- 'He's going to play the first two, he's going to play the third series.' But in real life, what happens is that the quarterback goes down and you have to go in at a moment's notice. I think he demonstrated the same things he has demonstrated all along."