Dak Prescott, Cowboys silence critics in dominant playoff win

It was an evening about doubt — or extra particularly, erasing it. With reminiscences of final yr’s playoff failure nonetheless lingering, and with an embarrassing regular-season finale nonetheless recent on the thoughts, the Dallas Cowboys had no scarcity of doubters heading into this, the slow-arriving nightcap of this wildcard weekend.

That looks like a foolish sentence to sort within the aftermath of a 31-14 pasting of Tampa Bay that was much more lopsided than the rating suggests. And as they give the impression of being towards the divisional spherical of the playoffs for the primary time since 2018, that is acquired to be thought-about a confidence booster — one thing that would turn out to be useful in a big-time tilt in opposition to the San Francisco 49ers.

“They took us out last year. We know what we’ve got ahead of us,” stated Dak Prescott after the sport.

The hype of a Cowboys-Niners rematch might be unreal, and it will likely be mentioned in each manner conceivable.

Within the meantime, Prescott deserves prime billing in any re-telling of this sport. No member of this Cowboys group has caught extra criticism than the seventh-year quarterback, who led the league in interceptions this season regardless of lacking 5 video games because of damage. Proper off the bat, Monday regarded prefer it could possibly be one other forgettable chapter, as Prescott’s first three passes fell incomplete and he was sacked, all inside his first six snaps of the sport. Because it seems, it will be a rarity for Prescott or his passes to hit the turf from that time on. 

Throughout the center portion of this sport, when the result was nonetheless unsure, Prescott dissected the Buccaneer protection at a click on of 15-for-17 for 203 yards and two touchdowns. When that wasn’t working, he toted the ball seven instances for an additional 24 and his fourth profession postseason speeding landing. 

“We settled in. Missed a couple early, but we settled in, we got in a groove,” Prescott stated. Maybe extra importantly, he performed his first turnover-free sport in two months, snapping a streak of seven-straight video games with an interception. That is been a sticking level that has adopted him all season, elevating the stakes on an already large sport. Requested about combating off that outward notion, he was blunt.

“I didn’t listen. Simply just didn’t listen to anybody else’s opinions, anybody else’s thoughts,” he stated. “Made sure I was conscious of what I put in my own head. I’ve got a great supporting cast and my team, people that believe in me. That’s all that really matters to me.”

That is all very huge for Prescott within the narrative sense. It provides him a second profession playoff win, to not point out the franchise’s first highway playoff win for the reason that 1992 season. For it to return in opposition to Tom Brady, ruining the legend’s good profession file in opposition to Dallas, makes it all of the sweeter.

After all, these are all outdoors speaking factors. Way more essential to the postseason image are the opposite performances we noticed at Raymond James Stadium, as Prescott wasn’t the one one to ease some considerations. Essential to his personal efficiency was a clinic from the Dallas offensive line, which has struggled with accidents all through the final month. The damage bug did not even let up on this one, as Jason Peters exited his second begin of the season with a hip damage. 

No worries. Enter Connor McGovern, who started the night time because the workforce’s fullback, because the Cowboys adjusted on the fly by plugging him in at left guard and kicking Tyler Smith from left guard to left deal with. None of that even consists of the continuing wrinkle of shifting mainstay left deal with Tyron Smith to the correct aspect, the place he turned in his finest efficiency of his injury-shortened season.

The outcomes have not been good for a lot of the final month; they have been nice on Monday. Outdoors of the one early sack, Prescott was hardly touched all night time. Much more encouraging, Dallas churned out its best speeding efficiency since Dec. 18.

If all of that wasn’t sufficient, it might be unfair to omit a dominant efficiency from a protection that had misplaced quite a lot of its trademark chew during the last six weeks. The Cowboys limped into this sport having registered simply six sacks of their final 5 video games — a far cry from their near-historic tempo from earlier within the yr. And whereas they did solely register two sacks of Brady, the Cowboys flustered him into an ineffective efficiency for a lot of the night time. The Buccaneers went to halftime with no factors and an abysmal 120 yards of offense, with a vital miss coming when Brady lofted a straightforward interception to Jayron Kearse behind the top zone.

“It’s great to end streaks and start new traditions around here,” joked Micah Parsons.

With all of those good issues stated, it would not be the Cowboys with out one thing to fret about. And for each doubt Dak and his teammates erased, there may be now the query of the Cowboys’ kicking state of affairs. Regular for a lot of this season, Brett Maher missed a gut-wrenching 4 straight further factors on this outing — a complete catastrophe that was solely barely lessened by a make in his last try. That’ll immediate loads of hand-wringing in addition to hypothesis about what to do shifting ahead.

These are Tuesday issues. On a Monday night time, underneath the brightest lights, there have been loads of doubts about these Dallas Cowboys. From Dak Prescott proper on down the roster, they answered them one after the other.

David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports activities. He beforehand spent 9 seasons protecting the Cowboys for the workforce’s official web site. In 2018, he gained a regional Emmy for his function in producing “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion” concerning the quarterback’s time at Mississippi State. Comply with him on Twitter at @davidhelman_.

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