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Cowboys news: Dak Prescott returns to L.A., site where he created first impression of leadership

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Dak Prescott leads his team into battle in the same arena he had his first start but the stakes are much higher now.

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

What Jerry Jones learned from Dak Prescott’s debut in LA has shaped his belief in his young QB- Rob Phillips- Dallas Cowboys
Dak Prescott makes his return to the L.A. Coliseum, where he got his first NFL start, and where Jerry Jones got his first impression of his quarterback.

Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones remembers Prescott’s first of two touchdowns -- a 10-yard back-shoulder throw to Dez Bryant in the first quarter -- not so much for the play itself but the Cowboys’ sideline reaction.

Sitting next to Jones, fellow Hall of Famer Michael Irvin noticed first.

“I said, ‘My goodness, what an excellent play by that young quarterback,’” Jones recalled on 105.3 The Fan. “And Michael looked at me and said, ‘That’s not what I’m looking at. Look at your bench over there. Every player out there is about two feet out on the field cheering and living in his every footstep. This team is really behind this guy.’”

Dak Prescott blocks out noise as he hopes to lead Cowboys further than they have been in a long time-Clarence Hill- Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Dak Prescott has a chance to take Cowboys to their first title game in two decades.

Now Prescott has the Cowboys facing the Rams in the NFC Divisional playoffs back at the LA Coliseum, one win away from their first trip to the NFC title game in 23 years and two away from their first trip to the Super Bowl since their last Super Bowl title in 1995.

His ability to block out the noise and play his best when it matters most late in games has carried the Cowboys back to the brink of history.

Since coming into the league in 2016, Prescott has won more games than any quarterback in the NFL except for Tom Brady. He has led the Cowboys to two division titles and has one less playoff win than Romo during his 10 years with the Cowboys.

Why Dak Prescott, not Jared Goff, could be the play-making quarterback that leads his team to victory -DannyPhantom- Blogging The Boys
The Rams quarterback has had quite the season but the hottest hand may belong to the quarterback on the other side of Saturday’s game, Dak Prescott.

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.

Lucky moves that shaped the Dallas Cowboys into a playoff contender - Bill Barnwell- ESPN
Every NFL team in the playoffs have a little bit of luck helping them get to where they are, here's how luck helped the Cowboys.

On Day 3, the Cowboys were happy to settle for a second option in Michigan State passer Cook, who was still on the board when the draft reached pick No. 100. The Cowboys just had to wait out one more selection to grab the 6-foot-4 Cook, but when they didn’t make the Browns a good enough offer, the Raiders traded up to the 100th selection and nabbed Cook ahead of the Cowboys. Dallas didn’t even want Prescott all that desperately, given that they then used the 101st pick on since-cut defensive end Charles Tapper before grabbing Prescott with the 135th selection.

Three years later, you get the feeling that the original scouting reports on Cook and Lynch might have gone missing from the Cowboys’ facility. Both Cowboys targets were cut by their original teams this past offseason.

Line one for the Cowboys? Keeping Rams 'game wrecker' in check- David Moore-SportsDay
The Rams defense hasn't been the league's best but they have the league's best defender, Aaron Donald, and the Cowboys better make sure he doesn't wreck their game.

There’s no shortage of intriguing matchups for Saturday’s divisional game between the Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams. When putting that list together, don’t ignore Zack Martin and Aaron Donald. These two won’t be across from each other on every play. The Rams star usually lines up over the left guard to rush the quarterback on third down.

Sorry, Connor Williams.

But Martin and Donald are Pro Bowl fixtures that set the tone for their teams in the trenches. Their dominance will help determine the outcome. Keeping Donald in check is line one -- as head coach Jason Garrett likes to say -- for the Cowboys. The Rams defensive tackle led the NFL with 20.5 sacks this season and was credited with 41 quarterback hurries.

LA Rams versus Dallas Cowboys: Matchups to watch - Sosa Kremenjas-Turf Show Times
Both Rams and Cowboys will have to worry about each other's best pass rushers in Aaron Donald and DeMarcus Lawrence.

DT Aaron Donald vs OG’s Connor Williams/Xavier Su’a-Filo

Oh. Yes. At this point, I no longer have any words to describe how dominant Aaron Donald is. And even with that being the case, one of the most dominant performances I’ve ever seen from a player was Donald in last year’s playoff game versus the Atlanta Falcons. Donald lived in the backfield in that game, affecting nearly every play of the first half. This week, he’ll have two ends of the spectrum to oppose. One side is the LG position manned by either rookie Connor Williamsor veteran Xavier Su’a-Filo, neither of which are good. The other is RG Zach Martin who is the Aaron Donald of offensive lineman. I’m sure Donald will be moved around and get a fair share of both sides, though it’s an incredibly appealing matchup to let 99 wreck the game against two bad left guards.

RT Rob Havenstein vs DE DeMarcus Lawrence

Rob Havenstein is one of the best tackles in the league, and DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the best defensive ends in the league. I envision both guys winning plenty of reps, though QB Jared Goff will need to be well aware of where #90 is lined up as Lawrence has a fantastic pass-rushing prowess that produces a lot of sacks.

The results of this Cowboys-Rams divisional game will ignite the sports world in hot takes -David Helman-Dallas Cowboys
No matter who wins this Cowboys-Rams playoff game, there will be a ton of hot takes that follow each team afterward.

Consider the players involved. It’s the biggest, most visible franchise in football against the hot new commodity in one of the world’s media capitals. It’s a scrutinized, criticized veteran coach in Jason Garrett going against the toast of the coaching world in Sean McVay. It’s the two best running backs in the game squaring off on the same field. It’s two quarterbacks from the same draft class, selected four rounds apart.

The crucial part, of course, is that half of the characters involved have to lose. That’s the cruel nature of the playoffs. Someone is going to fail, and we’ll rush to explain what that means about the future of football – and maybe even the free world.

Amari Cooper, the anti-diva WR, is starting to have some fun with Cowboys- Todd Archer- ESPN
For a franchise with so many colorful personalities, Amari Cooper is the exact opposite but it doesn't mean he's not enjoying being a Dallas Cowboy.

“I mean that should be what they expect to go out and do. That’s why I never used to celebrate, because I expected to do that. I expect to do more, and if I scored a touchdown, I’d look at it like that’s not much. I can score three or four times. But recently, I had a change in views.

“A lot of guys go through ups and downs in their careers, and sometimes those downs are like horrific and they can really change you. A lot. And so when you go out there and do something like score a touchdown and have a good game, you appreciate it so much more when you’ve been through those valleys in life. I can see why guys really celebrate and actually appreciate the time and have fun in the moment. But I couldn’t before.”

Rams' offense will be tested by Cowboys top-ranked playoff defense- Jared Dubin- CBSSports.com
The Rams haven't had the best luck against the league's better defenses and the Cowboys come in with a pretty good one.

Perhaps no group of players gained more esteem this season than the back second level of the Dallas Cowboys’ defense. Long derided as the reason a team with a potent offense couldn’t take the next step, the Dallas defense this season was by far the better of the team’s two units. The Cowboys finished the year seventh in yards allowed, sixth in points allowed, and ninth in defensive efficiency, per Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA.

Pass-rusher DeMarcus Lawrence is the team’s best defensive player, but the Cowboys had three breakout stars on the second level as well. Cornerback Byron Jones, who moved back to the perimeter full-time this season after shuffling between corner and safety for his first three NFL seasons, emerged as one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks under the tutelage of defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator Kris Richard.

Four keys for the Dallas Cowboys to defeat the Los Angeles Rams - Connor Livesay-Blogging The Boys
In the toughest matchup to date, the Cowboys need to keep an eye on the Rams best weapon, Todd Gurley.

Shutting down Todd Gurley is impossible, let’s get that out of the way right now. Containing Todd Gurley is possible and that is exactly what the Cowboys defense needs to try to do. In the Rams three losses in 2018, Gurley was held under 100 yards and 20 carries in each of those games. Two of those losses came at the end of the year dealing with a knee injury, which is something he still is dealing with. But containing Gurley on the ground isn’t the only thing the Cowboys defense has to focus on. Gurley is one of the best receiving running backs in the NFL and he can completely take over a game not only as a runner but also as a receiver.