Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott sat at his locker for several moments with his head down between his legs.
Monday’s 28-14 loss to the Tennessee Titans was weighing hard on him.
Guard Zack Martin walked over to give him some encouragement.
But Prescott continued to sit at his locker alone with his head down for a few more moments.
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And when he finally got up to walk to the post-game interview room to finally face the media, he did so with the shirt collar unbuttoned, sans his customary bowtie accessorizing his suit, and promptly fell on the sword.
So while owner Jerry Jones said Prescott’s turnover-filled performance against the Titans didn’t impact his opinion of his quarterback, the third-year signal caller from Mississippi State admittedly bore the brunt of the blame.
It wasn’t about the future. It was about the now, which could go a long way in impacting his future with the Cowboys, no matter what Jones says today.
A disappointing Cowboys team that hoped to come off last week’s bye with a victory to begin a strong finish to the second half of the season is now looking like all hope is lost, primarily due to two turnovers from Prescott that proved to be the difference in the game.
The Titans (4-4) scored 14 points off an interception and fumble from Prescott to drop the Cowboys to 3-5 on the season and two games behind the Washington Redskins in the NFC East.
“I didn’t expect to be here with a 3-5 record, so it’s very tough” Prescott said. “’It’s disappointing. We didn’t get the job. We’ve got to do better and it starts with me. It starts with me first all the way. I’m very disappointed coming off the bye week cleaning things up. I felt good going into this one, and to come out with this loss and be 3-5 is very disappointing.”
And while Prescott completed 21-of-31 passes for 243 yards, including touchdown passes to Amari Cooper and Allen Hurns in the first half, his play was far from perfect, which is hugely disappointing after the Cowboys traded a first-round pick to the Oakland Raiders during the bye to acquire Cooper in the name of finally getting him a No.. 1 receiver to help.
He missed a wide-open Cole Beasley in the end zone on the first drive and then Brett Maher missed a 38-yard field goal. After the Cowboys went up 7-0 on his touchdown pass to Cooper, his interception in the end zone to safety Kevin Byard on a forced throw to a double-covered Cooper killed early momentum.
The Cowboys had three red zone opportunities in the first quarter but only had seven points. Instead of going up 17-0, 14-0 or at least 10-0 in the first quarter, the Cowboys found themselves tied 7-7 early in the second, as Tennessee turned the interception into a touchdown.
“That was the difference, as simple as that,” Prescott said. “Our defense got us a turnover there, we’re up seven points. I go down there and try to force that ball and give it right back to them. It’s a 14-point swing. They get a touchdown to tie it up. That’s the difference right there.”
Cooper said he could have run a better route so he possibly could have made a play on the ball. But Prescott acknowledged it was simply a poor decision by him to force the throw. He should have thrown the ball away to live another day.
“It’s just as simple as I tried to force the ball. They added in guys in my face, and I just have to throw the ball out the back of the end zone at that point. I just forced it.”
It was a third-quarter fumble by Prescott on a sack that helped Tennessee take the lead for good. Prescott has fumbled seven times this season and lost four with the sack-fumble. Prescott lost three fumbles all of last season. He was sacked five times in the game. It simply wasn’t a winning performance by Prescott or the offense.
“It’s third and long. The guy has got me wrapped up. Just go down,” Prescott said about the fumble. “It’s about managing the game. In that situation, I got to go down instead of taking over the game. It would have been too much at that point. It was a turnover and they scored 7 points.”
Protecting the ball has been a strong suit of Prescott’s but it has become a problem of late and a true game-decider for the Cowboys. He has 10 games with two-or-more turnovers over the last two seasons, which tops the NFL.
In 2018 it has been even more critical. The Cowboys are 3-0 when Prescott doesn’t turn the ball over. They are 0-5 when he does.
Prescott wasn’t helped by five sacks. He has now been sacked 28 times in eight games this season after being sacked 25 and 32 times in 16 games in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Jones said the play of the offensive line impacted Prescott.
And while he’d like to have the turnovers back, he said they are not swaying his thinking on Prescott’s long-term future.
“I’ve seen him not turn it over,” Jones said. “And then we’ve seen him recently make the turnovers. Once you see them make the turnovers then you know they can turn it over. When you see them play with good ball security then you know they can play that way. There is something to do with the loss of talent, or in some cases the length of time they’ve been playing.
But his arrow is up. His arrow is up physically. It’s up mentally. Having seen him and know his consciousness is to protect the ball is one of his virtues and I think I’m going to go with that. Tonight’s game did not, did not I emphasize, impact my future look at Dak Prescott. Not tonight.”
Jones can say that now because he doesn’t have to make a decision on him in the middle of the season. But the facts are that Prescott hasn’t looked like the same guy who was a rookie sensation in 2016 with 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
He has 32 touchdowns and 18 interceptions over the past 24 games, including 10 and 5 those season to along with the fumbles.
What’s also true is that Jones will give public support of a player up until the say he moves on to another option.
So in saying the Cowboys have no more room for error if they hope to save the season from the abyss, Prescott might also be talking about his status as Cowboys quarterback for the future.