Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott was bad early Sunday night.
There is no other way around it.
He wasn’t that great late.
But the seemingly unfazed rookie, the feisty Cowboys and aggressive coach Jason Garrett proved to be game enough when it mattered most in rallying from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit for a 29-23 overtime victory against the Philadelphia Eagles in front of a crowd of 93,103 at AT&T Stadium.
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Prescott took a page out of injured quarterback Tony Romo’s repertoire with a roll right before reversing back to his left to toss a 5-yard, game-wining touchdown pass to tight end Jason Witten on the opening drive of overtime.
“It was suppose to be a quick pass,” Prescott said. “The ball was suppose to come outo real quick and I did not see anything. I kind of moved around and rolled to my right and I realized nothing had gone well all night going that way. So I decided to turn around and Witten was there clear as day. Witten is the guy when Romo does a lot of spinning. Witten seems to be one the one who always gets open. He did that there.”
It was fitting that Witten caught the deciding score on a night in which he passed Ed Jones for the most consecutive starts in team history with 204.
It was a touchdown that was set up by the decision of Garrett to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Eagles 28, shunning a field goal.
Prescott got the first down on a quarterback sneak and five plays later he threw a touchdown to Witten, setting off a wild celebration in the end zone.
“That was the best game winner I have ever been a part of in my life,” wide receiver Dez Bryant exclaimed. “I loved every bit of it.”
Owner Jerry Jones was on hand for three Super Bowl titles in the 1990s but he said this was one of the “best wins I’ve ever been around” because of what the Cowboys overcame and the way Prescott came through after his early struggles.
“He personifies team,” Jones said. “He did have his challenges. Philadelphia had a lot do with that. Dak had his challenges but when it mattered most he came through.”
Credit the aggressive call by Garrett for trying to jump-start his team with a fake punt and wide receiver pass before the fourth-down gamble. But he credited the fight and the resilency of his team to continue battle back and give up.
“To me it was a great team win for us to be able to overcome the different adversities that happened throughout the game,” Garrett said. “There was a lot of resilency demonstrated. The guys kept fighting. They kept battling. They kept picking themselves up and picking each other up. The thing that stood out was just the fight and will to win.”
It’s the sixth consecutive win for the high-flying Cowboys (6-1), who now have a two-game lead in the NFC East over the Eagles (4-3).
It was a game that the Cowboys were seemingly destined to lose and a bad one for Prescott. The Cowboys trailed 20-10 in the third quarter and 23-13 early in the fourth.
It was perhaps opening the door for Romo’s return to the starting role whenever he is deemed healthy enough to play after missing the first seven games of the season with a fractured bone in his back.
However, Jones said Prescott will start against Cleveland next week. Romo likely won’t be cleared to return until the Nov. 13 game at the Pittsburgh Steelers at the earliest.
Prescott went from bad to earning his second fourth-quarter comeback victory as a starter. He finished 19 of 39 passing for 287 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
He was five for five for 56 yards on the game winning touchdown drive.
“That’s what he’s demonstrated since day one,” Garrett said. “Just to be able to handle any situation with poise and composure. Obviously, the final drive he made a number of big plays for us, including the game winner to Witten.”
More important, he got the better of Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz in the battle of rookie quarterbacks. Wentz completed 32 of 43 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown.
The numbers don’t really tell the story of how off Prescott was early, especially in the first half when he completed 5 of 13 passes for 118 yards, including a red zone interception at the end of the first half to set up an Eagles field goal.
Prescott had a fumble in the third quarter and had a near interception in third quarter that was prevented by an offensive pass interference penalty by Terrance Williams.
Again, Prescott had plenty of company in the early meltdown.
Two bad decisions by receiver Lucky Whitehead had the Cowboys chasing field position the entire first half.
The Eagles’ first score, a 30-yard field goal, was aided by a penalty for too many men after the Cowboys had forced a punt.
In the second quarter, the Cowboys had seemingly held the Eagles to a field goal in the red zone after an incomplete pass. But, they were called for holding.
And linebacker Anthony Hitchens helped fuel the ensuing Eagles scoring drive with a late hit.
Wentz took advantage of a confused defense with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews out of the hurry-up offense.
There were also questionable play calling by offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who seemingly shunned the run with NFL leading rusher Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott had just two carries in the second quarter, including none on that fateful drive in the second quarter when the Cowboys had first and goal at the 7.
A low throw to Bryant was followed by the interception in coverage to linebacker Jordan Hicks.
And then there was the holding penalty on center Travis Frederick, nullifying a 63-yard run by Elliott with 5:41 left in the fourth quarter and the Cowboys down 23-16.
A first down at the Eagles 15 was now first and 20 at their own 12.
But that’s when the magic reappeared for Prescott.
He completed passes of 15 yards to Bryant, 10 yards to Cole Beasley, 19 yards to Brice Butler, and capped by a 22-yard touchdown pass to Bryant to tie the game with 3:04 left.
The drive didn’t come without its tense moments, namely a near interception from cornerback Leodis McKelvin one play before the Bryant catch.
“I’m not going to stop,” Prescott said. “I don’t care how bad I play early on. I don’t care what I do. I’m not going to give up. I have great teammates around me who give me confidence no matter what I have done. It definitely wasn’t about my computer tonight. It was a team win. We call continued to fight.
Bryant had four catches 113 yards in his first game back after missing three games with a knee injury.
Elliott had 22 carries for 96 yards, snapping his three-game streak of 100-yard games.