FRISCO, Texas. Thirteen months ago, Duck Prescott was being discussed as the NFL’s MVP.
In the first six games of the 2021 season, Prescott had 16 touchdown passes and just four interceptions. He averaged 302 passing yards per game. The Cowboys were 5-1. In an overtime victory over the New England Patriots, he threw more yards against a defense coached by Bill Belichick than any other quarterback with 445 yards.
In the last 14 games, Prescott had 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Good numbers.
He threw for 3,492 yards on 333 of 507 passes. Good numbers.
The Cowboys are 8-6 in those 14 games. Seems alright.
The 6-3 Cowboys need Prescott to be better than good starting Sunday against the 8-1 Minnesota Vikings (4:25 pm ET, CBS) if they want to be taken seriously in the NFC.
Maybe they don’t need him to be as good as he was in the first six games of last season, but he needs to improve.
“Honestly, I am my biggest critic, so if the ball is on the ground, I feel like I need to improve. It’s simple, Prescott said. “As for more, I have to stay within the game plan, but at the same time, looking back, there are certain points, maybe I should have extended the game, not necessarily run, but get out of the pocket and try to do something more. than what was there. It’s bound to come, and just practicing on Sundays pays off.”
Prescott’s teammates know what he’ll answer.
He got it right, didn’t he? All-Pro right-back Zach Martin said. “I mean we talk about it all the time. This is my opinion, if you do everything right and prepare properly, in the long run everything will work out. Everyone has their own [poor] games, their weeks, but if you prepare properly, how it is: 1) it’s contagious and 2) it usually works in your favor.”
Wide receiver CeeDee Lamb said: “He’s the leader. He’s been there before. We all played in the playoffs, even though we didn’t win, they were first overall in the division. They said goodbye to the first round. They understand what it’s like to play in the second round, so in those moments, experience is everything.
“Today is November, the end of the season, time is running out, so everything is important. Knowledge is everything. So listen to the guys who have the most experience and understand what it takes to make the situation victorious.”
An incredible start to last year came after Prescott returned from a compound fracture and sprained right ankle that saw him play five games in 2020. In an overtime win over the Patriots, he limped off the field with a shin sprain that cost him one game. .
This year, he suffered a broken right thumb in his first loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which required surgery and ruled him out of five games.
“I spent the five weeks I was away and not just sitting there but making sure I got well and doing my best to get back,” Prescott said. “So yes, I think there is time and it will only get better.”
However, uncharacteristic interceptions in his last two games changed the tone of those competitions.
In Week 8, with 40 seconds left in the first half against the Chicago Bears at 28–14, Prescott’s pass to Lamb was intercepted. The Bears ended the half with a field goal and turned a potential laugh into something more serious until the fourth quarter.
Last week against the Green Bay Packers, Prescott was intercepted in the end zone by defenseman Rudy Ford after passing to tight end Dalton Schultz, who was trailing third behind the Packers. roll to a draw. In the next run, he was again intercepted by Ford after a misunderstanding with Lamb, and Green Bay took a 14–7 lead.
Dallas beat Chicago 49–29 and lost in overtime to Green Bay 31–28.
“I think again there is a balance between smart and aggressive football at the same time,” said offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. “Duck has traditionally done a lot of good things in this world, and of course what we should be aware of is testing ourselves – but Dak has done a really good job and I think he will continue to progress in this world. in the same direction.”
With Prescott out of action following surgery, the Cowboys went 4-1 with Cooper Rush in the starting lineup. His numbers – 83 of 143, 856 yards, 5 touchdowns, 3 spades – were average, but he was efficient and made well-timed shots. Four times during the Rush’s first four starts, the Cowboys scored touchdowns after an opponent approached within a point, equalized, or took the lead. The only time they didn’t was his only loss against the Philadelphia Eagles when he was killed by three interceptions.
The thought that Prescott’s return would elevate the Cowboys.
Some numbers have improved. The offense has thrown 10 touchdowns in their last two games after scoring 12 in their first seven. Prescott has nine completions for 20 yards or more in his last three games after the Cowboys had 14 in his first six games.
Third-down conversions remain a problem. Against the Bears, the Cowboys were 9 of 11. In games against Detroit and Green Bay, they had a combined 8 of 24. Prescott completed an NFL-low 43.3% of his passes on third and fourth downs this season with one touchdown. and three steals, according to Sportzshala Stats & Information.
And in a strange coincidence, the Cowboys defense had a three-of-four worst record with Prescott at quarterback, but coach Mike McCarthy said he didn’t see any connection.
McCarthy knows Prescott’s importance to the Cowboys.
“I think his best days are yet to come,” McCarthy said. “I am delighted to work with him every day and what he brings to the table. He is our protector. I’m getting an assessment that we have to pass, but I’m not worried about him.”