The Dallas Cowboys all but ensured a division title (barring a huge collapse) with their win over the Washington Football Team yesterday. It was a bit of an adventure, though. What looked like a blowout in the first half turned into a nail-biter in the second as Washington made a fourth-quarter push to overcome a 24-point deficit. They almost did it, too. But some clutch play by the Dallas defense staved off a collapse and the 'Boys head back home with a three-game lead in the NFC East.
In the NFL, wins are wins, but there are also good wins and bad wins. This would qualify as a bad win by the Cowboys. They were winning by three touchdowns and let Washington creep back into the game when they had every opportunity to slam the door shut. Good teams win a game like that despite a few stumbles. Great teams ensure the win was guaranteed far before the final possession.
Because these are the Dallas Cowboys we're talking about, good isn't good enough. That's why we saw Ryan Clark on Get Up this morning, arguing that Dak Prescott's subpar play is holding the team back from legitimate contention.
It's certainly a Bizarro World take that nobody would have seen coming before the season. Dallas' offense was never in question. The most significant concern heading into 2021, and even in the early days of the season, was if the defense could hold up enough to win games. We are now 13 games into the year and the defense has stepped up big-time. It's still a bit of a leaky unit in terms of yards allowed but the playmakers on that side of the ball have been outstanding in forcing turnovers all year to make up for it.
Prescott, on the other hand, has looked not-so-great since he suffered his calf injury in Week 6. Before the Cowboys' Week 7 bye, Prescott averaged 302.2 yards passing with 2.7 touchdowns and 0.7 interceptions per game. Those are nearly MVP-level statistics. But he's fallen off a cliff since he missed the team's Week 8 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. In the six games since, Prescott is only averaging a line of 261.3 yards, 1.3 touchdowns, and 1.0 interceptions per contest.
The interception bug Prescott seems to have caught also rears its head at the worst times possible. His second interception on Sunday was a pick-six with four minutes left that gave Washington life after they seemed to be dead in the water, down two scores in the final frame. That happens to even the best QBs, but the concerning part was that Prescott couldn't respond. The next Cowboys' drive sputtered and they went three-and-out after Prescott missed Michael Gallup on a third-down pass. That's the kind of throw a championship signal-caller needs to complete. Instead, the defense bailed out Dallas again.
There are other problems in play here. The Cowboys' vaunted offensive line has performed quite poorly in the second half of the season and their top two running backs are dealing with injuries, factors offensive coordinator Kellen Moore seemed happy to ignore as he continued to call off-tackle runs for third-stringer Corey Clement yesterday. The last two weeks have been the only two games in which Prescott has had his top three receivers all healthy and on the field at the same time. In the NFL, it takes a village in both success and failure.
But Prescott's recent performances have not been that of a superstar QB who can lead his team to a championship. It hasn't mattered all too much yet, since the Cowboys have still been productive on offense and the defense has been so good. But it will matter soon. Clark is right. Prescott needs to improve or the Cowboys will be going home early this year.