Last Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys season ended with a colossal dud against the San Francisco 49ers. The whole team played poorly, and, like the entire regular season, Dallas was undisciplined, racking up 14 penalties on the day.
The defense didn't play great, but they played well enough to win, especially in the second half. The only points they gave up were after a Dak Prescott interception that gave the 49ers outstanding field position.
The same can't be said for Dak Prescott and the offense. The offense struggled throughout the entirety of the game.
The Cowboys were still in this game at the end of the first half, down only 16-7, and were in prime territory to score before the half and get the ball back to start the second half.
Prescott and the offense faltered before half because of penalties and the inability to recognize that throwing passes directly into the sun was not a good idea.
The Cowboys' offense finished the game with a -0.166 EPA/play per rbsdm.com, a success rate of 38.9%, a dropback EPA of -0.193, and a dropback success rate of 35.2%.
The rushing offense did nothing to help the cause, again. Dallas finished the game with a rush EPA of -0.115.
The Cowboys' offensive line was a big problem as well.
Zack Martin on the Cowboys’ offensive line: “It’s no secret. We need to get better. We got smacked in the mouth early (yesterday), and credit to our guys for coming back and fighting through and making it a game. We need to get better.”
The offensive line surrendered five sacks for a net loss of 40 yards, plus countless pressures and hurries. It seemed at times they couldn't even block a four-man rush with this supposed talent on the line.
The frustration continues into play calling. The Cowboys did not get the ball in the hands of their playmakers enough, which was a problem all season.
The news came out after the game that Ezekiel Elliott played the season with a partially torn PCL. This begs the question of why on earth were the Cowboys force-feeding Elliott throughout the entire second half of the season.
Why didn't they give Pollard more burn, especially on Sunday when it mattered most?
Prescott didn't come to play either. He finished the game with a 53% completion percentage, a rating of 69.3, and a horrendous interception.
Even with all the penalties, questionable offensive line play, and poor execution, the Cowboys had a chance to win at the end of the game. They were at about midfield with over two minutes left and three timeouts.
That series went as follows:
Sack of Prescott for negative one yard.
Drop my CeeDee Lamb.
Incomplete pass to Zeke. (Holding penalty)
Incomplete desperate heave to Cedrick Wilson.
While the whole team failed, Prescott needed to get the job done there in the final minutes. You can blame the play calling and the offensive line, but the fact of the matter is great quarterbacks need to be able to take the team on their back in that situation and win the game.
Prescott seemed uncomfortable in the pocket all day, as he did for much of the second half of the season. He had accuracy issues; he couldn't diagnose the 49ers' defense. He looked completely inept.
Many have suggested he's not reading the field well; he has trouble beating zone coverage and figuring out a defense. Quite frankly, how can you argue that at this point?
Former Cowboys' great Drew Pearson had some things to say about Prescott.
He said, “I'm just wavering now with Dak. I saw regression as the season went on — that's a disappointment at $40 million a year. It's not about the money, it's about that player playing the position and not improving, declining in a year where we started out so well… We almost had the NFC East won in the first seven weeks. Then we started going downhill. A lot of it was on the offensive side of the ball, and a lot of it was predicated by the play of the quarterback.”
Again, it's hard not to be at this point with Prescott. He doesn't get it done when the lights are the brightest.
To Pearson's point, Prescott definitely regressed in the second half of the season, failing to win any meaningful games and beating up on an injury-plagued NFC East and, of course, the Eagles' third and fourth stringers on the final weekend of the season.
You are pretty much either in two camps when it comes to Prescott. He is still great and was held back by play-calling, offensive scheme, and suspect offensive line play, or you have realized that Dak is merely just a good quarterback.
There is nothing wrong with being only a good quarterback, but all the offseason clamoring of Dak is elite; Dak is special, looks silly right now.
Does Dak Prescott need everything to be perfect to succeed? Maybe. Can he win when the burden rests on his shoulders? The resounding answer to that so far in his career is a no, and it's disappointing.
It will be a long offseason for Dallas and one that may come with a complete turnover in the coaching staff. One thing will remain the same, though, in 2022, and that is Prescott will need to play a lot better.