Sunday, September 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mac Engel: With Dak Prescott, we know it, see it and so do Cowboys

ARLINGTON, Texas — Jerry Jones said "You'll know it when we see it," and we saw it Sunday night.

Dak Prescott is not going to lose his job as the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys this season. However small, or large, that possibility was, Prescott killed it in the Cowboys' 26-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"No," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said, "we weren't going to replace him tonight."

It was a tongue-in-cheek comment to a question but the point was made.

All Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was doing was telling the truth last Tuesday when I asked him what it would take for Tony Romo to come back in; given how well Prescott has played it's absurd but this is the only team in the NFL where the starting quarterback is a rookie and his backup is a veteran Pro Bowler who happens to make about $20 million.

If Prescott had dogged it up on Sunday night and next week against the Detroit Lions, putting in Romo would have been on the table for the season finale at Philadelphia because it made sense; the only reason being was because the backup is Romo and not some random bum spare who can't play.

This is an exceptional situation, but nothing is going to change because Prescott continues to prove he is the exception. He is more of a Garrett-type of a quarterback than Romo ever was.

"Say less time spent on social media — that's about the only thing different," Prescott said of this past week. "I'm sure y'all (in the media) will figure something out."

We will — but it's increasingly difficult to prolong this one, no matter how hard the owner tries.

The only way we are going to see Romo throw another pass as a Cowboy is if Prescott gets hurt. Per a report from Pro Football Talk, Romo reportedly "may" request to be cut rather than to be dealt in the offseason so he can keep his options open; I love the "may" element to this report as well — it covers all sorts of possibilities.

By the time the Cowboys play at Philadelphia on Jan. 1 they should have the top seed in the NFC and home field throughout the playoffs locked up. Bet heavily Romo asks out of that potential assignment and third stringer Mark Sanchez sees the majority of the snaps in what will essentially be a preseason game.

Romo will move on in the offseason to a new team willing to insert immediately him as their starter. After watching the Houston Texans bench $72 million man Brock Osweiler on Sunday, they'd love Romo in H-Town.

Romo's "window" of opportunity with the Cowboys all but hinged on Sunday night and whether Prescott could play the way he did in the first three months of the season rather than the last three games.

Prescott closed the window — this is all over.

"I thought he was pretty darn good," Garrett said. "I think he had four incompletions."

Four.

As in four.

For a guy who threw the ball 36 times, that's an incredible figure. That's what this coach likes — fewer mistakes.

Against what had been one of the best defenses in the NFL, Prescott completed 32 of 36 passes for 279 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions. He also ran it four times for 20 yards.

"Clearly he was seeing things well. Made a lot of really good decisions. I thought we really did a good job of moving the ball," Garrett said.

After consecutive games where the Cowboys' offense was rather-ish, or bad, and Prescott looked quite average in a loss against the New York Giants last week, the team returned to what has been the norm throughout the season — they owned the clock, they ran the ball, and the pass game was efficient.

In the previous two games the Cowboys rolled up just 524 total yards and were 2-of-24 on third downs. All of this fed those who are just sure Prescott's status as a rookie caught up with him, and the only way the Cowboys can get any better is to insert Romo.

We will never know because Prescott made sure on Sunday night that scenario will never be allowed to play out.

"He's handled success really well. He's handled adversity really well," Garrett said.

The Cowboys had the ball for more than 36 minutes, gained 449 yards and were 5-of-13 on third downs.

Unlike the loss in New York, Prescott found receiver Dez Bryant this time; whereas Dez had but one catch against the Giants, he had eight catches for 82 yards against the Bucs.

Two plays typified Prescott's improvement from last week; facing a third-and-6 from midfield in the second quarter, Prescott chose to scramble and gained 15 yards.

Facing a second-and-9 from his own 5-yard line in the fourth quarter, Prescott had a large running lane but opted to pass it to Bryant for a 19-yard gain.

The only thing lacking was the offense's ability to score more touchdowns, and the need for four Dan Bailey field goals. Some of it was penalties that killed drives, but overall it was hard to be too critical of the quarterback or this offense on Sunday against a good defense.

Perhaps there was not much left of the Cowboys' latest quarterback controversies, but it was legitimate because this is such an exceptional set of circumstances.

It's over.

We know it, and we have seen it.

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