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Tale of the tape: Poise, protection, and rhythm lead to big improvements for Dak Prescott

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Let’s take a look at the All-22 tape and see how Dak Prescott performed in the Cowboys 26-24 win over the Detroit Lions.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t perfect, but boy did we see improvements from Dak Prescott last week against the Lions. In Prescott’s first three outings there were concerns all over the tape for the third-year quarterback out of Mississippi State. Anywhere from poor lower body mechanics, bad vision, and poor accuracy, the concerns regarding the future of the quarterback position in Dallas were starting to pick up. While there’s still a long ways to go, all of Cowboys Nation should at least feel a little bit better about Prescott after a much improved performance in week four against the number one ranked passing defense in the NFL.

Rhythm started early for Dak and Co.

After a first drive that resulted in a three and out after three straight running plays, the Cowboys came out in their second series with a more aggressive approach. The first pass of the game for Dak Prescott went for 31-yards on the same ole play action bootleg the Cowboys ran early in the game when backed up inside their own 20 yard line. Due to the tendencies of the Cowboys offense, Detroit was lined up to stop the run on 1st and 10 from the DAL 10-yard line only for Prescott to fake the hand off, roll to his right and find Geoff Swaim for a huge gain.

The most important aspect of this play is the ball comes out on time, which allows Swaim to turn up field and gain yards after the catch. If this ball comes out late, or inaccurate, Swaim will either drift to close to the boundary, or will slow himself down to readjust for the catch. Plays like this early in the game have shown to get Prescott in a rhythm, they just have to mix up the formation, and the down and distances they run them in.

Prescott used his eyes to connect on deep balls

The words Prescott, deep, and football all together have yet to be a common theme for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018. Last weekend Prescott silenced the haters that knock his accuracy when throwing downfield for at least one game.

Prescott attempted five passes over 20 yards and connected on two of them for 71 yards, and it’s worth noting that Tavon Austin also dropped a beautiful pass that would have been another 35 yards and a touchdown. Prescott was able to connect on these vertical shots due to his ability to look off or hold the safety to one side of the field and get the ball out on time and in a near perfect spot for the receiver to make a play. This all became possible because of Ezekiel Elliott’s ability to run the football, the offensive lines ability to give Prescott some time, and the receivers ability to create just enough separation that allows Prescott to feel comfortable letting it fly.

Play 1 -Gallup creates separation with clean release, Prescott delivers a great ball

Dak Prescott does a nice job of holding the safety to the middle of the field by staring down Cole Beasley off the snap. Once he notices that the safety can not reach the sideline to make a play on the ball, he delivers a dime to Michael Gallup for a huge gain. Credit to Gallup here for winning off the line of scrimmage, and being physical enough at the top of his route and at the catch point to bring this down. The Cowboys will need much more of this in 2018 if they want a chance to compete for a playoff spot.

Play 2 - Prescott’s eyes deceive deep safety

Here is the clip of the Tavon Austin drop we touched on above. Prescott again does a nice job of pulling the safety to the left hash using his eyes on the play-action fake. Tavon Austin was unable to create any separation lined up across of Darius Slay, but Dak gave him a ball to make a play on that ended up hitting him right between the one and the zero (Jason Garrett is smiling somewhere). If Prescott can continue to throw the ball down the field with this accuracy, while looking defenders off, this offense will get back to respectable shape in no time.

Play 3 - The game winner

Similar to the two plays above, this play starts due to Prescott’s ability to hold the safety in the middle of the field for a long time. Credit belongs to the offensive line for giving Prescott a perfect pocket to sit in and deliver a perfect throw for the game winner. While the Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin throws are excellent, this is one of the Prescott’s best throws of his career, in a moment where all the pressure was on him to make a play.

With Ezekiel Elliott having outside leverage on the linebacker, Prescott wants to drop this ball more over his helmet than over Elliott’s right shoulder. This throw makes sure that neither the linebacker in coverage, or safety can come over and make a play on the ball or the receiver. When you hear people use the saying “dropping it in the bucket” this is a perfect example of that. This is a PERFECT throw from Dak Prescott.

Clutch plays at clutch times

13-10, just under four minutes to go in the third quarter, 3rd and 10. This is Dak Prescott’s best play of the game. Needing a touchdown, only up by three, with the Cowboys defense struggling, the Cowboys desperately needed a first down here. Unfortunately for them, they came up just a bit short, but were close enough to go for it on fourth-down. That fourth down was all set up because of this throw from Dak to Cole Beasley.

Dak senses some pressure from the middle so he starts to his right to buy himself some time. When he rolls right, the linebacker that had fallen back into coverage starts to bear down on him. Dak makes a great play by somehow getting this ball around the linebacker throwing from an awkward side-arm-motion without setting his feet. The throw hits Beasley in stride and picks up nine-and-half. As you know, the Cowboys convert on the fourth-down, and end up scoring a touchdown just a few plays later. Again, this was a clutch throw from Dak Prescott that has flown way under the radar.

Play 2 - The miraculous incompletion

It’s rare that the ball seems to roll the Cowboys way, but man oh man did it happen on Sunday. With two minutes to go in the fourth-quarter, the Cowboys were trying to get into field goal range to get to 2-2 on the season instead of letting yet another game slip away and falling to 1-3.

On second down, Da’Shawn Hand beats Joe Looney to strip sack Dak Prescott. At this very moment every single Cowboys fan all over the world gasped for air or screamed words we cannot repeat. Luckily, Dak is able to recover, pick up the ball, and throw it away for a no-harm, no-foul incompletion. If Prescott just falls on this ball, the Cowboys are looking at a 3rd and 20, and the odds of them overcoming that are little to none.

While it won’t stand out, make the stat sheet, or anything like that, this play was one that very well could have been the play of the game for the Dallas Cowboys.