Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was straight to the point.
He didn’t mince any words. He didn’t waste any breath.
He simply looked to at the reporter and said: “challenge accepted, challenge accepted.”
It was an answer to a comment from New York Giants safety Landon Collins, who said the key to stopping the Cowboys was to “make sure we [take] the air out of their running game. Put the ball into Dak’s hands and I think we have a better shot at winning.”
Prescott responded the way he should.
He said challenge accepted.
He was talking about Collins, but it might as well have been a response to all the doubters and critics who have come out of the woodwork since the disappointing 16-8 season-opening loss to the Carolina Panthers.
He completed 19 of 29 passes for 170 yards. He was sacked six times and had a fumble. It was the seventh time in the past nine games that he had under 200 yards passing.
And don’t let the 65.5 percent completion percentage fool you; Prescott missed a number of opportunities because of errant throws and misreads.
So not only has the Cowboys’ passing game been called into question by more than just Collins but so has Prescott’s standing as the team’s franchise quarterback of the future.
So challenge accepted.
His attitude comes as no surprise who handled the scrutiny of being the Cowboys quarterback with leadership and aplomb since taking over Tony Romo, the team’s all-time leading passer, as a rookie in 2016. Prescott has handled the success and failures as well as the spotlight.
“I think he does a remarkable job,” coach Jason Garrett said. “I think he’s mature beyond his years. He’s handled everything incredibly well right from the start. Coming in as a rookie and starting in Year One and handling all of the different things that went with that. We had success that year and more adversity at different times throughout that year and in subsequent years, again, he handles it well.
“He’s amazing in terms of his mental toughness, his focus, his approach every day, the spirit that he brings, the leadership that he brings, his work ethic is off the charts. He’s an incredibly well-respected guy in our locker room by his teammates and by his coaches. The example he sets is exactly what we want our quarterback to set each and every day.”
And now that he’s in the current crucible they don’t expect him to shy away. And Prescott hasn’t.
”He has been great,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “He is certainly focusing on getting better and all that stuff. He is handling it like a professional, a competitor. He is not moping around. You can tell he is determined. He wants to be back on that field as soon as he can. Just what you would expect.”
“He’s twice as determined. He’s working twice as hard. The guy is always here early and staying late and getting himself ready to play the game. Get the last game behind him and get ready to play the next one.”
Prescott and the Cowboys aren’t in panic mode after one game. They said there were plays to be made and it’s just a simple matter of execution.
But they also aren’t in denial about their failures in the season-opening loss or than their failures dating to last season.
Prescott acknowledges he was not sharp against the Panthers. He also admits the passing game and the revamped receiver corps minus the released Dez Bryant and the retired Jason Witten remain a work in progress in terms of chemistry and getting on the same page.
It has made him even more determined to get it right.
”That’s a good way to put it,” Prescott said. “I missed a lot of plays. I’ve simply got to play better. That is what this week is about, moving forward ... and the only way I know how to play better is to go to work and put in the time, put in the time the right way with the right focus and that has been my plan.
“We are fortunate enough to have 15 more games to do that. Just moving forward and trying to get better this week.”
So challenge accepted.
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