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Dak Prescott is battling through the worse stretch of play in his football career.
With the Dallas Cowboys now 5-6 on the heels of a third straight blowout loss, their fourth of the season, there’s a list of issues to point the finger at, from players to coaches and even NFL officiating itself — the latter being a story for another time. One of the more talented teams in the league, this is a team coming off of a historic 13-3 season and now face being eliminated from the playoffs before ever making it there.
And that’s a tough pill to swallow for Prescott.
“It’s frustrating, it’s shocking,” he said, via The Dallas Morning News. “You look around and you see the Pro Bowlers and the talent that you have, it’s almost lost at words for why it’s happening. But it just shows you this game’s tough.”
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That it most certainly is, but it doesn’t explain away the lack of adjustments being made throughout the game. The Cowboys have been in position to flip five of their six losses to wins, but are routinely being obliterated in the second half. They’ve been within seven points or less at the half on four separate occasions, and had the lead in yet another.
This leaves many to justifiably question the coaching staff as a whole, and not simply head coach Jason Garrett.
“Look into it deeper,” Prescott said, via The Dallas Morning News. “You must not know much if you just point fingers at the coaching staff or point fingers at anybody, really. Then you don’t know enough. Just look into it more.”
Okay then, let’s.
Another major problem is the Cowboys’ defense continues to be porous, allowing opponents to rack up points and turn them into a one-dimensional team. This creates a cycle of over-dependency on Prescott and the struggling wideouts, who routinely stall on drives and seem to be lacking chemistry as of late.
What’s worse is just how embarrassing the offense has been, albeit with the 2016 Rookie of the Year leading the way. In the Cowboys three-straight blowout losses, Prescott has delivered only 500 passing yards to go along with no touchdowns and five interceptions. For perspective, Phillip Rivers finished Thursday’s game with 434 yards — which amounts to 86% of Prescott’s total pass production over his last 12 quarters of football.
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While the loss to the Falcons certainly was not his fault, the same can’t be said for the past two outings. A bad situation there is dragged further into the abyss by the wide receivers’ inability to make the big play in the rare instance they have the opportunity to. One need look no further than the dropped touchdown by Dez Bryant against the Chargers to see it, as that would’ve put the Cowboys within nine points with nearly eight minutes remaining.
Prescott would drop back two plays later and deliver a pick six, putting the Chargers up 22 points and they’d never look back.
“I look in the mirror and I look at the other guys in the play,” Prescott said. “Simply explosion plays, I don’t know if you could point at a coach, it’s just us, making guys miss and wanting to go get those extra yards. That’s just simply about the athleticism of our playmakers and making guys miss.”
It’s certainly admirable (and expected) Prescott would fall on the sword here, and while he’s also accountable for the losses as of late — there’s no denying it’s deeper than that. From QB play to wide receiver drops to lack of coaching adjustments to failure to acknowledge a five billion year old sun, everything is and should be up for discussion.
Including the 33 consecutive quarters without the opposing team being called for a holding penalty. Despite those realities, however, Prescott will hear none of it. For him, it’s as simple as figuring out how to revert back to 2016 form.
“Nothing’s changed,” Prescott noted, via The Dallas Morning News.”We’re the same team, we’ve got the same players out there, so it’s just about just getting back to that.”
That’s not entirely true though, considering the absence of running back Ezekiel Elliott.
“I walked into that didn’t I?” replied the second-year QB when reminded of that important tidbit.
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In the absence of Elliott, the team has floundered at every attempt to get into the end zone. Their continued ineptitude has officially garnered them a franchise record they’d rather not have, having now going 10 straight quarters without scoring a single touchdown. It’s also the first time in the team’s history they’ve scored less than 10 points in three-straight games, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
And the void left by linebacker Sean Lee has also not been filled, the Cowboys now hoisting an 0-4 record in his absence due to injury — allowing 32.4 points per game without him, to only 18 points per game when he’s suited and booted. The secondary is also noticeably younger following the free agency spree of 2017, that saw three starting defensive backs and one backup take their leave.
This has forced players like corner back Anthony Brown to take a full-time role as starter, but his sophomore slump has been a sizable liability for the team. Now entering Week 13 and facing a January-less season, the Cowboys have decided enough is enough — opening up the possibility of benching Brown and moving pieces around to help salve the defensive bleeding.
“The coaches have done a good job in taking the last couple days and re-evaluating what they’re doing from a coaching standpoint,” said center Travis Frederick, via The Dallas Morning News. “And encouraged us as players to take a good look at what we’re doing, and how we can better improve our individual games. …It was a clear message.”
Prescott has a message of his own, and it’s aimed at those he feel are doubting his ability to bounce back from career-worst outings.
“Keep questioning me,” Prescott said. “Obviously, if you’re questioning me, you don’t know me and you don’t know what I’m about. So, keep questioning me.