Ideal time to lose three? Cowboys QB Dak Prescott’s ‘weird way of looking at things’
FRISCO, Texas — Make no mistake about it: Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott does not think it’s good to lose an NFL game.
The 2016 fourth-round pick playing on the last year of his contract does not believe it’s good to lose two.
And the Cowboys captain certainly doesn’t believe there’s ever a good time to lose three straight football games.
And yet, Prescott said from his locker Thursday, he thinks there is no better time than now for his team’s three-game losing streak.
“I have a weird way of looking at things,” Prescott said ahead of the Cowboys hosting the Eagles. “I’d rather right now than any time ever. And simply from the fact we started 3-0, felt good about ourselves, know the team that we have and then basically lose three to three different types of teams really by getting in your own way.
“I’ll take that.”
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Dak Prescott has thrown for 2 TDs and 4 INTs during the Cowboys' three-game losing streak. (Photo: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports)
That doesn’t mean Prescott willingly, or even passively, took an "L" as the Cowboys came up short against the Saints, and then the Packers, and then the previously winless New York Jets.
The Saints defense troubled Prescott, but the offense was hurt less in that contest by its quarterback than by uncharacteristic fumbles from Jason Witten and Ezekiel Elliott. Against the Packers, Prescott threw three costly interceptions and failed to play to his standards. Still, he went all in trying to rally from a 31-3 deficit, finishing the contest with a career high 463 passing yards in the 34-24 loss. And against the Jets? Prescott didn’t throw for a touchdown, but the 4-yarder he rushed for with 47 seconds to play gave the Cowboys a chance to tie the game in its final minute. He weathered eight hits from the Jets’ explosive pass rush but kept playing.
[email protected] runs it in for the TD#DALvsNYJ | #DallasCowboyspic.twitter.com/EgsJqHKp9V
“It doesn’t feel great when you’re calling plays and he’s taking hits at the level he did,” offensive coordinator Kellen Moore said. But “Dak doesn’t flinch.”
Off the field, he hasn’t either. Prescott believes the three losses will help his team snap the streak in this week’s battle for first place in the NFC East.
“It’s never good to lose three, never ever,” Prescott said. “But if there ever was an ideal time I’d say it’s now. … We’re going to learn from it. We’re going to move (on) from it.
“I’d rather it happen now when we still have a chance to go into Game 7 playing for first place in the division than have it happen late in the year when we only have a game or two left before the playoffs or we’re forced to be trying to make the playoffs.
“We’re going to definitely get better because of these three games.”
Prescott has led the Cowboys out of 3-3 straits before.
When he was a rookie in 2016, Dallas dropped its opener to the Giants before winning 11 straight. The streak was enough to retire Tony Romo. But in the three seasons since, the Cowboys have found themselves at 3-3 every year. In 2017, they cobbled together six more wins but missed the playoffs. Last year, the team rebounded from 3-5 to win seven of its last eight contests and outlast the Seahawks in a wild-card matchup. Dallas ultimately lost to the Rams in the divisional round.
Reaching the divisional round isn’t the goal for what Prescott, teammates and Cowboys management view as the most talented team the franchise has assembled in years. The Cowboys haven’t played in, much less won, a conference title game since the 1995 season. They feel they have the talent to contend. The defense has stifled third-down opportunities at a better rate than 30 teams, but allowed too many plays. The offense is still averaging 443.8 yards per game, second best in the league, but its red-zone conversion has fallen from 85.56 percent the first three games to 44.44 percent the last three.
“It’s not that the whole offense is playing bad,” center Travis Frederick said. “It’s that on this play one guy has an issue, on this play one guy has an issue. The key to that is either all having your issues on the same play and it being really bad or eliminating those issues. … There’s a focused effort on cleaning up those things.”
Prescott is among the leaders of that effort. Teammates asked him what to make of the discrepancy between the offensive yardage and its resulting points. His response: This team needs to practice more intensely, go back to the drawing board and understand that “[expletive] doesn’t hit the fan.”
He still believes — insists, even — that his team has been finishing games a few costly mistakes away from excelling.
“We’re there,” Prescott said. “We’re right there [but not] getting out of our own way. We’re a good team that hasn’t been getting it done. So we’re going to make that step, we’re going to change and get out of our own way and we’ll make that step.
“I know we have a great team. I know it.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.
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