FRISCO, Texas – Dak Prescott wouldn't call it a 'slump' -- a popular word outside The Star used to describe his recent dip in production.
"But I do realize I'm not playing my best ball, I haven't been playing it," he said after Thursday's practice. "I've made some poor decisions, I guess you could say. But that's kind of part of it. I wouldn't say it's 'slump' material. But definitely not up to my standard and expectations. And when you play at a high level, that's what you create."
Prescott and the offense began the season on a roll, leading the league in points per game (34.2) and yards per game (460.8) and posting a 5-1 record at the bye week, before he missed one game with a calf injury (at Minnesota on Halloween).
The offense is still high in the rankings: second in scoring average (29.2) and total offense (409.1). But sustained drives, yards and points have been harder to produce. And Prescott, in six starts since returning from the calf strain, is completing 63.1% of his passes with 8 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. In the first six starts: 73.1% with 16 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.
Last Sunday against Washington, Prescott posted a season-low 56.4 passer rating, completing 22 of 39 passes for 211 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, including a late pick-six that kept Washington within one score in the final five minutes of an eventual 27-20 Cowboys victory.
Health is not a factor. Prescott has not been on the injury report since Nov. 5, his second week back from the calf injury.
"I'm fully healthy, 100% healthy," he said Thursday.
The inconsistencies on offense go beyond the quarterback position. The Cowboys (9-4) have had difficulty establishing the running game, a major factor in their early 5-1 start. Injuries on the offensive line and at the skill positions have hurt continuity, too.
"There's 11 of us out there," said running back Ezekiel Elliott, who continues to play through a knee injury he sustained in Week 3. "So I wouldn't say you could put anything on one player because it takes a 11 guys to make a play. And I think we all need to play better -- the whole offense collectively."
Opponents have adjusted after the Cowboys' hot start, too, dropping more defenders into coverage and forcing Prescott to drive long fields.
"If you just look at the numbers, obviously when they blitz then that presents favors to us," Prescott said. "They're staying back. They're keeping a cap on things and making us be patient, and me particularly be patient in my decision making."
The focus this week is all the same things that helped Prescott and the offense get off to a fast start this season: repetition, fundamentals and communication with each other on rhythm and timing.
The offense was able to move the ball against Washington thanks in part to four takeaways by the defense. But they only scored one touchdown out of six trips inside the 20-yard line.
"We score some points in that game, convert a couple of those red zone trips into touchdowns, and I don't know if the feel around this place is the same," Prescott said. "That's a big part of it is making sure we can convert into six points."
Prescott says he's heard some of the criticism outside The Star. He's used to being doubted. He was lightly recruited out of high school, drafted in the fourth round out of college.
The doubts have always provided fuel.
Same thing this week.
"I think I'd be lying if I said I haven't heard it, but yeah, in a sense it does (provide motivation)," Prescott said. "But I've been doubted my whole life. It's been said I can't do this or can't do that. So in a sense I'm actually glad it's kind of come back. I'm glad that's the way people feel and there's a lot of that being said right now."
He and the Cowboys have another chance to get back on track -- and possibly clinch a playoff spot with three games left -- when they face the Giants on the road Sunday.