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Cowboys News: Why There Is Nothing Fluky About The Cowboys Offense Or Dak Prescott

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Latest Cowboys headlines: Cowboys are 'very frustrating' to play against; Dak Prescott is having a rookie season for the ages; Barry Church ready to return.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Donte Whitner on the Cowboys: 'They're very frustrating' to play against - Jared Dubin, CBSSports.com
Whitner lamented how difficult it is to stop the Cowboys' offense.

You don't get to 10-1 without making some opponents hate the very thought of playing against you along the way, and that's apparently exactly what the Cowboys have done this year. Just ask Washington safety Donte Whitner.

"They're very frustrating. You have a lot of quarterbacks in the National Football League that take chances with the football and [you] get the opportunity for interceptions," Whitner said, per the Dallas Morning News. "To put the ball on the ground when you get to them, when you sack them. This quarterback doesn't do that. ... That's why he's playing so well. He understands situations, he's not trying to turn the football over, and he's taking this opportunity and running with it."

Sturm: No fluke! These Cowboys have opponents looking as flustered as they were during 'Triplets' era - Bob Sturm, SportsDay
Sturm writes that the Cowboys' dominant and efficient offensive performance has become so sustainable and repeatable that it has become almost unstoppable.

The Cowboys no longer are a surprise this season. They now are squarely on the radar of teams that could play in Houston on February 5. As insane as that idea seemed four months ago, we may as well admit the reality. The Cowboys are one of the very rare teams in the league right now that look like they may be very difficult to take down.

There is nothing fluky about this offensive power. There is something familiar about it, though. It has opponents looking as flustered as they used to appear against the old "Triplets" 25 years back.

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Dak Prescott Is Having a Rookie Season for the Ages - Robert Mays, The Ringer
There's been a lot of talk about how Dak Prescott' performance is due more to the Cowboys' O-line, the Cowboys' running game, the Cowboys' coaching, or any other reason you can dream up than to the rookie actually being really, really good. Mays succinctly explains why Prescott's success transcends his perfect offensive situation.

The typical refrain from Dak doubters to this point has been that the Cowboys offense hums mostly because of its other pieces: the league’s best offensive line and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott combining to create the most bone-crushing ground game in recent memory. We’ve reached a point, though, where it’s impossible to ignore the numbers that Prescott is producing. Through 11 games, he’s 231-of-340 for 2,835 yards with 18 touchdowns and two interceptions. That puts him on pace for what would inarguably be the best statistical rookie passing season of all time, and outings like Thursday’s are what make that increasingly easier to believe.

There are some who might still try to make the argument: Any quarterback would rack up gaudy stats in the Dallas offense. But we already know that’s not true. While the Cowboys didn’t have Elliott a season ago, they had the same five guys up front, mauling front sevens and turning Darren McFadden into a productive NFL running back. With Tony Romo injured and Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden, and Kellen Moore truly putting the "any quarterback" theory to the test, Dallas finished a putrid 31st in offensive DVOA.

The more Dallas thrives, the more it becomes clear: Those are the kind of plays that are helping Prescott put together the greatest first-year QB season ever. He has been given every chance to succeed, but he’s used his unique skill set to do the same for the Cowboys offense. Prescott’s numbers may be amplified thanks to the help around him, but his breakout campaign isn’t a mirage. The man himself has had plenty to do with it.

Dak Prescott keeps carving teams up in the 4th quarter (and OT) - ESPN Stats & Info
Prescott's numbers are impressive, but they're even more impressive when looking at his performance late in games.

In a span that dates back to overtime of the Week 8 win against the Philadelphia Eagles, Prescott is 30-of-33 for 325 yards in the fourth quarter, with two touchdown passes and a touchdown run. He added 6-of-7 for 79 yards is the latest part of that ledger in Thursday’s win over the Washington Redskins.

Prescott now has eight games this season in which he has completed at least three fourth-quarter passes and thrown no more than one incompletion. After going 6-of-17 in the fourth quarter of his debut against the Giants, Prescott is 58-of-73 (79 percent), with five touchdowns and no interceptions.

The future is now: Young QBs shifting NFL hierarchy - Bucky Brooks, NFL.com
Which two teams currently hold No. 1 seeds? Derek Carr's Raiders and Dak Prescott's Cowboys. In his notebook, Brooks studies an emerging crop of QBs and has this to say about Prescott.

It is hard to find a hole in Prescott's game, despite the fact that he entered as a bit of an afterthought. Selected late in the fourth round of this past April's draft, Prescott has proved the skeptics wrong by playing with an ice-cold demeanor that exudes poise and confidence. Although the naysayers suggest Prescott stepped into an easy situation -- Dallas boasts an offensive line loaded with first-rounders (Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin), a superstar running back (No. 4 overall pick Ezekiel Elliott) and a pair of elite pass catchers (Dez Bryant and Jason Witten) -- it's impossible to ignore how well the rookie has handled the pressure of being the QB1 for "America's Team."

Prescott is on pace to post the best completion rate (67.9 percent), touchdown-to-interception ratio (18:2) and passer rating (108.6) of any rookie starter in NFL history. Not to mention, he is the first rookie in league history to have 300-plus passing yards, multiple touchdowns and zero interceptions in back-to-back games. Say what you want about his supporting cast -- Prescott is playing like a veteran Pro Bowler.

Studying the All-22 Coaches Film, I am amazed at his instincts, awareness and diagnostic skills during the pre- and post-snap phases. Prescott has an uncanny feel for deciphering blitzes and his sound judgment has helped him pick apart defenses as a young starter. To be fair, the Cowboys have assisted him by utilizing spread and empty formations to clear up the reads, but he deserves a ton of credit for getting the ball to the right people on the perimeter.

Ed Werder on what defensive coordinators fear most about Dak Prescott - Staff, SportsDay
ESPN's Ed Werder recently joined KESN-103.3 ESPN Radio to talk about Dak Prescott. Here's his take on the continuing evolution of Dak Prescott.

Werder: ...I think Wade Wilson deserves a lot of credit for how Dak Prescott's game has evolved. I think they are just scratching the surface with what he can do as a runner. I think we saw more of that [vs. Washington] than we've seen at any point to date.

And that's really the fear, as I talk to defensive coordinators around the NFL, that's what they fear with Dak Prescott is that he's a bigger Russell Wilson, that he's going to run the football on designed quarterback runs like we've seen Cam Newton do in his best years.

So yeah, I think the coaching staff has done a tremendous job in really every regard. I can't think of many situations that have been mismanaged, and they've put young players in a position to have sustained success on a weekly basis.

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J.J. Wilcox leaves with thigh contusion, Barry Church ready to return - Charean Williams, The Star-Telegram
Many Cowboys fans wanted Wilcox gone this season, now they can't wait for him to come back from his injury. Wilcox left in the third quarter with a left thigh contusion and it's not clear yet when he'll come back.

The bad news was tempered by the fact that the player Wilcox replaced in the starting lineup, Barry Church, expects to practice and play this week.

"I’ll be practicing all this week, and I’ll be back and going by Thursday," Church said. "I would say right now I’m probably around 90, 92 percent, but once they put the cast on, I should be good."

Can Cowboys reach promised land with bend-but-don't-break defense? Lorenzo Reyes, USA Today
Many observers think a bend-but-don't-break defense is a sign of a weak defense because it allows tons of yards. But if you don't allow a lot of points, you'll win regardless of how many yards you give up.

"We definitely want to bend," Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr said Thursday night after the team’s 31-26 victory against the Washington Redskins, "but not break."

For a team trying to recapture Super Bowl glory for the first time in more than two decades, is that enough? The Cowboys rank 22nd in total defense, allowing 362.2 yards per week, yet have allowed the 10th-fewest points at 19.4, just 2.1 off the pace of the league-leading Seattle Seahawks.

But is this method sustainable?

That’s the question the Cowboys will face down the stretch. Their formula puts a lot of pressure on their rookie superstars and the rest of the offense. But they've effectively relied on their strengths so far and lead the NFL in time of possession, controlling the ball for an average of 33:12. As long as the red-zone defense doesn’t deteriorate — it currently ranks 20th, allowing touchdowns on 56% of possessions inside the 20-yard line — that could be enough to enable the franchise to reach its first Super Bowl since the 1995 season.

Ezekiel Elliott has already passed Emmitt Smith in the Cowboys' rookie record book - Andrew Lynch, FOX Sports
Lynch sums up Elliott's accomplishments vis-a-vis Emmitt.

With two more scores in the Cowboys' 31-26 win over the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving Day, Elliott matched Emmitt Smith's rookie mark of 11 rushing touchdowns. On top of that, Elliott has rushed for 1,199 yards (4.9 yards per carry) in his first year, as well; compared to Smith's 937 total rushing yards in 15 starts in 1990, it seems fair to say that Elliott has eclipsed Smith's rookie season with five games remaining in 2016.

Elliott is now just one rushing TD shy of tying Tony Dorsett and Herschel Walker's shared Cowboys' rookie record (12), and he's already passed both of those players in rushing yards. Dorsett ran for 1,007 yards on 208 carries in 1977; Walker tallied 737 yards on 151 rushes in 1986.

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Cowboys-Redskins was most-watched regular-season game in Fox history - Mike Coppinger, USA Today
Fox announced that the Dallas Cowboys' victory over the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving Day was the most-watched regular-season game in the network's history.