Consider the following achievements from this 27-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens, giving the Dallas Cowboys a 9-1 record for the first time in team history. Which is the most impressive?
- Cowboys beat the Ravens for the first time in five tries, knocking off the only team the Cowboys had never beaten.
- Cowboys rushed for 118 yards against the Ravens, who were surrendering a league low 71.3 yards per game.
- After starting the game with punts on their first four possessions, gaining 58 yards, the Cowboys drove for scores on their next five possessions, ending with 417 yards, marking the eighth game in a row above 400 yards, further extending the team record, and tying an NFL record.
- The Cowboys’ first of those five consecutive scoring drives started with a first-and-30 situation after back-to-back penalties on Travis Frederick and Tyron Smith. Dak scrambled for 12, passed to Dez for 12, then hit Brice Butler on a 41-yard completion on third and six.
- Dak Prescott hit a rare trifecta - 300 yards passing, completing at least 3⁄4 of his passes, and throwing at least three touchdowns. Tony Romo has had five of these in his career.
- Dak did this after starting the game 6 of 13 with an array of missed throws. He then finished 21 of 23 to take complete control of the game.
- With three touchdown passes, Dak now has TD passes in eight games in a row, 13 over the last five games, and 17 on the season.
- After splitting time of possession in the first half fairly closely, Dallas controlled the ball for more than 20 minutes in the second half.
- Cowboys set a new franchise record with nine wins in a row, led by a rookie quarterback and running back, something no Hall of Fame quarterback-running back tandems in Dallas had ever accomplished.
Prescott opened the season with a NFL-record 176 consecutive passes by a rookie to start his career without an interception. He now has another streak going -- 121 consecutive passes without an interception over his last four games.
Dak was the bigger star of this game, with his second 300-yard passing game and incredible hot streak after a shaky first quarter. Dak hit eight different receivers, including the usual suspects, Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Jason Witten, Ezekiel Elliott, and Terrance Williams, but also Gavin Escobar, Brice Butler, and Lance Dunbar. Dez was the big target, with six catches on eight targets for 80 yards and two touchdowns. Cole Beasley was next with five catches on six targets for 59 yards. Brice Butler caught a 41-yard pass to set up Dallas’s first TD, and another eight-yard catch. Witten caught five balls on seven targets for 37 yards. Zeke chimed in with 30 yards on four catches. Escobar added 21 yards on two catches, Dunbar had 14 yards on two catches, and Williams caught one pass for 11 yards, though he also drew a 31-yard pass interference penalty against the Ravens. Dak also ran twice for 16 yards, and was sacked once for two yards.
Zeke did a lot of the heavy lifting, grinding out a tough 97 yards on 25 carries. He was especially important on the game-sealing drive starting with 8:16 left in the fourth quarter and Dallas nursing a seven-point lead. On that 13-play, 72-yard clock-eating drive, Elliott carried the ball nine times for 30 yards.
Dak’s stats from his first ten 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 Dak’s second game over 300 yards passing. It was his second highest in completion percentage and passer rating. He tied his high of three touchdowns with no picks. He had a 41-yard deep ball to Brice Butler. But he also refused to be baited by the Ravens into deep passes that might not have worked. As Dan Graziano of ESPN wrote, Dak just methodically took what was there.
"They definitely didn't become unstoppable," Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "We played top-down defense in the passing game. And they do checkdowns, like 10 yards per pop. It's kind of hard. You don't want to give up the big play, and they check it down."
Relentlessly. Over and over again. As if they don't care what kind of kryptonite you brought.
Dak beat another Super Bowl winning quarterback, for three on the season. He’ll have another crack at Eli Manning in a few weeks. He easily won the passer rating differential 127.2 (for Dak) to 98.4 (for Flacco), which is a key variable in who wins football games. Dak didn’t get picked off or fumble. He ran twice for 16 yards, and was sacked once for two yards. Dallas was 7-12 on third down.
Dak also tied for the week’s top QBR (ESPN’s proprietary stat), with Kirk Cousins and Alex Smith. But he was first in ESPN’s evaluation of points added over an average quarterback, at 9.3 for the game. For the season, Dak is #1 in the NFL in this points-added stat, with 48.
At this point in this report, since week five against Cincinnati, we ran a comparison of Dak Prescott’s 2016 numbers against Tony Romo’s 2014 season. With the coaches, the front office, and even Tony Romo now on board with Dak Prescott continuing to start unless Dak suffers an injury or his play falls off a cliff, that comparison is no longer relevant. Tony Romo’s game logs from 2014 are here if you want to make the comparison.
Instead, since we all wonder whether Dak Prescott can lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl victory, I decided to look up the regular season stats for the last five quarterbacks to win the Super Bowl, and see how they compare. Here they are. Dak’s current stats are given, along with a projection of where he would end up at the end of this season on his current pace.
Dak is currently ahead of all of them on completion percentage, touchdown to interception ratio, and quarterback rating. He’s ahead of all but Wilson on AY/A, where he’s tied. (I used AY/A instead of ANY/A because the former is published while the latter needs to be calculated. The difference is sacks, where Dak has also excelled - at not taking them.) He’s projected to exceed three of them on passing yardage.
There is a lot more that goes into getting into the Super Bowl and winning it than these stats, even though quarterback rating differential often correlates with the team that wins football games. Let’s just say that Dak Prescott’s quarterback stats at this point do not appear to be a reason he can’t succeed in carrying the Cowboys to the Super Bowl, and the trajectory for them remains pointed up.
By the way, who had the best playoff stats among these Super Bowl winning quarterbacks? Joe Flacco, by a wide margin.
How did Zeke do in game ten? This was a grinder game against the NFL’s top-ranked rushing defense. And, unlike the game against the Packers, this ranking appeared well-deserved. Zeke had only 26 yards on six carries at half time, and one reception for minus one yard. But in the second half, when Dallas scored touchdown, touchdown, and game-clinching field goal drive, Zeke was instrumental. He ran for 71 yards on 19 physical carries, and caught three passes for 31 yards.
He also set the Dallas rookie record for rushing yards, breaking Tony Dorsett’s mark. Tony was there to congratulate Zeke.
- Rushing: 25 carries, 97 yards, 3.9 YPC, 0 TD, long 14 yards, no fumbles.
- Receiving: 4 receptions, 5 targets, 30 yards, 0 TD, long 7.5 yards.
What do his totals look like after ten games?
Zeke is now at 1,102 yards rushing after nine games. That projects out to 1,765 over 16 games, so he is now 45 yards behind the Eric Dickerson rookie pace. This week, Dickerson said Zeke won’t make it. It doesn’t matter to Zeke, who is far more focused on team goals, like making and winning the Super Bowl.
This was one of the more trying offensive days of the season. And that, in a nutshell, explains what an unbelievable season it has been for this side of the ball. Yes, they went for four punts to start the game with an amazingly underwhelming start. But then, with the momentum ball rolling after overcoming a first-and-30 hole, they rolled off scores in their last five drives - all ranging between 59 and 88 yards. They had another 400 yards offensive day, another 300-yard passing day, and dominated the clock and the second half. Astounding.
I guess you have to knock the team for its bad start. But what a finish!
My grades this week?
- Dak. A. Dak started the game poorly. Not as bad as the Philadelphia game, but his passes were off, Zeke wasn’t gaining ground, and the Cowboys punted on their first four possessions. But after overcoming first-and-30 hole, Dak was scorching hot, finishing the game with three touchdown passes, his second best quarterback rating and completion percentage, and complete control in the second half. However much you might think of dinging him for the start, the overall performance was top-notch, especially against a top defense.
- Zeke. A-. Zeke’s yards per carry totals were the second lowest on the season, and he didn’t score any touchdowns. But he gained hard yards on the ground, and drive-helping yards as a receiver, that were essential in Dallas’s control of the game after halftime. This was the toughest defense Dallas had faced. Thanks to Zeke and the offensive line, Dallas was the more physical team.
What did you think of their performances?