With Dak Prescott playing like this, everything is possible for the Cowboys. Even the Super Bowl

Dan Wetzel
Columnist

DETROIT — It was a pass Dallas needed on a drive it had to have in a game that would have been a disaster to lose.

Leading by six in the fourth quarter, second-and-10 from his own 49-yard line, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott looked right, 16 yards down field, toward his favorite target, Amari Cooper

Except just after Prescott released the pass, Cooper was no longer open. Detroit’s best coverman, Darius Slay Jr., jumped the route. 

Here, in an instant, seemed to rest the Cowboys’ season. So much promise. So much uncertainty. 

They were 5-4 and a loss here to the hapless Lions, would have been devastating for everything — playoff hopes, team confidence, the future for everyone. 

Cowboys fans had filled the stands here, turning Ford Field in a rocking Jerry World North. They hadn’t come to see Dallas lose, especially like this.

Here was the pass, sailing toward a cornerback more than capable of shagging it out of the air and taking it the other way for the lead, flipping this game and Dallas’ entire season on its ear.

“Slay made a great play,” Prescott said. “He jumped it. I’m not going to lie, I held my breath for a second.”

He wasn’t the only one. 

“I was standing right there,” coach Jason Garrett said of the play that went toward the Cowboys’ sideline.

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 17: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys runs the ball for the first down in the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on November 17, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

There might have been just one person who wasn’t nervous: Cooper himself. He saw Prescott had thrown the pass appropriately high, essentially perfect.

“I saw Slay undercutting it, but I couldn’t understand why,” Cooper said. “The ball was too high. I knew it would go over his head.”

Indeed, the ball zipped just over the outstretched hands of the leaping, 6-foot Slay. And then it landed precisely into the outstretched hands of the leaping, 6-foot-1 Cooper. 

First down. 

“It was an all-timer,” Garrett said. “It was an all-time play.”

“Just high enough,” Prescott said.

“Slay kind of looked at them," Garrett said. "And [then] looked at me and said, ‘I don’t know?’ Kind of tip your cap a little bit because that was a big-time throw and catch by them.”

Five plays later, Prescott avoided pressure and deftly threw sidearm to Ezekiel Elliott, who rumbled 17 yards into the end zone for what would be the decisive score in a 35-27 victory

It capped a drive where Dak was 7-of-9 for 74 yards, part of a slam-the-door fourth quarter in a game he finished going 29-of-46 for 444 yards and three touchdowns. 

They spend a lot of time in Texas, and elsewhere, debating just how good Prescott is (and how much he should be paid in the future).

Here is what is fair: he’s good enough, enough of the time, for Dallas to win that long-awaited Super Bowl. And at 6-4 this season, despite so many roller-coaster dips, that goal and every other one is still on the table for the Cowboys.

During his past four games, three of them victories, he has played some of his best football — a QB rating over 100 in each game, 10 TDs against just three picks and, maybe most important, critical plays completed when needed. 

This was a day when the Lions took away Elliott and forced Prescott to beat them. To make it even tougher, they (or Slay) mostly took Cooper away (just three catches for 38 yards) and made Prescott beat them without him.

Then he did.

“Obviously he’s playing really well,” Garrett said. “Dak made a lot of big plays. … We talk about making the little plays in a game and the big plays in a game and I think he did both. He’s so good with the ball in his hands.”

Prescott will have to continue to play that way. The Cowboys visit New England next week, then return home for a short week to play Buffalo on Thanksgiving. The Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia are still out there. The Cowboys don’t have any margin for error.

Neither did Prescott on the throw of the game. He wasn’t anticipating Slay reading the play so well and getting in the way, but it hardly mattered.

Prescott and Cooper said they’ve run that route so many times in workouts that it is second nature where to run and where to throw it. 

Prescott put the ball right where it needed to be, a throw so precise that it was essentially impossible to defend. And Cooper trusted it because he trusts the talent in Dak’s arm. Had the pass been underthrown, he would have knocked it away from Slay. But he didn’t even consider it because he just knew.

“We practice that all the time,” Cooper said. “Every day. The only thing I had to do was concentrate because [Slay’s hands] kind of obscured my vision.”

“Just great timing by us,” Prescott said. “Coop stuck with it and made a hell of a grab.”

Maybe some doubts about No. 4 remain out there, but they don’t appear to exist inside the Cowboys’ locker room. 

On a day they desperately needed a win in a winnable game and their quarterback to be good enough to deliver it, Dak Prescott came through, especially on the biggest throw.

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