FRISCO, Texas — Following the worst game of his NFL career, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was left alone at AT&T Stadium. His brother normally waits for him after the game and rides home with him.
But he didn’t come to the game Sunday, leaving Prescott to make the lonely drive from Arlington to Frisco all alone.
But as bad as things seemed, it wasn’t the worst moment of his football life.
That occurred in 2013 when he matched the three inceptions and one fumble he had in last Sunday’s 37-9 loss to the Philadelphia with the same stats in a four-turnover meltdown against South Carolina while in college at Mississippi State.
He walked into the coach’s office the next day ready to go over the film and was told that his mother had passed away to cancer.
He missed practice to attend the funeral, returned for the Texas A&M game and then got hurt in the second half, causing him to miss two more games in what was the worst month of his life.
But those life lessons made him stronger and got him to where he is today.
And although he might again have a bad day on the football field, he said he is using the lessons from Sunday’s meltdown against the Eagles to fuel his fire for Thursday’s quick turnaround game against the Los Angeles Chargers (4-6).
The Cowboys (5-5) aren’t necessarily in desperation mode, but they are in playoff mode, and they understand the urgency of the situation, following two blowout losses, if they hope to turn things around and stay in postseason contention.
The players have had their own internal talks, led by tight end Jason Witten, who spoke to the offense. Coach Jason Garrett has let them know they can win out or lose out. It’s on them and time for them to show their character.
Prescott said it’s his job to play better, but also remain the steady leader.
“It’s huge. For me it’s just about being the same whether it’s winning or losing, it’s about being the same and never wavering, never showing lack of confidence in myself and my teammates,” Prescott said.
“It’s about just being there for them, keeping them going and having all the confidence that we’ll go 11-5 moving forward.”
Prescott promises to be better going forward because he is going to play smarter in the passing game and cut it loose more as runner.
He can point to instances against the Eagles in which those things possibly could have made a difference for an offense that has had just one touchdown the past two weeks.
And while he didn’t throw the football well, he said he is more disappointed in the misread and poor decisions he made as a quarterback than the errant passes.
One play in particular came late in the second quarter. It was third-and-6 from the Eagles’ 29 and he faced an all-out blitz. Prescott threw deep to Dez Bryant in the end zone. But he should have gone to wide-open Cole Beasley crossing underneath instead on a play that would have resulted in a first down and perhaps a touchdown.
Prescott said he still beating his head against the wall for that decision because it could have made a huge difference in the game, possibly allowing the Cowboys to lead 16-7 at halftime while gaining confidence and momentum. Instead, they had to settle for a field goal in what was the last of their points of the game as the Eagles scored 30 consecutive points in the second half.
“I’ve just got to take some passes underneath and let guys run with the ball in their hands,” Prescott said. “The game goes back to two or three plays, and you can always say if we would’ve done this or that on that play it would’ve been a different game.
“For me, it’s just getting the ball out sometimes and trust a short route is going to get as much as a deep ball down the field.”
Prescott also recalled a run on the sideline where he went out of bounds after the first down rather than cutting it up the field to possibly gain more yards. He said everyone has to do more.
“We’ve got to execute better, we’ve got to make guys miss sometimes, one on ones we’ve got to make guys miss, sometimes getting out of the pocket instead of running out of bounds — hey maybe I’ll try to make that safety miss and try to score,” Prescott said. “It’s just that one right now, fighting, it’s got to come out of us right now.”
Last week’s performance came one week after he had a pedestrian effort in a 27-7 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Prescott completed 20 of 30 passes for 176 yards in that game.
However, he decries the notion that the absence of suspended running back Ezekiel Elliott is at the root of his struggles, blaming the offensive line issues against the Falcons when defensive end Adrian Clayborn had six sacks against backup tackles Chaz Green and Byron Bell, who was subbing for the injured Tyron Smith.
He said his play was so bad against the Eagles that Elliott wouldn’t have made a difference there, especially considering that Alfred Morris had 91 yards rushing in the game.
”Atlanta was Atlanta. That game had its issues,” Prescott said. “Zeke there or not probably would still have those issues because of where they came from.
“In this game, I simply wasn’t at my best and didn’t play well. Zeke there or not, I still might not have played well. It wasn’t like the run game wasn’t working against Philly.”
So why didn’t he play well?
“I just wasn’t sharp,” Prescott said. “It happens.”