One of the reasons Dak Prescott was able to hold off Tony Romo in 2016 was because of the way he performed in some of the Cowboys’ biggest match-ups early in the season. Each week, his quality of play at the quarterback position seemed to elevate in an almost improbable fashion.
As the year went on, marquee games against the Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins gave Prescott the chance to showcase his talents against some of the better teams, with a national audience. While some have gotten hung up on his low yardage totals, it was his quarterback rating that really set him apart.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the numbers and see just how good Dak Prescott was in the Cowboys’ most important games of 2016 — a season that put him into the NFL M.V.P. discussion.
Week 2: @Washington Redskins – 27-23 Victory
Prescott: 22-for-30, 292 Pass Yards, 1 Rush TD, 103.8 QB Rating.
Week 6: @Green Bay Packers – 30-16 Victory
Prescott: 18-for-27, 247 Pass Yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 117.1 QB Rating.
Week 10: @Pittsburgh Steelers – 35-30 Victory
Prescott: 22-for-32, 319 Pass Yards, 2 TDs, 121.7 QB Rating.
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Week 11: Baltimore Ravens – 27-17 Victory
Prescott: 27-for-36, 301 Pass Yards, 3 TDs, 127.2 QB Rating.
Week 16: Detroit Lions – 42-21 Victory
Prescott: 15-for-20, 212 Pass Yards, 3 Pass TDs, 148.3 QB Rating.
Divisional Playoff: Green Bay Packers – 34-31 Loss
Prescott: 24-for-38, 302 Pass Yards, 3 Pass TDs, 1 INT, 103.2 QB Rating.
As you can see, Prescott went over 100 in his quarterback rating during every one of these games (120.2 total rating through the six games highlighted above). I included the Ravens and Lions games because despite Dallas looking like a juggernaut by that point in the year, Tony Romo was healthy and right there in case Prescott struggled.
Dak came up huge in some of the biggest games on the team’s schedule. A slow start in the playoff loss to the Packers may have given fans some doubt about the decision, but even in a game as heartbreaking as that one, Prescott played well enough to win. He led multiple clutch drives late in the game, and if not for an Aaron Rodgers miracle play, the Cowboys would’ve had a chance to win in overtime.
Heading into the 2017 season, the schedule is certainly a little tougher than the previous year. Prescott won’t have to look over his shoulder this year, however, and will come into camp getting starter reps throughout the preseason, unlike in 2016. A sophomore slump is possible, yet hard to anticipate given Dak’s big performances in big games as a rookie.