DALLAS — The Dallas Cowboys beating rival New York Giants 37-34 on a last second Greg Zuerlein field goal seems insignificant as we sit here now.
A win against a NFC East team is usually celebrated, but the biggest takeaway now is that the Cowboys will now be without their leader, quarterback Dak Prescott, for the foreseeable future.
Ironically, even with the NFC East being dreadful in 2020, and with the win vaulting the Cowboys into first place, it still feels inconsequential after witnessing Prescott go down with a devastating injury.
Winning the division and making the playoffs are still goals for this team, but the focus is now on the absence of the unquestioned leader of the franchise.
Prescott was felled on a 9-yard run with 6:33 to play in the third quarter. His ankle crumpled in an agonizing manner that required immediate attention.
Forced to take a cart off the field, Prescott endured the heartbreaking reality that his evening would include surgery to repair a compound fracture and dislocated right ankle that will cost him the remainder of the 2020 season.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys rallied around their quarterback.
Even with a division win on their ledger, reality has to have set in for the Cowboys. A team with Super Bowl aspirations this summer now finds itself further behind the eight ball.
With veteran backup Quarterback Andy Dalton the new signal caller, the Cowboys should still be competitive, but the dream of ending a quarter-century of promised land futility has all but vanished.
Even with a thrilling, bounce-back victory to move to 2-3 and grab first place, this one hurts. However, it’s worth acknowledging the effort of a team that was fighting for No. 4.
Few teams in the NFL have two starting caliber quarterbacks and the Cowboys are one of them. Dallas signed Dalton for just this reason as a break the glass in case of an emergency situation.
That time has now arrived, and the Cowboys shattered the glass into a million pieces to bring Dalton out of obscurity. And Dalton delivered.
After a rough start, which included a bungled snap from rookie center Tyler Biadasz that ended in a Giants touchdown to put the Cowboys down by a field goal, Dalton was tasked with bringing the Cowboys down the field late in the fourth quarter needing points not once, but twice.
In total, Dalton engineered three scoring drives and helped to produce 13 points.
For the game, Dalton went 9-11 for 111 yards and made the plays when asked after taking over halfway through the third quarter.
On the game-winning drive, Dalton made two huge plays to lead the Cowboys to victory. The first decision came when Dalton was flushed out of the pocket and found wide receiver Michael Gallup for 19 yards along the sideline. The play not only gave the offense a first down, but it also stopped the clock and prevented a sack.
It took one more big play from Dalton to Gallup to virtually seal the win. Dalton fired a perfect pass to Gallup down the right sideline for 38 yards to set up the winning kick. With the game on the line through five contests, Gallup has been the go-to receiver for the Cowboys.
A questionable offensive pass interference call on the third-year wide receiver cost the team in Week 1 against the Los Angeles Rams, but a huge pass to Gallup to set up a touchdown helped win the game in Week 2 against the Falcons.
Gallup also contributed a huge fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks that nearly brought the team back for a win in Week 3. When a big play is needed, the ball goes to Gallup.
A win might not have been possible, also, if Dallas hadn’t have gotten a big play from their much-maligned defense. Trailing 17-10 late in the second quarter, while getting beaten easily by a team that came into the game tied for last in yards per game, the defense finally made their mark.
Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence sacked New York quarterback Daniel Jones, forced a fumble, and cornerback Anthony Brown – fresh off a return from the IR – scooped it up and scampered in for a 29-yard touchdown. The play tied the game and breathed life into a Dallas defense that had been missing in action in 2020.
The Cowboys wound up winning a game without their leader, but the plan to bring in a decent backup QB this offseason has proven to be a wise move. A front office that has been under fire recently had a move worked out even under the most harrowing of circumstances.
For this week, at least, the Cowboys ride high among the storied NFC East even as they now deal with the fallout from Dak Prescott’s untimely departure.
Do you think the Cowboys will be able to survive without Dak Prescott under center? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.