Prescott rewrit­ing sto­ry­line

Young QB can take Cow­boys to an­other level of suc­cess

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS WEEKEND - By Schuyler Dixon

FRISCO, Texas — So many ques­tions asked of Dak Prescott re­volve around two years ago, when the rookie quar­ter­back led the Cow­boys to an NFC-best 13 wins be­fore los­ing his play­off de­but.

There’s a new an­gle to that old sto­ry­line now that the 2016 of­fen­sive rookie of the year has his first post­sea­son victory. Prescott and the Cow­boys are headed to Los An­ge­les for a di­vi­sional matchup with the Rams on Sat­ur­day night.

That was the site of Prescott’s NFL de­but in a pre­sea­son game that marked the league’s re­turn to LA af­ter a 22-year ab­sence. His daz­zling day wasn’t a huge deal then be­cause the Cow­boys had no rea­son to be­lieve Tony Romo wouldn’t be their quar­ter­back.

Two years later, it’s a sig­na­ture mo­ment in the sud­den trans­for­ma­tion at quar­ter­back for Amer­ica’s Team, trig­gered when Romo was in­jured in an­other pre­sea­son game. And now it could be the set­ting for Prescott to reach some­thing Romo never could: an NFC cham­pi­onship game.

“I guess I couldn’t imagine it be­ing back in the Coli­seum against the team I started off my ca­reer, but I’ve al­ways talked about the con­fi­dence I’ve had in my­self and this team,” Prescott said. “Noth­ing has changed.”

This is Prescott’s sec­ond shot at a di­vi­sional win af­ter Aaron Rodgers and the Pack­ers stole the first with some last­sec­ond magic. Just as Romo had nine years ear­lier, Prescott lost at home as the NFC’s top seed in his team’s post­sea­son opener.

The Cow­boys missed the play­offs last sea­son, in large part be­cause of a six-game sus­pen­sion for Prescott’s fel­low 2016 rookie star, run­ning back Ezekiel El­liott. A 3-5 start this year with a sput­ter­ing quar­ter­back and of­fense had the Cow­boys look­ing like also-rans again.

They’ve run off eight wins in nine games since, with a much more ef­fi­cient Prescott throw­ing to a new No. 1 re­ceiver. The Cow­boys ac­quired Amari Cooper in a mid­sea­son trade with the Raiders be­fore surg­ing to a sec­ond NFC East ti­tle in three sea­sons with Prescott and El­liott.

Armed with a 24-22 wild-card win over the Sea­hawks — and a clutch run on a quar­ter­back draw that helped seal it — Prescott will try to match the Rams duo of Jared Goff and Todd Gur­ley while fac­ing NFL sacks leader Aaron Don­ald.

“What­ever the sit­u­a­tion is,” coach Ja­son Gar­rett said, “rookie mini­camp, first op­por­tu­nity play­ing in a pre­vi­ous game against the Rams with all those play­ers you men­tioned, or on into the reg­u­lar sea­son that year or any year, he just han­dles the suc­cess and the ad­ver­sity of this game re­ally, re­ally well, as well as any­body I’ve been around.”

In some ways, Prescott is as po­lar­iz­ing with fans as Romo was. While his pre­de­ces­sor was crit­i­cized for not win­ning enough big games, Prescott is per­ceived as a game man­ager with ac­cu­racy is­sues.

Prescott said he was with a friend when he hap­pened to hear his name in a talk ra­dio con­ver­sa­tion re­cently.

“He wasn’t talk­ing very highly,” Prescott said. “I just kind of laughed. Ob­vi­ously the com­ment I made, he knew to turn it down. They don’t nec­es­sar­ily bring it around me. They know it serves no re­gard to how I do or how I feel about my game.”

Prescott says his only mea­sure is wins, and the Pa­tri­ots’ Tom Brady is the only quar­ter­back with more in the reg­u­lar sea­son (35-32) since the Cow­boys drafted the for­mer Mis­sis­sippi State star in the fourth round in 2016 — 131 picks af­ter tak­ing El­liott fourth.

“I’m glad to be his team­mate,” said El­liott, who has won two rush­ing ti­tles in three years. “He’s a hell of a leader, a hell of a player and I can’t wait to go win some more games with this guy.”

RON JENK­INS/AP

Cow­boys quar­ter­back Dak Prescott now has a play­off win un­der his belt and the op­por­tu­nity to ac­com­plish even more.

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