Prescott em­braces ‘play­offs start now’ men­tal­ity

El Dorado News-Times - - Sports -

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Af­ter 12 games a year ago, Dak Prescott had the Dallas Cow­boys on a fran­chise-record win­ning streak, cruis­ing to­ward the play­offs.

In the star quar­ter­back's sec­ond sea­son, the post­sea­son es­sen­tially started with five games to go, thanks to some early-sea­son strug­gles and the three­game skid when star run­ning back Ezekiel El­liott fi­nally started serv­ing his six-game sus­pen­sion over al­leged do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Prescott, the reign­ing NFL Of­fen­sive Rookie of the Year, em­braces the "play­offs start now" men­tal­ity as the Cow­boys (6-6) pre­pare to visit the last-place New York Gi­ants on Sun­day a year af­ter they were 11-1 with 11 straight wins on their way to an NFC best 13-3.

"The whole point of us win­ning out, it mo­ti­vates me," Prescott said.

"I feel like it should mo­ti­vate any­body in this locker room. We're not look­ing at let­downs. We're not look­ing at any­thing. It's one thing in our head and it's to win."

The Cow­boys beat Washington in what amounted to an elim­i­na­tion game be­tween the NFC East ri­vals. They had their best game run­ning with Al­fred Mor­ris since the start of El­liott's sus­pen­sion, and rolled to a 38-14 win de­spite just 102 yards pass­ing from Prescott, who threw for two scores.

Prescott bruised his right hand against the Red­skins and would have missed at least part of a se­ries if not for a timely punt re­turn for a touch­down from rookie Ryan Switzer.

The throw­ing hand was wrapped dur­ing the por­tion of prac­tice open the re­porters Wed­nes­day, but Prescott said the wrap came off later in the work­out. He did ac­knowl­edge, though, that he threw for the first time since the Red­skins game six days ear­lier.

"There weren't any re­stric­tions," Prescott said. "It didn't feel like my hand was both­er­ing me or any lim­i­ta­tions on throw­ing the ball or any­thing."

Dallas' last two games with­out El­liott are on the road against un­der­per­form­ing teams that started the sea­son with Super Bowl as­pi­ra­tions.

The Gi­ants (2-10) just fired Ben McA­doo and will be led by in­terim coach Steve Spag­n­uolo. Oakland has won two straight, but against teams with two wins be­tween them since Week 5 — both by the Gi­ants. Denver has lost eight in a row.

But even owner and gen­eral man­ager Jerry Jones is preach­ing a "se­ries by se­ries, quar­ter by quar­ter and you know the rest" ap­proach. Chided on his ra­dio show that he sounded as if coach Ja­son Garrett was in­flu­enc­ing him, Jones joked oth­er­wise.

"You know that deep down, deep down, I've got it all set up in my mind how to get there," Jones said. "But that's not what should come out of my mouth."

As a rookie in 2013, cen­ter Travis Fred­er­ick ex­pe­ri­enced a 1-3 finish when the Cow­boys were knocked out of the play­offs with a loss in the reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale. He's watched two teams wrap up di­vi­sion ti­tles be­fore the fi­nal game, and a sea­son that was al­ready lost in the fi­nal weeks.

It's the first time Fred­er­ick has faced play­off sur­vival this early, a year af­ter the Cow­boys were well on their way to mak­ing post­sea­son plans.

"The an­swer that you want as a player and be­ing on this team is that there is no ur­gency dif­fer­ence," Fred­er­ick said. "In the­ory, you want ev­ery­thing to be ex­actly the same whether you're win­ning or los­ing. I think peo­ple rec­og­nize the sit­u­a­tion that we're in."

NOTES: DL David Irv­ing came out of the Washington game with a con­cus­sion and didn't prac­tice, al­though Garrett said he would par­tic­i­pate in some of the early warmup work . ... LB Sean Lee prac­ticed for the first time since in­jur­ing a ham­string against At­lanta and miss­ing three straight games. The 2016 All-Pro was lim­ited. ... RT La'el Collins didn't prac­tice but hopes to play de­spite mus­cle and disk is­sues in his back.

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