Nick Eatman is the author of his third book, the recently published *Friday, Saturday, Sunday in Texas*, a chronicle of three football teams on three levels in Texas, from high school to college to the Cowboys.
ARLINGTON, Texas – All season long it's been one test after another for young Dak Prescott.
A year removed from college, it's safe to say this guy has taken more tests – or exams – this year than he did during his final few semesters at Mississippi State.
There was his NFL debut against the Giants. Then his first road test against the Redskins. Then it was how he would play on Sunday Night Football against the Bears. Then it was going to Lambeau Field, and coming off the bye week against the Eagles.
He had quite a test in front of him in Pittsburgh, where he passed with flying colors with a couple of last-second drives. Then there was a new set of tests, with Tony Romo returning to the field and how he'd respond to "looking over his shoulder."
Test after test after test.
For the most part, this guy has aced them all.
Add Sunday night to the list. In my opinion, this one seriously might have been the toughest hurdle Dak has had to face yet.
No, I'm not putting the Buccaneers' defense in an elite category. In fact, it really has nothing to do with Tampa Bay at all.
But we all have heard the noise. In fact, I'll admit that I contributed somewhat to that this week by offering my opinion on the Cowboys' next move should Dak struggle like he did last Sunday in New York. Yeah, I said that if he put together another game like that one, then the Cowboys should definitely consider turning to Tony Romo. I still believe that, mainly because of the uniqueness of having a future Ring of Honor quarterback as the backup. Personally, and I said this all last week, if the ship is sinking, then the Cowboys would never forgive themselves for not turning to the guy who has been the face of the franchise for the last 10 years.
But it never got that far. And Dak Prescott – the guy who might just be the face of the franchise for the next *10 years, *made sure of that.
I think this was his best test of the season. Maybe because it was the last one – we might always say that about the one we just saw. But even though the Cowboys' brass was saying all along how much they support Dak, they also said for the first five weeks of the season that this was still Tony's team.
[embeddedad0]Things change around here rather quickly. And I personally think if Dak came out and put up another 45.4 QB rating with two interceptions and the Cowboys lost a second straight game, this team would've had some tough decisions to make. It's easy to sit back now and argue the point and say, "Nah, they wouldn't switch to Tony."
I get it. It doesn't make sense, especially after Prescott bounced back like he did.
But I think we all know the "noise" would've been much louder if we saw a repeat performance.
But we saw anything but that on Sunday night. Dak was efficient, completing a franchise record 88.9 percent of his passes, which is the second-best in NFL history among quarterbacks with at least 30 attempts.
This guy goes 32-of-36, and while he doesn't throw a touchdown pass, he probably would've had this team not been flagged for so many holding calls. But still, Dak ran in a touchdown on the ground, which also set a franchise record for quarterback rushing touchdowns with six, surpassing Don Meredith.
Oh, and the best part of all, he rallied his team back in the fourth quarter with three scoring drives, setting up the Dallas defense to take over and win the game.
Let's be honest, though, the offense has room to improve. While the running game was on point again, the Cowboys have struggled somewhat down the stretch, especially in the second half.
This team has just one touchdown in the second half of the last three games, and that occurred after a fumble in Minnesota inside the 10.
So it's not exactly perfect, but what I love the most about Dak's game is that he is the first person to point that out.
He knows he needs to get better. The Cowboys know it as well.
But after this game, he's definitely going to get the opportunity to keep learning on the job. His job, to be exactly.