If there is one thing we can be absolutely certain about on Saturday, it’s that the Dallas Cowboys season will not come to an end at the hands of Aaron Rodgers. The Cowboys have been on the wrong end of some great performances by the Green Bay Packers’ star quarterback. In 2014, he threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns, helping his team beat Dallas, 26-21. Two years later, he threw for 355 yards and a couple scores en route to a 34-31 victory at AT&T stadium. His passer rating was 125 in both those games which rank as his second- and third-best postseason games of his career. Only a 48-21 win over Atlanta in 2010 tops it and that was the year he led the Packers to a Super Bowl victory.
There is no denying that Rodgers has been the Cowboys kryptonite during the playoffs in recent years. He’s helped bounce them out of the Divisional Round in each of their last two playoff appearances. Even after a 4-6 start in 2016, Rodgers went on a tear as the Packers won their final six games of the regular season. He threw 15 touchdowns and no interceptions during that span. Despite the Cowboys having a 13-3 record and a first-round bye, they fell short to Rodgers who just kept making plays when it counted. Dak Prescott took the league by storm early that season, but it was the veteran Rodgers that got hot at the right moment. And that’s what it takes if you want to keep advancing in the second-season.
Fast forward to this year and it’s the Los Angeles Rams who have the 13-3 record with a first-round bye. After winning their first eight games of the year, Jared Goff’s name was coming up for MVP consideration. But that was then.
It’s the Cowboys that have been riding hot lately as they’ve won eight of their last nine games. A big reason for that is the improved play of their quarterback, Dak Prescott. In fact, it’s Dak who is running around making plays of late as he’s been one of the best quarterbacks down the stretch. The same is not true for Jared Goff.
Through first 11 weeks of season, Jared Goff was NFL’s 3rd-highest rated passer (113.5), while Dak Prescott (90.3) ranked 23rd. In final 6 weeks, Prescott was NFL’s 4th-highest rated passer (105.9) while Goff (74.8) ranked 25th. #DALvsLAR— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) January 9, 2019
On Saturday when these two teams meet there’s going to be many talented players out there making big plays, but none will take on a more influential role than the quarterbacks. To advance to the NFC Championship, it’s going to take a good performance by the QB. Prescott is fallible and will make his mistakes, but he’s been delivering at the most crucial moments of the game. Against the New York Giants in Week 17, he led the game-winning comeback, capping it off with a clutch throw on fourth down. And then against Seattle last week, Prescott demonstrated his resilience. The Seahawks went up 14-10 late in the third quarter, but then Dak took over and led two 60+ touchdown drives to give the Cowboys a 24-14 lead. Seattle would fight back with one score, but it wasn’t enough.
For all his shortcomings that involve missing wide open receivers, check downs on third and long, and taking unnecessary sacks that put his team out of field goal range, Prescott has still found a way to deliver. He continues to show that he’s unfazed when things go awry. He shakes it off and is on to the next play. It’s what his teammates love about him because with him behind center, this team has a shot. Since entering the league in 2016, no quarterback has led more game-winning drives. No one.
Goff was the first overall pick in the 2016 draft and Prescott wasn’t selected until 134 picks later. Both have very comparable numbers up to this point in their career. Dak was quick out of the gate, then Goff came on, but in recent games - it’s been Prescott who is playing at a higher level. It should be a tough battle on Saturday, but Cowboys fans have to feel good that Prescott is their quarterback.