Dak Prescott putting body on the line for Cowboys’ offense

FRISCO, Texas — There was a big bandage on his left elbow and a few visible welts on either arm. As he spoke, Dak Prescott held firmly to the lectern, searching for words after the Dallas Cowboys’ 28-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

Prescott was spent physically and emotionally, as he normally is after the weekly referendums on how he played, what type of quarterback he is and what type of quarterback he can be.

“Dak is a freaking warrior,” linebacker Micah Parsons said. “There was multiple times I was like, ‘That’s Dak mother eff Prescott.’ He’s a dog. He a warrior. I have an unbelievable amount of confidence in him. I thought he had a great game. I think people need to put more respect on him. He outplayed everyone today.”

Prescott threw for a season-high 374 yards on 29-of-44 passing against the Eagles. He had three touchdown passes. He also ran six times for 14 yards and was sacked five times for a loss of 41 yards. It was the most passing yards he has had in a game since a 375-yard outing on Thanksgiving Day in 2021.

He became the first Cowboys quarterback with 10 games of at least 350 passing yards and three touchdowns. It was the eighth time he has thrown more than 300 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, but the first time losing such a game.

In the three games since his — and the Cowboys’ — lowest point of the season, a 42-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 5, Prescott has completed 75 of 105 passes for 950 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception. He has run 17 times for 73 yards and one touchdown. He has also been sacked 13 times.

“I feel good, but at the end of the day I judge myself on wins — and as I’ve told you, I’m my biggest critic,” he said Sunday. “I can promise you there’s two, three plays off the top of my head I’ll lose sleep over. But that’s why I’ll continue to work and we’ll get better because of them.”

One play is the failed 2-point conversion attempt after the Cowboys cut the gap to 28-23 when his foot touched out of bounds before he reached for the pylon while running away from two Eagles defenders.

“I’m just mad at myself for not diving or tagging the pylon,” he said. “I had it.”

Instead of needing a game-tying field goal, the Cowboys needed a touchdown on their final two drives. The first one stalled at the Philadelphia 29 when Prescott’s fourth-down pass to receiver Jalen Tolbert was high. The second one started at the Dallas 14 with 46 seconds left. Within 19 seconds, the Cowboys were at the Philadelphia 6, thanks to a pass interference penalty, a 10-yard catch by tight end Jake Ferguson, another Eagles penalty, a 14-yard gain by receiver CeeDee Lamb and a third Eagles penalty.

But it would get no closer. Prescott’s final pass to Lamb went for 23 yards when the Cowboys needed 27 for the winning touchdown.

Still Prescott’s effort had his teammates gushing.

“He’s running, he’s taking huge hits. Obviously, you don’t want your quarterback taking hits, but when you see that and feel that and he gets back in the huddle and he’s right back to it, that’s contagious,” Ferguson said. “That makes you want to do that much more.”

For the Cowboys to win big, Prescott will need to continue to play the way he has played the past three games. The biggest change has come with his legs, and not just with running. It’s scrambling free from pressure and finding his pass-catchers downfield.

In his past three games, Prescott has completed 14 of 17 passes with two touchdowns from outside the pocket, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In his first five games, he was 9-of-16 with no touchdowns outside the pocket. Against the Eagles, he was 4-of-4 for 75 yards and a touchdown to Jalen Tolbert.

“It’s freedom,” Prescott said. “It goes into the offense. It goes into [coach] Mike [McCarthy] understanding my game and just really us being on the same page, to be honest with you.”

But as Prescott moves around more, the more he is exposed to a large number of hits. Coming off the dislocation and fracture of his right ankle in 2020, owner and general manager Jerry Jones wanted the coaches to be mindful of how much Prescott used his legs. And Prescott was mindful, too.

Then to start this season, with McCarthy calling plays for the first time with the Cowboys, Prescott was mindful of playing within the system. Now that he and McCarthy have more time on task, he has learned to listen to his feet not only on his passes, but when he needs to break free from the pocket.

“The last couple of weeks I’ve been a little bit maybe more sore than I’ve been in the past, but I’ve been fine with it,” Prescott said.

Soreness after a win is different than soreness after a loss, especially one as difficult as the Eagles defeat.

“For me right now, I want to play this way. I want to continue to play this way,” Prescott said. “I know I’ll be sore. I know I’ll be more sore Tuesday than I’ve been all year. But I want to play this way come Sunday, so it’s about the process. Obviously, I’ve got a great team with [personal trainer Luke Miller] and the Cowboys. Just trust that.”

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