Mandatory Credit: Photo by Tony Gutierrez/AP/Shutterstock (13488843z) Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott looks downfield during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, in Arlington, Texas Lions Cowboys Football, Arlington, United States – 23 Oct 2022
Cowboys need cleaner play from Prescott
An interception is one of the most exciting plays in football.
Unless you’re a quarterback.
A timely INT can change momentum in an instant or bring a team back from the brink of defeat and give them hope.
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has fallen prey to this on several occasions in the eight games he has started this season, including Sunday afternoon against Houston.
Take away a 3-minute and 40-second touchdown drive to end the game, and the Cowboys turned in one of their worst offensive performances of the season.
Quarterback Dak Prescott threw a pair of interceptions, and late in the game, the Texans not only believed they could win, but they held the lead.
Prescott eventually overcame his miscues to keep the Cowboys (10-3) just two games back of Philadelphia for the NFC East lead with a game against the Eagles coming up on Christmas Eve in Arlington.
“It’s the NFL,” Prescott said. “It’s a tough game. We didn’t play our best by any means. We had an opportunity right there with two minutes left and went and got it done. At the end of the day, that is all that it’s about – capturing wins. And we were able to get this one.”
In a game filled with exotic blitzes and unconventional coverages, even the best quarterbacks are susceptible to turning the ball over with ill-advised throws or just plain bad luck.
Prescott is no exception to this rule. On Sunday, he was intercepted for the eighth and ninth times this season against Houston, and it almost cost the team a home win.
“We had some situations in the passing game that we need to go back and clean up,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said.
The Texans didn’t come into the game known for their pass defense; in fact, they were allowing over 247 yards per game this season and only had eight interceptions.
However, they did have one of the most respected defensive minds running the show in head coach Lovie Smith, and it showed early and often, as the Houston defense gave the Cowboys QB fits all afternoon.
“It’s the NFL; give this team credit,” Prescott said about the Texans. “One loss or not, those guys came out there, and they played hard. They played hard all four quarters and, yeah, we were able to give our best in the last two minutes and finish it.”
The interceptions for Prescott, who ended with his lowest QB rating since returning from his hand injury at 70.9, like the two he tossed in that come-from-behind win over the Texans, are starting to mount.
He is aggressive in the passing game. That won’t change. But, even with his coach’s approval, he knows it is time to start reining it in as the team continues to push for the NFC East title and a postseason berth.
“It’s unfortunate on some of them, but I’ve got to find a way to take better care of the ball,” Prescott said. “But damn right it is frustrating. It’s not something I have been OK with or will ever be OK with. But I’m not going to not be aggressive. I’ve worked too hard. This team has worked too hard and created too great of a chemistry for me to not be aggressive and make the throws I know I can make. But I damn sure got to be smarter and weigh the risk versus reward in a split second. It’s part of my preparation and something I promise I will clean up.”
With the two he threw on Sunday in the win over Houston, Prescott now has nine interceptions in eight starts this season, including eight in the seven games since returning from a hand injury that cost him five games early in the season.
“I am damn sure not a fan of that,” Prescott said about his interceptions this season. “It’s frustrating. It’s very, very frustrating. If you go back on all of them, yes, some of them were miscommunication in the past games. (Sunday), the first one, I tried to fit it in too tight of a window. … The second one, my arm got hit.”
While he has thrown 14 touchdowns, the Cowboys’ highest-paid player has only two games where he didn’t throw a pass to the other team this season – wins over Detroit and Minnesota.
“We don’t need to change plays,” McCarthy said. “We just have to be a little cleaner in how we’re doing things.”
Sunday was also the first time since the season opening loss to Tampa Bay that he threw more interceptions than touchdowns in a game.
Not something new for Prescott, who has thrown 59 career interceptions in 93 games played since being drafted in 2016.
The nine picks are the fourth most in a season in Prescott’s 6-plus seasons, behind only 2017 (13), 2019 (11), and 2021 (10). He has only played two full seasons where he threw less than nine interceptions – 2016 (4) and 2018 (8).