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Assigning blame to every one of Dak Prescott’s interceptions from the 2022 season

Let’s have a good look at each individual pick from Dak Prescott in 2022 and understand who’s really at fault.

NFL: NFC Divisional Round-Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Dak Prescott led the NFL in interceptions last year. We know this because so many of the sports media outlets have milked every ounce of goodness from that narrative to create an endless supply of talking points this offseason. Everyone loves to talk about the Dallas Cowboys and that means everyone loves to talk about Dak.

So, that’s what we’re going to do today because entering the new season we all deserve to know how good we should feel about this Dak-led football team. Do they have a real problem here? Was last year more of an anomaly? Can we assign a root cause to those miserable picks or is there a lot of blame to go around? That’s what we’re hoping to get to the bottom of as we take a look at every single one of Prescott’s interceptions and point our fingers in the right direction.

PICK 1 vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

When this play first happened, it looked like an errant throw into coverage. And considering Prescott was pressured, it sorta was. He threw off his back foot and the ball had no zip on it allowing the defender plenty of time to jump in front of it. But, it’s also worth noting that Noah Brown just stood there and never drove back on the ball. If he did, maybe it’s completed. Or maybe it’s at least batted down. The Cowboys offense had done next to nothing so far in this game and they were facing a 3rd-and-10, so what were we wanting Dak to do there? Maybe he should’ve lived to fight another day, but his receiver did him no favors. We’re granting dual ownership of this one.

Blame verdict: 50% Dak, 50% Receiver

PICK 2 vs. the Chicago Bears

This one is easy to detect and unfortunately, something we saw frequently early on after Prescott returned from injury. Where the ball goes is based entirely on how the safety reacts. If the safety hangs back and the middle of the field is open, then CeeDee Lamb needs to flatten out and run the dig. If the safety drives in and closes the middle, then Lamb should run a deep post. For some reason, Lamb appeared unsure of what to do and just lackadaisically meandered up the field. This created an open invitation for the safety to cross the face of the receiver and jump the route. Easy pick.

Blame verdict: 100% Receiver

PICK 3 at the Green Bay Packers

The Cowboys had two pass-catchers running to the same spot on this play. This was not by design, so we can rule out play-calling. Instead, someone (either Dalton Schultz or Lamb) got crossed up with their assignment. One of them should’ve been running a shallow cross and when no one flattened the route, the safety was once again able to easily step in front and come away with the pick.

Blame verdict: 100% Receiver

PICK 4 at the Green Bay Packers

This was very similar to pick #2 against the Bears as Lamb once again made a wrong read and failed to flatten out across the middle. There was some clear disconnect between how he was reading the field versus how Prescott was,and you can see Lamb’s frustration as he threw his hands up after the ball was picked. The only thing we can say in his defense is that the linebacker ran with him long enough to close the space in the middle of the field and this made Lamb believe that the post route was the correct read. It’s not though. If he flattened the dig, this would have been a nice completion for Dallas.

Blame verdict: 100% Receiver

PICK 5 vs. the New York Giants

There was so much to not like about this one. Starting with a failed attempt to get a free play, the Cowboys fell victim to their own cuteness. Thinking he was free-rolling, Prescott made a lazy attempt to get the ball to Michael Gallup, and Gallup made an even lazier attempt to come back and get the ball. They clearly weren’t on the same page, which was hard to do on a broken play. Ultimately, the lazy footwork from Dak and complete disregard of the corner who had great coverage on Gallup was the biggest culprit of this interception. The only saving grace was that Prescott threw it far enough to the outside that it led the corner out of bounds rather than him taking it to the house for a pick-six.

Blame verdict: 100% Dak

PICK 6 vs. the New York Giants

This one was tough because the coverage of the Giants' defense was really good here. It’s 3rd-and-15 so the play-calling pickings are slim. We like what the Cowboys were doing here and this one had a chance as Prescott made a good decision about where to go with the football. Unfortunately, the ball was placed a tad inside and got deflected. This could be one of those “tip your hat to the defense” plays, but since someone has to get the blame, we lean toward Dak here.

Blame verdict: 100% Dak

PICK 7 vs. the Indianapolis Colts

Gallup is a lot of things, but a good separator, he is not. Stephon Gilmore rode him the entire way as if he was in the Cowboys’ huddle. Gallup then took the scenic route and rounded out his break, giving him no chance to get to his spot. The only good thing that came from this play is that it serves as another piece of evidence that Gilmore is still a savvy corner in this league.

Blame verdict: 100% Receiver

PICK 8 vs. the Houston Texans

This one was also hard to judge without knowing exactly what the Cowboys were trying to do. Why no one was trying to draw a defender away from the slant was puzzling. Maybe the tight end misunderstood his assignment and just did his own thing or maybe it was just a terrible play design that didn’t account for the defense having so many shallow defenders lurking. We don’t know what it was, so we’ve split it between Schultz and Kellen Moore.

Blame verdict: 50% Receiver, 50% Play-caller

PICK 9 vs. the Houston Texans

This one was pretty easy. The pressure came so fast that there was not much Prescott could do. Josh Ball was asked to fill in at right tackle after Terence Steele suffered his season-ending knee injury. Ball got beat pretty badly and we all thought that was ballgame after this interception. Fortunately, the Cowboys defense had another thing to say about it and gave Dak and company one final shot to pull out the come-from-behind victory.

Blame verdict: 100% Offensive Line

PICK 10 at the Jacksonville Jaguars

At first glance, this looked like a horrible decision and throw by Prescott. After further review, it remains that. Sure, you can claim that Prescott was hit as he threw the ball and it cause him to loft a floating duck up for grabs, but Dak has to have a better internal clock. This would be no different than a sack/fumble if he was hit from behind because he just didn’t see the defender coming. And he absolutely must take better care of his ball deep in his own territory.

Blame verdict: 100% Dak

PICK 11 at the Jacksonville Jaguars

Prescott’s most egregious pick came in the same game as the one where he was the least at fault. If Brown caught that cleanly, the Cowboys would’ve been in business, but he was unable to hold on. Possibly he was thinking about gaining some extra yards as it appeared he was leaning upfield a bit and then started to fall down. This might’ve been the reason he wasn’t able to secure the ball if his concentration wasn’t there. Sadly, this costly drop ended a game that we thought the Cowboys had in the bank.

Blame verdict: 100% Receiver

PICK 12 vs. the Philadelphia Eagles

This one was also super easy to judge and totally avoidable if Prescott just put a little more air under the ball. Unfortunately, he misjudged the length of the Eagles' edge rusher Josh Sweat and the consequences were hefty. Despite spotting the Eagles 10 early points, Dak and the offense still put up 40 points en route to victory.

Blame verdict: 100% Dak

PICK 13 at the Tennessee Titans

This was another easy one. The pass was perfectly thrown, but unfortunately, Hendershot handled it like a greased pig and the ball bounced right in the hands of a Titans defender.

Blame verdict: 100% Receiver

PICK 14 at the Tennessee Titans

The Cowboys had 1st-and-10 and needed a little more yardage to get into Brett Maher field goal range. Hitting Ezekiel Elliott right away in the flat would’ve been the safe play here and likely gets the job done, but Prescott instead opted to go a little deeper and thread the needle to Schultz. He was mindful that the outside defender was lurking and as a result placed the ball on the inside shoulder, but that allowed the Titans safety to jump the route. The bottom line is Prescott threw into coverage and that is never good.

Blame verdict: 100% Dak

PICK 15 at the Washington Commanders

There was nothing good about this play. Prescott was eyeing the first-down marker, but so was Washington cornerback Kendall Fuller. This play had a chance, but Prescott was locked onto Brown so quickly that Fuller was able to drive right away. And when Dak didn’t throw to the outside mark, it made it an easy pick-six for the Commanders.

Blame verdict: 100% Dak

PLAYOFF PICK 1 at the San Francisco 49ers

At first glance, this looked like an errant throw into coverage, and credit the 49ers for sniffing this one out and closing like a boss, but this was a clear situation where Prescott trusted his receiver to win on the route and he didn’t. Gallup stopped past the chains but made no attempt whatsoever to drive back for the ball. In what was a reoccurring theme for Gallup last season, he once again hung his quarterback out to dry.

Blame verdict: 100% Receiver

PLAYOFF PICK 2 at the San Francisco 49ers

This one was challenging as you could go in a number of different directions here. Did Dak throw in coverage? Yes. Was the play-calling bad to where the spacing was terrible? Also, yes. And were the receivers running the correct routes? We don’t know as we couldn’t even tell you what T.Y. Hilton was doing on the play. In the end, it just looked like DeMeco Ryan's scheme was in a better position than what Kellen Moore had drawn up on this play so we’re dinging the play-calling here.

Blame verdict: 100% Play-calling


What does all of this tell us? If you agree (or mostly agree) with our assessment of the blame game, then Prescott is only really responsible for 38% of his total interceptions. That puts almost 23 of the picks on other guys which is a large amount and validates the “It’s not Dak’s fault” narrative. It also explains how Prescott was able to finish the year in the top 8 in EPA/play while still leading the league in interceptions. These details matter.

It also shows us that a great majority of the blame falls on the receivers which could explain why the Cowboys went after a seasoned pro like Brandon Cooks and a high-investment tight end like Luke Schoonmaker. The Cowboys also moved on from Kellen Moore and handed the keys to Mike McCarthy. Hopefully, the play-calling will improve and he can keep Prescott out of so many precarious 3rd-and-long situations as our own Joey Ickes has already identified this as McCarthy’s biggest challenge heading into the new season.

Finally, it’s also important to recognize how the timing of these picks formed narratives that some of us became married to. For example, many of the early picks fell on the receivers so this narrative was formed early as Dak defenders came to the rescue, and rightfully so. And when balls were bouncing right out of their hands and into a defender’s, that fire kept burning.

But it’s also worth noting that Dak himself did struggle at times down the stretch. Four of his final six picks of the regular season squarely fell on his shoulders. Does this mean he’s mistake prone? Absolutely not, but it does mean that he’s not completely exonerated from the giveaway mess the Cowboys got themselves into last year.

After this exercise, we should be able to safely conclude that this offense is in good shape with Prescott at the helm. The Cowboys have made changes to help improve some of the factors that attributed to these interceptions last year, so we should feel pretty good about the state of this offense going forward.

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