Dak Prescott didn’t have his best game from a numbers standpoint.
He threw for fewer than 200 yards for the fourth time and had the second-fewest completions (13) of his career in a game in which he started and finished.
In the locker room, though, it seemed as though Prescott had a career day in leading the Dallas Cowboys to a 28-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott called him an “animal.” Tight end Jason Witten mentioned his “grit.” Wide receiver Dez Bryant referred to him as “the man.”
And coach Jason Garrett raved about how his “mental toughness is off the charts.”
Prescott was impressive even if the box score doesn’t suggest it at first glance.
Prescott and Elliott were under intense scrutiny going into Monday’s game in how they would respond after being humbled by the Denver Broncos 42-17 the previous week.
Both passed, particularly Prescott, who showcased his ability to make things happen out of the pocket.
Prescott and the offense got off to a slow start with consecutive three-and-out possessions. At the 2-minute warning in the opening half, Prescott had 12 passing yards.
But he connected with rookie Noah Brown for a 13-yard gain, and then took it in himself from the Arizona 10 on a run off right tackle. All Prescott had to do to get in the end zone was somersault over a couple Cardinals defenders and into the end zone.
“A number of the plays that Dak made he’s shaking some guy off to get in space, or he’s throwing the ball on the run with somebody coming right at him, and I think that run was indicative of that,” Garrett said. “He’s a great competitor. He’s a physical player.”
That provided a much-needed spark for what had been a lackadaisical game for the Cowboys and evened the score at 7-7 going into halftime.
Elliott, known for his hurdling abilities, gave Prescott an “A-plus” on the somersault.
“I think a lot of other quarterbacks right there just would’ve slid and leave the ball at the 2-yard line,” Elliott said. “Just him showing how important it was to get in there and make that play, putting his health on the line, meant a lot to us.”
Prescott kept it going in the second half, leading the Cowboys on three touchdown drives and showing off his ability to hit his receivers downfield on the run.
With the game tied 14-14 early in the fourth quarter, Prescott was flushed out of the pocket to his right and delivered a strike to Brice Butler for a 37-yard score.
On the next offensive possession, Prescott went deep to Butler again on the first play for a 53-yard connection that set up the game-sealing touchdown.
Those plays to Butler accounted for almost half of Prescott’s passing yards.
“It wasn’t perfect offensively. It was a tough game,” Witten said. “I just think it shows that grit and grind that our offense has. Dak, gosh, he’s a talented guy. Can’t say enough about him. The big plays he made on the outside, it was just important for us to get back at it.”
Prescott finished the game 13 of 18 for 183 yards and two touchdowns. He had a 141.7 passer rating, the third best of his career.
Prescott didn’t rack up big yards or completions. But he led the Cowboys to a win a week after a humiliating night in Denver.
“He grows in every way each week that he has a chance to play,” Garrett said. “It’s a real tribute to the approach that he takes. He’s always been someone who has been very good out of the pocket. He made a few plays in that game last night where the throws were really, really good. Going right, going left, people around him, those are not easy throws to make.
“He sees it and pulls the trigger and, bang, it’s right between the 8 and the 3 [to Terrance Williams], or he throws the ball high enough or back shoulder enough where 19 [Butler] can go up and make a couple plays down the field. So he’s got a really good feel out in space and, again, he’s a very good athlete. He does a good job keeping his eyes down the field, making those throws.”