1st and 30. Yikes.
Down 7 in the 2nd quarter, this is where the Cowboys offense sat. Stagnant through the first quarter and a half, their offense hadn’t looked this lost all season. The running game was supposed to always be there, no matter the opponent. Dak Prescott had too many weapons for the passing game to not be there, no matter the opponent. But facing the league’s top rush defense and one of the league’s top defenses overall, this offense looked human for the first time since early September.
And then it all changed, and rookie quarterback Dak Prescott put the final seal on the “who’s team is this” debate.
On first and 30, when it would have been easy to fold and accept a lost possession, Prescott scrambled out to his left, dove forward, and picked up 12 easy yards. The climb was still steep, however, as the Cowboys faced a second and long.
Enter Dez Bryant.
On his first catch of the day Dez gained enough yardage to set up a third and six, and give the Cowboys a reasonable chance to get going. This catch was the one that got Dez rolling. On their next two possessions, he came up with two huge grabs, one of them for his first touchdown of the day. Dez is a player that feeds off of the game’s energy, and someone who gets into a rhythm as the game moves along. Early catches like this one get him in a groove which helps him during the final stages of the game.
Next came third down. While two reasonable gains had set up this manageable third and medium, Dak decided to let it fly on the consequential down. Though he could have possibly played it safe, and maybe hoped someone like Ezekiel Elliott or Cole Beasley could make up for some yardage with yards after the catch, he instead took matters into his own hands and delivered a strike down the sidelines to Brice Butler.
Using his huge frame and strong hands, Butler made a fantastic play and picked up 41 yards. Then Dak found his favorite target, Cole Beasley, for the team’s first touchdown, to tie the game and awake the sleeping giant which was the Cowboys offense.
From there the Cowboys never looked back, scoring on each of their final four possessions to pull away from the Ravens, and earn a hard fought win.
This was the game the doubters had wondered if Dak could win.
Could he overcome the lack of a running game? Could he remain calm in the face of pressure, keeping his composure and still make plays? When those windows got tighter, and the defenses got better, could Dak still make the throws?
The answer to all of the Cowboys’ haters questions is yes. And the answers to those questions were provided on that one single drive, the drive which changed the complexity of the entire game.
And it all started with first down and 30.