The Dallas Cowboys have split their last two games, and in the NFL that’s generally considered a win. It’s an 8-8 league, as most would say.
In that stretch of time some things have looked good, some things have looked bad, and the decision-making on critical fourth downs has recently been put under the microscope. These are some rocky waters.
Much of the debate these two weeks, heck all season and then some, has centered around the quarterback of the Cowboys. Dak Prescott has had a few moments where he shined (J.J. Watt might agree) and he’s had times where he’s played quite poorly. This is never considered a win.
While Dallas has a win to show for these last two weeks it’s worth noting that in both of them we’ve seen Dak make some terrible decisions. I’m not talking about more detailed things like his footwork or arm mechanics, this is basic stuff concerning field position and clock management that every quarterback (every player really) should know.
3rd quarter, 3rd and long, Dak takes a sack against Detroit
Dak Prescott has made some horrific mental mistakes the last two weeks when it comes to basic things like field position and the clock. Think back to the Lions win when he took a sack on third and long taking the Cowboys out of field goal range. pic.twitter.com/VXs44ADd6Q— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) October 8, 2018
The Cowboys, then leading by three, faced a third and almost impossible from the Detroit 34-yard line early on in the second half last week. We’ve come to learn and feel confident that this is in range for Brett Maher so most Cowboys fans were hoping to double the lead.
Dak Prescott did the unforgivable in situations like this, he took a sack. While trying to make something happen the quarterback bounced behind the pocket and lost a huge chunk of yardage, knocking the Cowboys out of field goal range. That cost the team three points.
You’ve got to know when to throw it away
Later in the Lions game Dak Prescott runs out of bounds instead of throwing the ball away and he loses yardage. The marker is literally right in front of him. pic.twitter.com/pCRa3MQcgv— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) October 8, 2018
Almost a full quarter after Dak Prescott took a sack, he yet again failed to throw the ball away. To be fair this error is the most forgivable of the ones we’re discussing as the “loss” on it was minimal, but the point still stands.
On first down at midfield we see Dak Prescott scramble and get to his right. He is on the same side of the field as the chains with them right in front of his face. When he gets near out-of-bounds instead of throwing the ball away and living for another down he tries to run despite the obvious difficult ahead of him. He actually loses yardage.
Let me be clear in saying that this is hardly the most flagrant offense against a quarterback, but the fact remains that it’s a clear misunderstanding of the field position for Dak. The Cowboys won this game, but for all we know that lost yardage could have been pivotal. The point is that you have to avoid negative plays and he literally ran into one when it could have been easily avoided.
Dak Prescott saved the Texans a timeout in regulation that could have been costly
The most indefensible- inside the two-minute warning in Houston, Dak Prescott runs out of bounds on third down, conserving the last remaining Texans timeout for them. Obviously the game went to overtime, but he gave them an enormous gift here. pic.twitter.com/uSL7GFhuBV— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) October 8, 2018
Obviously the game in Houston went to overtime, Jason Garrett chose to punt, and you know the rest. Not to live in a land of ifs, but the game could have ended well before that thanks to an egregious mistake by Dak Prescott.
The Cowboys were facing a 3rd and 17 on their side of the field and elected to take the clock down to the two-minute warning. Maybe they used this time to plan, maybe they used it to talk about life, who knows, the point is simply that Dallas had a great amount of time to discuss what was to happen next.
What we saw did not look well-planned or thought out. What we saw was Dak Prescott make his reads and choose to run instead. To be clear that’s a decision that Dak should make if he feels confident with it, but a very important qualifier has to exist on top of it for him to stay in bounds.
In the moment the Texans had one remaining timeout and as mentioned we were past the two-minute warning. Dak Prescott runs, dances, and gets out of bounds. Dak literally conserved the Texans their lone clock-stoppage right before handing them the ball with them only needing a field goal to win the game. You absolutely cannot do that.
Dak’s flub became moot as DeMarcus Lawrence and Jaylon Smith helped get the ball back to the Cowboys in the game’s final seconds courtesy of Xavier Woods (ironically the Dak mistake then benefited the Cowboys), but again it should be noted that Prescott handed Houston an incredible gift with a conscious mind.
Everybody makes mistakes, but Dak is making some basic ones
Nobody is going to act like there’s a single quarterback in NFL history that hasn’t ever done something that he shouldn’t. Mistakes happen. Some would argue they’re normal. Elite quarterbacks certainly make them.
Dak Prescott is not an elite quarterback, though. Dak is trying with all of his might to be good right now, and he’s not getting a whole lot of help, but he’s also not helping himself. Things like knowing not to take a sack that will knock you out of field goal range or to stay in bounds to force the Texans to call a timeout should maybe be told to any quarterback by their coaching staff, but they absolutely have to be known by the quarterback himself. Dak Prescott is a third-year player now who has seen a lot of situations. He has to know these things.
Mistakes may be common, they may happen to everybody, but right now Dak Prescott can’t afford to make them. He definitely can’t afford to make such basic ones.