Dak Prescott is a gamer, a competitor, and a leader.
And that was most evident in Monday’s 28-17 victory by the Dallas Cowboys over the Arizona Cardinals.
He didn’t have his best game statistically, throwing for less than 200 yards for just the fourth time and had the second-fewest completions (13) of his career in a game in which he started and finished.
But the Cowboys all lauded Prescott for his grit and mental toughness in leading them to victory.
“When you play quarterback and things don’t go well again and again and again, it’s hard to get into a rhythm,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “Sometimes you start forcing things and I just think his mental toughness is off the charts. … Throughout the ballgame, things didn’t come easily to us. He just kept battling. He kept making good decisions.”
Prescott finished the game 13-of-18 for 183 yards and two touchdowns. He had a 141.7 passer rating, the third-best of his career.
The highlight might have been a 10-yard touchdown run that ended with a somersault into the end zone.
“It shows the type of heart he has,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “I think a lot of other quarterbacks right there just would’ve slid and left the ball at the 2-yard line. Just him showing how important it was to get in there and make that play, putting his health on the line, meant a lot to us.”
Elliott called him an “animal.” Tight end Jason Witten mentioned his “grit.” Wide receiver Dez Bryant referred to him as “the man.”
“It wasn’t perfect offensively. It was a tough game,” Witten said. “I just think it shows that grit and grind that our offense has. Dak, gosh, he’s a talented guy. Can’t say enough about him. The big plays he made on the outside, it was just important for us to get back at it.”
REPORT CARD VS. CARDINALS
—PASSING OFFENSE: A — It wasn’t always pretty for Prescott, but he showed incredible patience and in the end found a way. Prescott completed 13 of 18 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns. At least three of his incompletions were throwaways. Brice Butler had the best game of his career with two catches for 90 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown. Both were high-point catches in which Prescott hit Butler down the field.
—RUSHING OFFENSE: B — Ezekiel Elliott had 22 carries for 80 yards including his first touchdown of the season. Consider that he had two carries for 30 and 20 yards. The other 20 carries netted 30 yards. So it was tough sledding. There were no allegations of Elliott quitting. He fought all game. Dak Prescott had a couple of nice runs off zone reads, stinging a defense focused on Elliott. The best was a 10-yard touchdown run and somersault into the end zone.
—PASS DEFENSE: B — Carson Palmer passed for 325 yards and two touchdowns. And Larry Fitzgerald was downright amazing. But this Cowboys pass defense recorded six sacks, including three by DeMarcus Lawrence. Safety Byron Jones had a couple of key pass deflections, including one on the final goal-line stand to end the game. Justin Durant played for Jaylon Smith on passing downs and proved to be effective as a spy in the middle of the field.
—RUSH DEFENSE: A — The Cardinals rushed 21 times for 49 yards as the run defense bounced back in a big way after being gashed last week by the Denver Broncos. There were few missed tackles. Sean Lee led the way with eight tackles. Jaylon Smith had six. Safety Byron Jones had his most impactful game of the season with six tackles.
—SPECIAL TEAMS: A — Chris Jones downed four punts inside the 20. He consistently helped the Cowboys win the battle of field position. No one has done their job better this season. Ryan Switzer sparked a touchdown drive with a 21-yard return. The coverage teams were solid.
—COACHING: A — Give Jason Garrett credit. He had the Cowboys ready and focused despite the anthem discussions before the game. Also give defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli a tip of the cap for going exclusively to a three-man pass rush and using Justin Durant in place of Jaylon Smith on passing downs.