This was another amazing game by the Cowboys’ rookie duo. It wasn’t dominant by any means. Indeed, for Dak Prescott, other than an early bomb to Dez Bryant, and an easy touchdown run off a read option play, Dak Prescott struggled.
At halftime, Prescott was 5 for 13, with an interception in the Philadelphia end zone, completions to only two players - Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott - and the Cowboys trailed 13-10.
In the third and early fourth quarters, the Cowboys fell behind twice by 10 points, 20-10 and 23-13. Dallas was actually out-gaining Philadelphia, but its drives kept faltering, especially when Philly dialed up blitzes.
Down 23-13 with 13 minutes left, Dallas caught its first huge break when Terrell McClain forced a Philly fumble on its 38-yard line. Three plays got Dallas to the Philly 31, where Dan Bailey made it a seven point game, 23-16.
Philly drove the ball to the Dallas 30-yard line, but Sean Lee came through with a massive play tackling Darren Sproles for a six-yard loss, and Philly went from a long field goal try to a punt to the Dallas 10-yard line.
It was at this point, with 6:26 left in the game, that Dak Prescott stepped up and made huge play after huge play. He began with his first pass to Cole Beasley for 12 yards. This was followed by a 63-yard run around the left side by Ezekiel Elliott that was called back on a rather dubious holding call on Travis Frederick. Jerome Boger’s officiating crew throws an average of four more flags per game than any other reffing crew, and it showed again last night. It was now first and 20.
Dak came through. 15-yard pass to Dez. Incomplete to Dez. Beasley for 10 on third down. Brice Butler (his only catch) for 19 yards. Zeke for seven. Zeke for three. Incomplete to Dez. Dak scrambles for 12. Incomplete to Butler. Then a 22-yard touchdown pass to Dez to tie the game at 23-all. 11 plays, 90 yards, 3:22 time elapsed. This was a money drive.
With three minutes left, the Cowboys and Eagles each had two more possessions, but couldn’t move the ball, and they went to overtime. Dallas won the toss and took the ball.
At this point, the threat of the running game re-entered the Dallas attack, which seemed to force Philly to dial back its blitzes. Dak engineered a 12-play, 75-yard drive for the winning touchdown, preventing Philly from having another chance. Dak had to sneak for a yard on fourth and one. And he finished Philly off with a Romo-like scramble behind the line to find Jason Witten completely alone in the end zone. It was Dak’s first TD pass to Witten. Witten broke the record for Cowboys starts, and tied Lee Roy Jordan for most consecutive starts.
What did Zeke do? He rushed for 96 yards, and caught passes for 52 more, for a total of 148 yards from scrimmage. Had his 63-yard romp not been called back, he would have finished much higher. He was a key contributor, but didn’t have the kind of dominant game we had seen recently. But that was largely due to a game Philly defense. Ho Hum. 148 yards. Nothing to write about!?! Wow, are we already taking Zeke for granted this much?
Dak’s stats from his first seven weeks.
(Note: The key stats here are Adjusted Net Yards per attempt, which demonstrates how well a QB gets the ball down the field and into the end zone. Completion percentage tends to show accuracy. Attempts shows the run/pass balance, with fewer attempts for QBs often the goal. Turnovers, or the lack of them, are also critical.)
This was by Dak’s worst game for completion percentage, at below 50%. With as many passes as he threw, even though his yardage total was second-highest on the season, his ANY/A was second-lowest, dragging his season total back down under eight. It’s still very high overall, but he needs to regain his form quickly. His passer rating was also a poor 79.8, dragging his season total under 100. He lost the passer rating differential to Carson Wentz, 79.8 to 91.4, which is a key variable in who wins football games. And his turnover in the Philly end zone not only cost the Cowboys points, but Philly drove off it to score three points themselves.
At halftime, Dak had completed only five passes. Three to Zeke for 42 yards, and two to Dez for 76 yards for a total of 118 yards. Wentz had completed 17 passes, but for only 107 yards in the same stretch. In the second half and overtime, Dak found Cole Beasley four times for 53 yards, Dez two times for 37 more yards and the tying TD, Terrance Williams twice for 25 yards, Witten twice for 16 yards and the winning TD, Butler once for 19 yards, Zeke once for 10 more yards, Geoff Swaim once for eight yards, and Keith Smith once for a yard. I’ve already recounted the two key Dak drives that tied and won the ballgame.
How does Dak stand up against Tony Romo’s 2014 season? After this game, Dak has finally fallen behind Tony in the stats category, but not by much. His ANY/A number remains higher, his passing yards are less than 20 behind Romo, he’s passed for five fewer TDs, but rushed for four, and thrown four fewer interceptions. Not bad for a rookie. In 2014, this was the week Tony beat the Giants on a very efficient night. Both Prescott and Romo led the Cowboys to a 6-1 record. Pretty remarkable.
Here are Tony Romo’s 2014 stats after seven games.
From this point forward in 2014, Tony will have only two more games with a quarterback rating under 100, and both will be Dallas losses. One of those was a Thanksgiving Day loss at home to Philly, when Mark Sanchez led the Eagles to a 33-10 win and the meme was born that Romo can’t play on short weeks any more.
Otherwise, Romo was killing it. It will be very hard for Dak to catch up in the stats department now that he’s slipped behind. If he can find ways to win like he did tonight, however, he could more than match Tony in leading the Cowboys to victories.
How did Zeke do in game seven? He didn’t have the dominant performance we’d seen in the last four games, but he was up against a stronger defensive team than in any other game. Plus, if his 63-yard romp hadn’t been called back, we might have been talking more today about Zeke’s role in the comeback than Dak’s.
- Rushing: 22 carries, 96 yards, 4.4 YPC, 0 TD, long 16 yards, no fumbles
- Receiving: 4 receptions, 4 targets, 52 yards, long 25 yards.
What do his totals look like after 7 games?
He’s only one yard short of 800 over seven games. That projects out to 1,826 over 16 games, so he’s still slightly ahead of the Eric Dickerson rookie pace.
The game had a very odd feel to it from an offensive standpoint where everything felt out of sync and the quarterback looked like he was possibly feeling all of the pressure and anxiety around the situation he has found himself in. On top of that, they were working Dez Bryant back in and trying to make the mix fit as seamlessly as it looked in Green Bay. It never did and Prescott looked off, yet they rolled up 460 yards, scored two touchdowns and a field goal late to come from double-digits down to grab the win. Not pretty, but they finished very strong.
My grades this week?
- Dak. B+. Positives: Winning the game, with a 90-yard TD drive to tie it, and a 75-yard TD drive to win it. Until then, he was flirting with a C- or worse grade, with so many incomplete passes, an interception in the Philly end zone, and an inability to get much going. He ran the ball very well, and hit his best deep pass of the season to Bryant, but these positives seemed few and far between until he righted himself at the end. Negatives. Erratic passes for long stretches, and the big turnover.
- Zeke. B+. Missed out on a 63-yard romp by a penalty, but was solid all night, and helped more in the passing game than in any previous game. Negatives? None really.
What did you think of their performances?