Is there anyone left questioning rookie quarterback sensation Dak Prescott and the streaking Dallas Cowboys?
What more do they have to do? What more do they have to prove?
At this rate, no mountain of adversity seems high enough. No deficit too large. No venue too ominous. And no time too brief.
Just ask the shocked black-and-yellow clad, terrible towel-waving fans among a Heinz Field record crowd of 67,737 on Sunday, who were all witnesses, if not converts, after one of greatest escapes in Cowboys history.
Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott got the final glory when he scampered 32 yards with 9 seconds left to give the Cowboys a 35-30 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers before the largest crowd ever at Heinz Field.
Elliott rushed for two touchdowns and had one receiving on an 83-yard screen pass, the team’s longest play this season, as the Cowboys won for the eighth consecutive time, tying a team record set in 1977.
But this was Prescott’s moment and game as he outdueled Super Bowl champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and rendered all questions about losing his job to a now-healthy Tony Romo moot.
Prescott passed for 319yards and twotouchdowns. More important, he led the Cowboys on two scoring drives in the final 7:50, including the winner in the final 42 seconds.
The upstart Cowboys moved to 8-1 on the season and now sit alone atop the NFL with the league’s best record.
“How our team responded in the latter part of the game is indicative of what they’re all about, the kind of people we have on our team, the mental toughness they have, the poise and composure,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Our ability to execute when we had to was obviously critical to the outcome.
“I just thought [Prescott] was remarkable. I thought he was great throughout the game and then particularly at the end of the game. He just has great poise and composure, handling any situation. He just kept battling and fighting. His ability to respond in these situations is really impressive.”
It was the third time this season Prescott has rallied the Cowboys to a fourth-quarter comeback, joining victories at the Washington Redskins and against the Philadelphia Eagles in overtime. It was the second time he outdueled a Super Bowl champion quarterback in his home stadium. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers went down before Roethlisberger.
But this was easily his best moment against a desperate Steelers team, looking to end a three-game losing streak, and with the specter of a Romo return hanging over his shoulder.
Las Vegas oddsmakers had even pegged the Cowboys as underdogs.
But that was before Prescott overcame a few bad throws and a lost fumble to rally the Cowboys from a 24-23 deficit in the fourth quarter with a 75-yard scoring drive.
Elliott’s 14-yard run put the Cowboys ahead 29-24.
Then Roethlisberger increased the drama with a fake-spike touchdown pass to Antonio Brown with 42 seconds left to give the Steelers a 30-29 lead.
Roethlisberger and the Steelers took advantage of a compromised secondary that came into the game without two starters and lost Orlando Scandrick to a possible concussion in the fourth quarter.
It was seemingly over for the Cowboys as they got the ball back with 42 seconds. Prescott had other ideas.
“Forty seconds is a lot of time, especially with three timeouts,” Prescott said. “That’s all I was thinking about. Just saying, over and over, ‘We do this in practice every Thursday, 40 seconds and three timeouts.’ I don’t look up in the stands or people watching. It’s about executing the play the coach calls and it’s fun.”
Prescott completed 3 of 4 passes on the final drive. The Cowboys were aided by a face-mask penalty after a completion to Jason Witten, putting them in field goal range.
Elliott ended things with the final scamper to finish with 21 carries for 114 yards. The NFL’s leading rusher now has 1,005 yards rushing for the season.
“He’s an exceptional football player. Good things happen when he has the ball in his hands,” Garrett said.
But this was about Prescott, who tied Kyle Orton (2005 Bears) for second for consecutive wins by a rookie in NFL history. Prescott trails only Roethlisberger, who won 13 straight in 2004.
Does Prescott know what he is doing is abnormal for a rookie?
“I don’t really think what is normal and abnormal I guess,” Prescott said. “I just focus on my job. I want to help this team win and give them a chance to win week in and week out. I’m just trying my best to do that.”
On the final two drives, Prescott completed 9 of 10 passes for 76 yards. He finished 22-of-32 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions and a quarterback rating of 121.7.
Romo, who has missed the first nine games of the season, will suit up as Prescott’s backup next week against Baltimore, owner Jerry Jones said.
“The point is we are going to let the decision make itself,” Jones said. “Dak has got a hot hand and we are going to go with it. It’s just going with the obvious. You are going with how the team is doing right now. It’s not hard. Tony would make the same decision.”
The Cowboys won despite opening the game with heavy hearts for receiver Dez Bryant, whose father passed away on Saturday. Bryant honored his dad with six catches for 116 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown reception from Prescott in the third quarter.
After the touchdown, Bryant fell to his knees and pointed to the sky before being mobbed by his teammates. Bryant returned to the sideline with tears streaming down his face. Bryant didn’t talk to the media after the game. It was the most yards he’s had in a game since 2014.
“The whole game he was emotional,” receiver Cole Beasley said. “He was out there balling for his dad. That’s a tough thing for anybody to go through. The way he fought through and came out and played today shows what type of guy he is. Everybody let him know we are behind him. We are his family too and we got his back.”