When your quarterback completes 21 of his 26 passes in a game, throws for 238 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions, most people would classify that as a good game. Factor in that said quarterback’s team won the game 41-21 and that looks like an even better game for the quarterback.
And yet, Dak Prescott’s performance against the Eagles on Monday wasn’t all that great. It was actually his worst game of the season so far, and probably his worst game since the 2019 season when Prescott played with an injured hand.
It’s not necessarily that Prescott didn’t play well. Hitting on over 80% of your passes is really good, especially when the average pass travels seven yards past the line of scrimmage as it did for Prescott. Instead, Dak’s performance against Philadelphia was more about what he didn’t do right.
For starters, the Cowboys have yet to play a game this season witht all five of their original starters on the offensive line, and they won’t have a chance to do so until Week 8 in Minnesota. As a result, Prescott has been getting the ball out quickly to help mask the deficiencies of his backup linemen. In Week 1, Prescott averaged 2.39 seconds to throw. Against the Chargers, 2.49 seconds.
But against the Eagles? Dak had an average of 2.85 seconds to throw. It’s not like Prescott was standing in a clean pocket, either; he was hit six times and sacked four times. Through the first two weeks, Prescott was being pressured on just 13.2% of dropbacks, fourth-lowest in the league. After factoring in the Eagles game, his pressure rate now stands at 18%. That’s still the fourth-lowest figure, but it’s a sizable jump from just one game.
Add in the fact that one of those sacks resulted in a fumble in the endzone that was recovered for a touchdown, and it’s easy to see why Prescott ranked 28th in QBR and 27th in EPA for the week. He held onto the ball too long, took bad sacks, and handed six points to the other team. It was an uncharacteristically sloppy performance from Prescott, especially coming off of two great games on the road.
And yet? The Cowboys still won. Not only did they win, but they steamrolled the Eagles. Team 40 Burger made a resurgence, and while six of those points came from the defense, the offense was stellar. Everyone got involved, and the fact that CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper didn’t have touchdowns while the offense still put up that amount of points speaks to how dangerous this unit is.
The fact that they did so while their quarterback - their leader - had an off night individually is a larger testament to the monster Kellen Moore has created. In the past, the Cowboys offense has generally been reliant on one or two major players. With rare exceptions, the Cowboys struggled to do much of anything if Tony Romo wasn’t playing well. In Dak’s early days (read: when Scott Linehan was calling plays), the offense came to a screeching halt if Ezekiel Elliott wasn’t doing his “feed me” celebration three to four times a possession. Remember that Denver game in 2017?
Gone are those Cowboys. When Moore was first promoted to offensive coordinator ahead of the 2019 season, and we all collectively spent each waking moment wondering how good he could really be. Moore described his offensive philosophy with one word: multiple. It was a reflection of the offense he mastered at Boise State, one that his head coach Chris Petersen had won hundreds of games with. An offense that could slice up defenses in whatever way was dictated by the matchups.
In 2021, through three games, it’s become evident that Moore has succeeded in creating a truly multiple offense. It doesn’t matter if they’re facing a stacked defensive front like Tampa Bay that effectively takes away any shot of running the ball, or a defense that keeps their safeties back deep like the Chargers. Moore is willing to throw the ball 58 times one week, run the ball 31 times the next week, and everything in between.
More importantly, Moore has the personnel to actually do it. Prescott is a top five quarterback right now, and he’s in full command of Moore’s offense. The receiving corps is so stacked that the fourth man on the depth chart could be a starter elsewhere. The same goes for their secondary tight ends and running backs. And the offensive line hasn’t missed much of a beat with backups playing at multiple spots. That’s a rare arsenal for Moore to work with.
Some will say that Monday night’s win doesn’t mean much because the Eagles are so bad. That’s mostly true, but 36 points from the offense is a lot no matter who you’re playing. And it should have been 41 from the offense if the officials had correctly called that fourth and goal QB sneak play. It was a dominant performance for the offense, which has been par for the course so far this season.
But what makes it even more impressive is that it wasn’t a dominant performance because everything was pinned on the quarterback. Dak Prescott had his worst game of the year, and this offense still couldn’t be stopped. And in a scoring league, that may be the thing that matters most when talking about this team’s Super Bowl odds. The ability to still annihilate defenses when their best player isn’t at his best is what will keep a team going deep into January and even February. For Dallas, Monday night’s game was an extremely promising sign for their future ambitions.