This is why the Dallas Cowboys gave Dak Prescott a four-year, $160 million contract to be their franchise quarterback.
Damn the circumstances.
Injuries, absences, miscues and bad luck.
The game is tied late in the fourth quarter. He has the ball. There is only one acceptable outcome.
Lead the team to victory.
And that’s exactly what Prescott did.
He drove the Cowboys 49 yards in 11 plays to set up a game-winning 56-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein as time expired, sending team into a frenzy and the crowd of mainly blue-and-white clad Cowboys fans, including NBA star Lebron Jamesat SoFi Stadium into a tizzy.
How ’bout them Cowboys?
The Cowboys had plenty excuses to have a poor showing on against the Chargers.
They were without five starters since the 31-29 season opening loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including right tackle La’el Collins, defensive ends Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence, receiver Michael Gallup and safety Donovan Wilson.
And backup tackle Ty Nsekhe, who was going to start in place of Collins, didn’t make the trip after suffering a heat-related issue in practice on Thursday and spending the night in the hospital.
But there is “no woe is me” and “here we go again” in these Cowboys, one year after injuries, covid and bad luck played a role in a 6-10 finish in 2020.
The mindset of the Cowboys was evident on the opening drive of the game, as they marched 78 yards on 15 plays to take a 7-0 lead on a four-yard run by Tony Pollard.
And at the end of the first half when they survived an egregious roughing the punter penalty that gave the Chargers new life after a sack on third down.
A missed field goal gave the Cowboys the ball back with 3 seconds left and the Cowboys nearly pulled off a miracle. Receiver CeeDee Lamb took a short pass from Dak Prescott, broke a tackle and raced 34 yards. He pitched to a trailing Ezekiel Elliott who got all the way to the 3 yard line before being pushed out of bounds with no time left on the clock.
The Cowboys led 14-11 at halftime thanks to a balanced attack. One week after handing the ball off just 14 times against the Buccaneers, the Cowboys had 18 carries for 96 yards in the first half the Chargers.
Elliott and Pollard both had rushing touchdowns.
Prescott offset the running game with 13 completions on 16 attempts for 177 yards. The only egregious mistakes were a Prescott interception that led to a Chargers field goal and an hold on center Tyler Biadiasz that killed a potential scoring drive.
The Cowboys proved to be their own worst enemy for much of the game with untimely penalties, poor play calls and assignment gaffes but they refused to wilt.
After a personal foul penalty gave the Chargers a first down at 13 with a chance to break a 14-14 tie and take the lead for the first time in the final seconds of the third quarter.
Safety Damontae Kazee turned the Chargers back with an interception in the end zone at :05 mark.
The Cowboys marched 64 yards on 10 plays to take a 17-14 lead on a 34-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein.
The Cowboys were lucky to get the field goal as Prescott fumbled on a sack by edge rusher Kyler Fackrell. Guard Zack Martin jumped on the ball to prevent the turnover.
Chargers moved down the field and appeared to take the lead on a 2-yard touchdown pass to Jared Cook.
But they were flagged for an illegal shift.
Rookie top pick Micah Parsons, who was playing defensive end in place of Lawrence, picked the great time to have the first sack of his career, turning a 2nd-and-goal at the 7 to a 3rd-and-25.
The Chargers had to settle for a game-tying field goal with 3:58 left.
But it proved to be too much time for Prescott and Zeurlein, who got some redemption after missing a 31-yard field goal and an extra point in the season opener.
The Cowboys have their first home game at AT&T Stadium next Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles.