It is not easy for rookie quarterbacks to come into the NFL and win games, but somebody forgot to tell that to Dak Prescott through his first seven games as the Cowboys starter.
Though he is 6-1, with his team sitting atop the NFC, its certainly fair to say that Prescott has made his fair share of rookie mistakes and gone through some struggles as the league catches on to his weaknesses.
Perhaps no team has frustrated Prescott more this season than the Philadelphia Eagles, who most recently held him to 287 yards and a 48.7% completion percentage. Prescott persevered for another victory, and led a clean game-winning drive in overtime, but a deeper dive into the tape from this game revealed that the score may not have been as close with Tony Romo at quarterback.
Forcing the Rookie to Beat Them with His Arm Strength
While watching this game live, it looked like the Eagles brought some of their signature pressures to try to confuse Prescott as they have done to so many quarterbacks this season.
On the Cowboys’ opening drive, the Eagles faked most of these blitzes, opting to drop into coverage and trust their defensive front.
Feel the need to say once again that I love 4. 9 completes this pass to 11 all day.
With tons of bracket coverage, Philadelphia wanted to see Prescott make tough throws that we have become accustomed to seeing Romo toss with perfection, but plenty of Prescott’s passes were far from perfect. In the above picture, Prescott was incomplete to Beasley, on a throw that has become a staple of this offense – running Beasley hard underneath a deep clearing route by Dez Bryant.
A lot of Prescott’s struggles were because of his footwork and mechanics, but when he did shore these things up we saw dimes like these to Dez Bryant.
Single high safety, LB drops into flat, get the ball to 88. Good footwork too. https://t.co/cOq2oPdD01
In single high coverage, Prescott gave his best play maker a chance to go get a ball, and Bryant did just that.
Not so good footwork, ball thrown short to 83.
Inconsistent, Prescott’s footwork took points off the scoreboard a number of times in this game, as you see above on a missed throw to Terrance Williams. Again, it is important to note that the Eagles gave Prescott some clean pockets to throw from – ones that we typically see Tony surgically tear apart defenses from.
Unfortunately, we cannot drop Romo into this vacuum and watch him throw against these exact defenses, but I still do believe that Dallas could have separated from Philadelphia by a wide margin on the scoreboard with #9 under center.
How Dak Prescott Won This Game
The deciding plays in this game from Prescott and the Cowboys offense came because of his mobility, a factor of Romo’s game that we expect to be limited when he does return to action.
There was also the read option and play option designs that Scott Linehan used to play both Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to their strengths.
Someone is going to win their fourth game of the #WorldSeries tonight. Here is #4 being #good. https://t.co/SLrToUCZqD
Prescott held off a safety on this throw with his eyes down the seam, before stepping into a strong throw that was on time to Bryant. Later in the game, we saw more of the poise and athletic ability that Prescott has won Cowboys Nation over with, especially with plays like these:
Elliott picks up the blitz in the face of Prescott, allowing him to patiently climb the pocket and get the ball to Williams with a chance to run after the catch. Few rookie quarterbacks ever get to play in an offense as complete and talented as this one, and when Prescott has been at his best, he’s played like a young QB that realizes this at all times – distributing the ball around and allowing his guys to win for him.
Plays that Romo DEFINITELY Makes
For another film breakdown piece a few weeks ago, I watched every single drop back and throw from Tony Romo in 2015, and offered a realistic analysis of what the aging quarterback is still capable of in Reel Talk: What Can Tony Romo Still Do? The Answers From His 2015 Tape.
You can decide for yourself if Romo makes throws like these:
With 9, 88 is throwing up the X here. You know it, we all know it.
If 4 hit 11 in stride here…
The ball to Bryant could have ensured that this game never went to overtime, and a better throw to Beasley would have resulted in a field-position-flipping run after the catch.
Getting the Job Done: Dak Comes Through in the Clutch
In the end, Dak Prescott won this football game, which is is undeniably the most important thing to remember through all of this analysis. As long as Prescott continues to win games, he will deserve the praise and accolades he receives.
This Dallas roster has been built to compete for some time now, but the last contending Cowboys team we saw was the 2014 Romo-led America’s Team. For now, we have the Prescott-led 2016 Cowboys, and wow have they taken us on quite the enjoyable ride.
Overtime @Dak was #good. Sauce. https://t.co/dGMJS0tyV9
The only remaining question for this team is whether or not Tony Romo can also make this team just as successful this season. After studying Dak Prescott against the Eagles, I think Romo can make them even better.
Romo can make a 6-1 team being led by two rookies even better, and once he comes back and does, Prescott will be patiently waiting in the wings to get another shot to lead this team.
The Chicago Cubs won the World Series while I wrote this. ANYTHING is possible.