Dak Prescott has the Dallas Cowboys almost unstoppable in the red zone
The Cowboys (3-3) are stopping short of calling themselves unstoppable on offense heading into Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins (3-3).
And after starting the season 2-3, including back-to-back losses, much still has to be proven.
They are teeming with confidence in an offense that has scored more than 30 points each of the past three games.
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Prescott joined Tony Romo and Don Meredith as Cowboys quarterbacks to throw three touchdown passes in three consecutive games.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott is coming off his best game of the season with the most scrimmage yards (219) of his career behind a line that has finally settled in with two new starters.
The Cowboys have been their best in the red zone, ranking second in the NFL with 16 touchdowns on 22 possessions. That is surpassed by their efficiency of late, including touchdowns on 14 of their past 15 chances inside the 20, not including two give-up possessions under backup quarterback Cooper Rush in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 40-10 blowout of the San Francisco 49ers.
“We have a lot of confidence in the way we are playing,” tight end Jason Witten said. “You never say you are unstoppable because you have to keep doing it. But there is confident in what you are trying to do. We are staying aggressive, but we are also playing smart with it. When you do that, it equals points.”
Witten credits the play-calling of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and his ability to mix things up, but says Prescott’s decision making is the key to their red-zone success.
“The biggest challenge? I mean I’d probably say not doing too much, knowing that you’re that close to the end zone,” Prescott said. “You want that touchdown, you want to make plays and for me it’s about not doing too much, just trusting the play calling, trusting the players out there and just get them the ball and let them do what they do.”
The Cowboys have many options, running Elliott or passing with Witten and receiver Dez Bryant. Bryant’s four red-zone TD catches rank third since the NFL started keeping the stat in 1991.
What has taken them over the top is the zone read with the 238-pound Prescott bulldozing into the end zone off ball fakes to Elliott.
Prescott already has three rushing touchdowns this season and is coming off his second consecutive game with three touchdown passes and a touchdown rushing, a feat accomplished only by Joe Montana and Daunte Culpepper previously in NFL history.
“He is a good decision maker,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s got a great feel for what we’re trying to do offensively. He has made really good decisions down there. I think the ability to run the football is critical. Hopefully, that creates some favorable looks for you, some matchups outside and being able to attack the defensive line in a lot of different ways. His ability to run the ball certainly has an impact as well.”
Prescott said the identity of the offense is physicality and he relishes the opportunity to do whatever it takes to get the first down or get to the end zone when he runs.
“It’s a moment for me to show how physical I am and show the team that I’m going to do whatever I can for that yard or those two yards in those moments in the third and short or in the third and goal or fourth and goal, whatever it is, to get that touchdown or continue to move the chains,” Prescott said. “I’m going to do that ... when you add my run to the read as well, it’s just tough.”
It makes the Cowboys tough to stop.
The Cowboys opened the season with the red-zone controversy of throwing three times from the 3 because of Prescott’s decision to pass on run-pass options on the first two plays.
He still has those RPOs, as the Cowboys call them. But he is making better choices with them.
“I just think any time a player goes about it the right way hopefully he grows in all areas,” Garrett said. “You always learn from your experiences. You go back and watch the tape afterward and say, ‘Boy, if I had that one to do over again I’d do the exact same thing. If I had that to do over again, I would hand it off or I would have thrown there.’ Whatever those decisions. Again, you try to learn on a specific play, against a specific defense, but also from the situation. He’s getting better and better as he goes about it the right way.”
And the Cowboys have it going in unstoppable fashion, especially in the red zone.
Cowboys at Redskins
3:25 p.m. Sunday, KDFW/4