GREEN BAY – Dak Prescott isn’t your typical rookie quarterback.
He hasn’t thrown an interception in his first 155 NFL pass attempts, a record for a rookie, and he’s closing in on Tom Brady’s mark of 162 (2000-01) to start a career.
But it’s not just that.
Prescott’s poise and maturity, two words often used to describe him, carried over as he handled the first big curveball thrown at him and the Cowboys’ passing game a few weeks ago.
When star receiver Dez Bryant went down with a knee injury in Week 3 against Chicago, Prescott never gave his own confidence another thought. The fourth-round draft pick who helped turn around Mississippi State’s program stayed in leadership mode, just as a veteran signal caller would.
“My reaction was just to get the next guy ready, give the next guy confidence he can go in there and make the same plays Dez has made all season long and throughout his career,” Prescott told Green Bay media in a conference call on Wednesday. “To make sure he goes in and we don’t blink.”
The Cowboys haven’t blinked. While Bryant’s status for Sunday’s game against the Packers at Lambeau Field remains up in the air, Dallas extended its winning streak from two to four games without Bryant the past two weeks with wins over the 49ers and Bengals.
“Dak has really handled everything so well, and that situation was no different,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s all about doing what he’s supposed to do, reading things out and throwing to the right guy.
“Whenever they played together, it’s never been a situation where he was forcing it to Dez. So when Dez got hurt, one of the things he continued to try to do was … just believe in the guys that are around him and throw it to the right guy and give everyone around him an opportunity to make the plays when it’s their turn.”
Thus far, slot receiver Cole Beasley and veteran tight end Jason Witten have combined for nearly half of Prescott’s completions (51 of 107) and yards (564 of 1,239) this season. Receiver Terrance Williams has produced as well.
Prescott’s passing attack has complemented the Cowboys’ bread and butter, the No. 1-ranked ground game and the league’s leading rusher in Ezekiel Elliott.
Whether an offensive line loaded with first-round draft picks or the fellow rookie Elliott is Prescott’s schematic best friend is hard to say. It goes hand in hand.
Most important, loading up to stop Elliott hasn’t worked against the Cowboys thus far because Prescott – a runner himself – has taken advantage of what’s there. Mike McCarthy commented on Wednesday about the challenge a mobile QB like Prescott presents with read-option and bootleg looks when paired with a workhorse like Elliott.
“He’s done an excellent job play in and play out of doing his job and leading our football team,” Garrett said. “When you have a young quarterback like that a big part of it is everybody believing in him, and him doing things necessary to earn that trust and that belief. It all works together.”
The same goes for the Packers’ defense. The Packers are off to a record pace for stopping the run, and that success plays into the steady pressure they’ve been able to put on quarterbacks.
Green Bay hasn’t faced a back this year as productive as Elliott, and Elliott hasn’t faced a run defense of the Packers’ caliber.
“They’ve been off the charts,” Garrett said of Green Bay’s No. 1-ranked run defense. “What’s impressive to us, they have their base defense out there, they’re really good against the run. They’ve had their nickel defense out there, they’re really good against the run. Whatever personnel group another team puts out there, they do a really good job stopping the run.
“They’re very sound, they’re very disciplined. They run well, they tackle well.”
If any defense can force Prescott to do more, maybe it’s Green Bay’s. Ultra-efficient with a 101.5 passer rating, Prescott has thrown just four TD passes and has surpassed 250 yards passing in a game only once so far.
“Maybe we’ll have to throw it a little more, but who knows?” Prescott said. “That’s a great defense they’ve got over there, and we’re excited for the challenge.”