Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett finally admitted it.
Up 17-14 with 2:33 left in Saturday’s wild-card game against the Seattle Seahawks, they called a draw from quarterback Dak Prescott in hopes of milking the clock and forcing a timeout.
Garrett was under no illusion about getting a first down on third-and-14 from the 17. Neither were those in the crowd of 94,327 at AT&T Stadium.
But there was one person who believed he wouldn’t be denied.
That would have been Mr. Prescott himself who bullied his way for 16 yards and nearly scored after being flipped at the 1.
“It’s hard to imagine you think you are going to make 14 on a play like that,” a still in awe Garrett said late Sunday. “But I will tell you what. He knew it was going to happen. He willed it to happen.”
Prescott’s touchdown run on the ensuing play proved to be the deciding points in the 24-22 victory, carrying the Cowboys to Saturday’s NFC divisional matchup against the Los Angeles Rams.
The Cowboys have now won eight of their last nine games after starting the season 3-5. They are now one win away from reaching the NFC title game for the first time since their last Super Bowl title in 1995.
This young Cowboys team is excited about getting just the fourth playoff win for the franchise since 1995. But they remain focused on the bigger goal, possibly a super ending for the first time in 23 years.
“We’re just getting started,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “Point blank, period. We’re just getting started. We’re ready for whoever they put in front of us.”
Garrett said he likes the attitude of his team.
“The team felt good about what we did and what we accomplished,” he said. “To be one of four teams in our conference still playing is really big for us. But you want to process that and move forward. We had the right approach to feel about what happened and rise forward on what the next challenge is going to be.”
The Cowboys are ready for the next challenge because they believe the man who led them back against the Seahawks is playing his best when it matters most.
Prescott led the Cowboys to seven wins in the final eight games, all coming by a touchdown or less.
“I think if you look at the games we played this year, so many have come down to what we do in the fourth quarter and making stops on defense and driving the football on offense and coming up with game-winning drives,” Garrett said. “Thirteen of the 17 games we have played have been within one score of each other at the end of the game and we have won 10 of them. Dak has been a huge part of that.”
It was no different against the Seahawks.
The Cowboys entered the fourth quarter trailing 14-10 but that was before Prescott led them on two touchdowns drives using his arms and legs.
He nearly scored on a 10-yard touchdown run early in the period, but was ruled down at the 1. Elliott got the touchdown two plays later to make the score 17-14.
After throwing a tipped interception, Prescott drove the Cowboys 63 yards on 11 plays, taking 5:12 off the clock as the 16-yard run was followed by a 1-yard score.
“It was something we’ve been able to do all season,” Prescott said. “Even throughout the season in different games, just sticking together. It’s something that we preach. When you have the type of men that we have, when you get into games like this, you lock arms together and go into battle. That’s just the team we have. Guys want to go out there and make those plays, and want the ball in their hands. When you have a number of guys like that, you give yourself a chance and it was no different”
Prescott passed for 226 yards and a touchdown and ran for 29 yards and a touchdown to become the first quarterback in Cowboys history to run and pass for a touchdown in a playoff game.
However, seeing him give up his body and reach for the end zone after being flipped only gained him adulation and admiration from his teammates.
Elliott called Prescott “a grown-ass man” and termed his performance “legendary.”
“Dak did his thing,” Dallas linebacker Jaylon Smith said. “He played like a grown man. I’m glad to be his teammate. He’s a hell of a leader, hell of a player. I can’t wait to go win some more games with this guy.”
Said Prescott: “I feel like I’m a grown-ass man just in general. Playing like it or not, I’ll take the compliment. Obviously, it felt good. Everybody worked well together and when we can do that, it makes my job easier.”
The praise from his teammates didn’t just stop there.
“That sums up Dak Prescott,” guard Zack Martin said of the run and the flip. “He’s gonna do whatever it takes to help us win. Any time you see your quarterback throwing his body around like that to do whatever he can to help us win it’s inspiring ... He’s a winner. I wouldn’t want anyone else being our quarterback.”
Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence called Prescott an acrobat.
Smith called him amazing and a monster.
“I was on the bench. Myself and Damien Wilson, we jumped out of our seats,” Smith said of the flip. “That’s what Dak does, he gets you out of your seats.”
“Dak’s amazing. Dak is a monster,” Smith continued. “He’s a guy you want in your foxhole. We love him, we care for him, any chance he gets to make a play, anytime he has the ball in his hands, we believe in him.”
Added defensive end Randy Gregory: “I love Dak. Dak is a winner, a proven winner. Great leader. When he’s on the field and he’s doing what he does best, can’t anybody stop the offense. I really feel that way. A lot of other guys feel that way. We have a lot of confidence in him.”
And they are confident and ready to follow Prescott into battle against the Rams, one win away from the NFC title game and a chance at a super ending for the first time in 23 years.