The Dallas Cowboys took a massive step toward clinching the NFC East on Sunday, having defeated their division rival Washington Football Team by a final score of 27-20. Dallas put forth a dominant defensive performance. Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke threw an interception and lost a fumble, while Antonio Gibson and Kyle Allen also lost a fumble each, totaling four turnovers on the day. Dallas converted one of those turnovers into seven points on defense after a first-quarter Micah Parsons strip-sack was returned for a 37-yard score by defensive end Dorance Armstrong. All in all, Washington's offense was held to just 224 total yards of offense while moving the chains on just three of 14 third-down attempts.
Somewhat lost in the victory was yet another subpar performance from Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who completed just 22-of-39 passing attempts for 211 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Prescott was sacked four times and was largely off the mark throughout the majority of the contest. It continued a recent trend of below-average quarterback play that dates back to a calf injury suffered back in a Week 6 victory over the New England Patriots.
Dallas was on the bye in Week 7, and Prescott remained on the mend for a Week 8 game against Minnesota. Since returning to Dallas' lineup in an uninspiring defeat to a rather average Denver Broncos team in Week 9, Prescott has completed 151-of-239 passing attempts (63% completion percentage) for 1,568 yards (261 per game), eight passing touchdowns, six interceptions, and one fumble lost.
The numbers are rather meddling, and the results of the eye test reveal a level of play well below what we've come to expect from an elite signal-caller such as Prescott. For comparative purposes, analyzing Prescott's production prior to him suffering the calf injury develops into a haunting exercise. The former Mississippi State standout was averaging 302 passing yards per contest heading into Week 9, 41 yards more per game than his recent outputs. Prescott's recent 8:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio especially pales in comparison to the excellent 16:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio he posted in Weeks 1-7.
Prescott's recent string of performances are hurting the Cowboys, but it's difficult to point the finger at an excellent quarterback that's clearly playing through a difficult injury that is limiting his mobility. Should the Cowboys manage to wrap up the NFC East title within the next few weeks, which all signs point to them doing so, resting Prescott for the final one or two weeks of the regular season should be considered a realistic possibility.
The Cowboys have experienced an excellent campaign thus far. They're 9-4 and almost certainly going to capture the division title. Mike McCarthy's men are legitimate Super Bowl contenders in an NFC that's loaded with quality opposition such as the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay Packers, the Arizona Cardinals, and the Los Angeles Rams. Despite the heated competition, Dallas is a team that is truly capable of achieving its ultimate goal. They're going to need a healthy Prescott in order to get there, and should strongly consider doing whatever it takes to ensure he's at maximum health come January, and in their case, hopefully February.