DALLAS — Mired in a three game losing slump, the Dallas Cowboys went out on Sunday night and came away with an emphatic 27-point victory over their hated NFC East rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles. Now, with a moment to exhale, Dallas heads into the bye week with a spotless 3-0 divisional record and sole possession of first place.
In the Cowboys’ four wins this season, Dallas has won by an average of 20 points. When the team shows up and executes, they not only win, they dominate. The margin of victory makes the early October swoon of three straight losses seem all the more peculiar.
Injuries can explain things a little, as Dallas was as healthy on Sunday as they’ve been since the first few weeks of the season, but perhaps the truest answer is simply that the Cowboys win when Dak Prescott is given the opportunity to play well.
One big reason for the Cowboys’ overall success so far this season – as indeed, even after the doom and gloom of the losing streak, they top their division – has been the performance of Prescott. The fourth-year quarterback is looking for a huge payday in the final year of his rookie contract and, as he has shown this year, the arrow is pointing upwards. On Sunday, Prescott had one of his best games of the season and the Cowboys responded with an impactful win over their toughest divisional opponent.
One area that has seen some regression from the early narratives to Dak’s career is turnovers. So far in seven games, Prescott has thrown seven interceptions. With his willingness to throw the ball downfield and more often attempt to make plays with his arm, those numbers should expect to rise.
It appears that Prescott isn’t as risk averse as what media and fans had seen over his first three years. It’s not that Dak is throwing significantly more passes, so much as he is making more risky attempts for higher rewards.
Prescott is on pace to throw a career-high 544 passes, which would put him at only 18 more than in 2018. However, he is on pace for 16 interceptions which is three more than his previous high (2017).
No one is asking their quarterback to throw more picks but for the Cowboys to continue to evolve with today’s modern passing offenses, they have to be willing to take more chances down the field, and by and large, especially with a surging receiving corps led by Amari Cooper, the gambles downfield has been paying off for them.
So while turning the ball over is never a good thing in the moment, the positive side of the interceptions, beyond what they mean for how the Cowboys are changing their thinking regarding taking chances, has been that Prescott is being more decisive with his passes and isn’t fumbling away possessions. This season, a less methodical Dak has fumbled just once. That’s a far cry from last season’s total of 12.
A big reason for the 11 fumble difference is also due to the 56 sacks taken by Prescott last season. The Cowboys quarterback has only been sacked 10 times thus far in 2019, another area the team has shown improvement. After a few weeks without starting tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins, the offensive line group has been relatively intact and the impact of the return of All-Pro center Travis Frederick at center can’t be overstated.
Being able to show more confidence in decision making down the field, while not waiting for the perfect window to open up leading to sacks and fumbles, has been a massive progression in Prescott’s game this season. That confidence becomes a valuable asset for a signal caller trying to earn his way into a big contract.
In terms of his passing prowess, Prescott has really improved in some areas that aren’t really indicated by stats or analytics. His touch on passes has drastically improved, especially on his deep ball passes. Prescott, in that regard, has become more of a passer and less of a thrower.
On this particular play, Prescott throws a pass with touch and understanding for where his receiver will be and not where he is at the time of the throw. And it doesn’t hurt that he has all the confidence in the world that Cooper will be there to catch it.
While Prescott is doing the little things that often go unnoticed with statistics, such as going through progressions and using subtle body movement to draw defenders away from his intended target, the Dallas QB is also on pace to shatter his career best numbers.
Prescott set a career high in passing yards last year with 3,885. Should Prescott continue at his current pace, he will end with 4,852 yards. That’s almost 1,000 yards better with only 18 more attempts which shows the fruits of Dak being more willing to take chances down the field. His touchdowns are right on par with his career, though the 27 projected as compared to his 23 TDs in his rookie year would also be a career high.
All in all, Prescott has really stepped up his game for the Cowboys and it is a big reason why he will likely be the quarterback for this team for the next decade and a definitive reason why Dallas sits atop the NFC East.
Do you think Dak Prescott has the Cowboys headed in the right direction? Share your thoughts on the QB with Patrick on Twitter @DraftCowboys.