ARLINGTON, Texas – It'd be easy to call it a cliché if it weren't proving to be so true.
Maybe Dak Prescott is just a gamer.
Now, that's not to say that the Cowboys' third-year quarterback has been bad during any stretch of this preseason. But however up and down he might have been during 16 training camp practices, he has shined brightest in two preseason games.
Prescott led the Cowboys' offense on three possessions during Saturday's 21-13 loss to Cincinnati. He wasn't perfect – as was the case last week against San Francisco – but he was effective, completing 10-of-15 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown.
"There's some good and obviously some stuff we've got to clean up," Prescott said. "It was good to get in there, get two scoring drives and get the offense rolling."
That's a fitting description. It wasn't pretty on a play-by-play basis. Prescott threw wide on a ball intended for Blake Jarwin, and he made a questionable throw into coverage. With Travis Frederick and Zack Martin out of the lineup, Rod Smith only averaged 3.8 yards per carry.
But that feels like quibbling, given the entire body of work. Through two preseason appearances, Prescott and the first-string offense have had four possessions and scored on three of them – two touchdowns and a field goal. The starters are also 4-of-6 on third downs so far.
They opened their game against San Francisco with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, and they punctuated their appearance against Cincinnati by going 82 yards for a score in 16 plays. In between, there was a six-play possession ending in a punt, followed by a 34-yard field goal drive.
"To go out and put a 16-play drive together – preseason, regular season – at any point, that's hard to do and it was good to see us go out there and do it," Prescott said.
The blueprint has looked awfully familiar to this point. Even with Ezekiel Elliott on the sideline, the Dallas ground game has churned out valuable yardage, while Prescott has added an extra dynamic with his legs.
Last week, he picked up a crucial 3rd-and-long on the run. This time around, it was his ability to buy time behind the line of scrimmage, as he spun to escape the pass rush and steamrolled toward the line of scrimmage – right before tossing an easy six-yard touchdown to Terrance Williams.
"It was a great job by my receivers, especially Terrance, of staying with me and fighting and getting back open," Prescott said.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the starters' performance involved who wasn't available. Elliott, arguably the Cowboys' best player, has yet to take a snap in preseason. One of the team's most experienced receivers in Cole Beasley and one of its most intriguing in Tavon Austin didn't suit up against Cincinnati, as they continue to recover from injuries.
None of that has stopped the Cowboys from producing when their starters are on the field.
"To have a lot of firepower not even out there and still just … get it done," Prescott said. "We move the ball, run into a few third downs and we convert them. If you do that, converting third downs is hard to do in this league, and if you can do it and do it a few times like we did on the 16-play drive, you've got a chance."
It hasn't been perfect by any stretch, but it has worked. More importantly for Prescott, it's working when it needs to.