By Dwain Price
Dak Prescott’s dramatic walk-off touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb that stunned the New England Patriots, 35-29 in overtime, this past Sunday was the stuff of which legends are made. But that celebration was totally bittersweet for the Cowboys when an MRI revealed Prescott suffered a mild strained right calf on the winning play.
The victory was the fifth in a row for the Cowboys, who now have as many wins as the other three NFC East teams combined. But the concern level quickly switched to the health of Prescott, whose injury came on the same leg that forced him to miss the final 10 games last season when he suffered a compound fracture of his right ankle.
However, the Cowboys have a bye next week, and team doctors are optimistic Prescott will be ready to play when Dallas squares off against the Vikings in Minnesota on Oct. 31 at 7:20 p.m.
Prescott said when he jumped on his 35-yard game-winning TD pass to Lamb with 3:52 remaining in overtime, he “came down funny.” But he said he would have stayed in the game if the situation called for that.
“I’ll be fine, I can promise you that,” Prescott said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in myself and the medical team. It doesn’t hurt as bad, obviously, when you score and you win the game.
“Great timing going into the bye week. I figured we weren’t playing for (two weeks), so I’ll give you guys something to talk about and speculate on this time. Have fun with that.”
Prescott’s injury notwithstanding, Cowboys Nation had a lot of fun after the Cowboys won a game in New England for the first time since 1987. And with Prescott completing 36 of 51 passes for 445 yards and three touchdowns, that’s the most yards anyone has ever passed for against a team coached by Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
“It’s not about me,” Prescott said. “It’s about the whole team and it’s about the practices that we put into it. It’s about the way that we go about our practices, it’s the way that we built our team.
“We know we’re for real and we believe we’re for real. I don’t think we’re necessarily out here trying to send a message to anybody more so than we’re showing it to ourselves.”
What the Cowboys showed against the Patriots is that even when they kept shooting themselves in the foot with one mistake after another — or one penalty after another — they still had enough juice to raise their record to 5-1. With Prescott at the helm, the Cowboys know they always have a chance.
Down by three points, Prescott completed a crucial fourth down play to Cedric Wilson to get the Cowboys in position for Greg Zuerlein to boot a 49-yard field goal to tie the game with 20 seconds left and send it into overtime. Then came another critical reception to Lamb followed by the game-winner to the second-year wide receiver.
“To play against this defense your third, fourth, fifth options are going to have to come up big,” McCarthy said. “And I thought Dak did a tremendous job distributing the ball.”
Lamb had nine receptions for 149 yards and a pair of touchdowns. And he waved goodbye to the Patriots after they uncharacteristically suffered their fourth straight loss at home.
“It doesn’t matter how many quarters it takes – four, five, six maybe if needed,” Lamb said. “But I’m happy to come out with this win with these guys.”
The win came despite Prescott throwing an interception in the end zone, fumbling at the goal line and into the end zone on a fourth-down play, and despite the Cowboys committing 12 penalties for 115 yards. The Cowboys managed to overcome all of those blunders and win while scoring the game’s final nine points.
“I think it just speaks to the resiliency of this bunch and this team, and the bond that we’ve created and knowing that we’re not going to give up, and all we need is a chance,” Prescott said. “To be able to come (to New England), a place like this with so much success, great atmosphere, great coach over there on the other side, but for us to just stay resilient through it all, I think it speaks on what coach McCarthy talks about
“It’s just our culture, building the right culture, building a winning culture and knowing that it takes winning these games. When everything’s against you we found a way to keep swinging and to come out with a win.”
The win featured yet another interception by cornerback Trevon Diggs. He now has an interception in all six games – and seven on the season – while joining Tom Landry (1951), Barry Wilburn (1987) and Brian Russell (2003) as the only players in NFL history to have at least one interception in each of the first six games of a season.
Diggs ran Sunday’s interception back 42 yards for a touchdown to put the Cowboys ahead, 26-21, with 2:27 left.
“They like to run that double slant out to the front side,” Diggs said. “And I just read it and made a play on the ball.”
Defensive end Randy Gregory made several big plays, recorded two sacks, caused a fumble and expressed the confidence the Cowboys are playing with these days.
“I don’t think there was ever a point that we felt like we weren’t going to win the game,” Gregory said. “At least not in my head.
“Having Dak back there, we have a lot of confidence in him.”
The only question now is: Will the Cowboys have Prescott back for the game against the Vikings? In the meantime, while reflecting on the victory over the Patriots, McCarthy said:
“We all practice it, but to go out and do it and to be clutch and the way our guys did it, these are experiences you can definitely grow from. I’ve always felt that overtime wins, close wins at the end of the game, these are games you can really build off of.”