The Cowboys dropped to 5-4 on the season following a crushing 28-24 defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football. The Cowboys will more than likely have to find a way to win the NFC East if they want to make the playoffs for the third time in the four seasons of the Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott era.
Dallas has failed to capitalize on the opportunities that they have been presented with thus far this season, which has made a path to a wildcard spot very challenging. When you add in the fact that the Cowboys have the Patriots, Bills, Bears, Rams, and Eagles still looming on the schedule, Dallas will have to play its A-game for the vast majority of the rest of the season.
What makes this start even more frustrating is when you consider just how good Dak Prescott has been this season. The fourth-year quarterback has elevated his game in ways that even I — a long-time Dak-truther — did not expect him to. Prescott is stretching the field, taking shots more frequently, and is operating at an all-time level with a lot of confidence.
Through nine games in 2019, Prescott is among the top quarterbacks in the NFL in just about every single category imaginable. The eye test shows that Prescott is very good and the numbers do nothing but back that up:
- 2,777 passing yards (second in the NFL)
- 18 passing TDs (third)
- 8.6 AY/A (fifth)
- 8.16 NY/A (second)
- 82.1 QBR (first)
Prescott also ranks first in the NFL in Ben Baldwin’s DAKOTA rankings (how fitting) that measures a quarterback’s predicted EPA and completion percentage over expected composite. Prescott, as you see, is followed by some good company: Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, and Deshaun Watson are just a few that trail.
Imagine seeing this before the season started. Well, I guess the Bears part isn't surprising pic.twitter.com/3Uq68jZUzz— new-age analytical (@benbbaldwin) November 11, 2019
USA Today’s Steven Ruiz wrote on Prescott’s performance against the Vikings, writing that “it was as complete a performance as I’ve seen from a quarterback since ... well, maybe ever”.
It was as complete a performance as I’ve seen from a quarterback since … well, maybe ever. There were highlight-reel throws downfield, shrewd pre-snap checks and protection changes, plays that required Prescott to exhaust his progressions while avoiding hits in the pocket and plenty examples of his ability to create outside of structure when a play breaks down. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say there are only two or three quarterbacks in the league capable of putting together such a comprehensive display of quarterbacking. It was an elite performance, which should not come as a shock since Prescott has been playing at an elite level all season — and for the majority of his short career.
Dak is gonna be No. 1 in EPA, QBR, Total Points, CPOE after a meh game for Russ.— Steven Ruiz (@theStevenRuiz) November 12, 2019
That he's not a front-runner for MVP is kinda ridiculous. That he's barely in the conversation is just dumb.
Benjamin Solak of The Draft Network (and of Bleeding Green Nation) wrote after the loss that the Cowboys are “wasting Dak Prescott”. He explains why in his piece:
Kellen Moore was, and his commitment to first down and short-yardage runs stands stark as an unruly black smudge on an otherwise spotless résumé: play-action passes, reduced sets and nub tight ends, pre-snap motion galore. In the early weeks of the season, Moore was the fever dream of analytics twitter and the darling of McVayian disciples -- but his play-action rates have decreased, he’s ran Elliott more frequently and into heavier boxes, and the Cowboys’ offensive efficacy has dropped off as a result.
What warranted the shift? It was not -- it simply was not the play of QB Dak Prescott, who is putting together his best season as a pro and, were it not for the Cowboys’ flabbergasting inability to win games they should win, should be considered an honorable mention in the MVP conversation. With the best receiving corps he’s had in his time at Dallas, headlined by a revitalized Amari Cooper, Prescott’s quick release and strong intermediate accuracy create more impressive tight-window passing plays than almost every other quarterback in the league.
Prescott had flashed signs of this earlier in his career — after all, he had one of the most special seasons by a rookie quarterback in NFL history — but he has truly taken his game to a completely different level in 2019. He is throwing accurate balls in tight windows, he is leading his receivers into more opportunities for YAC, and he is putting his team into winning situations time and time again.
The Cowboys are converting third-and-long situations at a remarkable rate this season. The bad news is that means the running game has failed the offense on many first downs, but the good news is that they have a quarterback that is good enough to overcome that.
Best 3rd and 12+ conversion rate in the NFL— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) November 11, 2019
5. Baltimore – 22.2%
4. Cleveland – 24.0%
3. Cincinnati – 25.0%
2. Buffalo – 37.5%
1. Dallas – 44.4%
It was the same on Sunday as the Cowboys again found themselves behind the chains often versus the Vikings. Prescott, though, bailed them out and kept the offense rolling:
Now this is crazy great.— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) November 11, 2019
On 3rd & 7+ tonight, Dak is:
• 100% conversions
• 17.8 YPA
• 1 TD
3 & 14 ► 20 yd completion
3 & 12 ► 20 yd completion
3 & 12 ► 15 yd completion
3 & 8 ► 12 yd completion
3 & 7 ► 22 yd completion, TD
Prescott has made some ridiculous passes this season, showing us that he can make all the throws necessary on the football field. It was more of the same under of the bright lights of Sunday Night Football versus a team that was ranked inside the top-5 of scoring defense.
This may be the best throw Dak has ever made. I can't wait to see the end zone view on coaches film. pic.twitter.com/AtcbGbDjpY— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) November 11, 2019
Great job again stepping up into the line and delivering by Dak Prescott pic.twitter.com/VCUZTTG3Ij— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 11, 2019
Dak drops one into Cobb for six! pic.twitter.com/O2PF5ZTvtv— Rotoworld Football (@Rotoworld_FB) November 11, 2019
The jump in Prescott’s play this season has been exciting to watch. He looks to be in complete control when he is on the field and no moment is too big for him. The Cowboys have a franchise quarterback, if that was not already clear before.
Dak Prescott is a big-time NFL quarterback and it is time that we acknowledge that. It is time to remove any of the qualifiers. In fact, it is past time.
Dallas has one of the bright stars at the position in the league. Enjoy it.