DAK’S PLAY­OFF ROAD RE­SUMES

The Island Packet - - Front Page - BY SCHUYLER DIXON As­so­ci­ated Press

Prescott and the Cow­boys are headed to Los An­ge­les Memo­rial Coli­seum, the site of Prescott’s NFL de­but, for a di­vi­sional matchup with the Rams.

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

There’s a new an­gle to that old story line now that the 2016 NFL Of­fen­sive Rookie of the Year has his first post­sea­son vic­tory. Prescott and the Cow­boys (11-6) are headed to Los An­ge­les Memo­rial Coli­seum for a di­vi­sional matchup with the Rams (13-3) on Saturday night.

That fa­mous venue 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 Green Bay Pack­ers stole the first with some last-se­cond magic. Just as Romo had nine years ear­lier, Prescott lost at home as the NFC’s top

seed in his team’s post­sea­son opener.

Dal­las missed the play­offs last sea­son , in large part be­cause of a six-game sus­pen­sion for Prescott’s fel­low first-year star from a year ear­lier, 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. Amari Cooper was ac­quired in a trade with Oak­land, one game be­fore the surge to a se­cond NFC East ti­tle in three sea­sons with Prescott and El­liott.

Armed with a 24-22 wild-card win over Seat­tle, and a clutch run on a QB draw that helped seal it, Prescott will try to match the star Rams quar­ter back run­ning back 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. The crit­ics were loud when the Cow­boys were los­ing. They aren’t com­pletely silent now.

Prescott says his only mea­sure is wins, and New Eng­land’s Tom Brady is the only quar­ter­back with more in the reg­u­lar sea­son (3532) since the Cow­boys drafted the for­mer Mississippi State star in the fourth round in 2016 — 131 picks after tak­ing El­liott fourth over­all.

“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

Dal­las Cow­boys quar­ter­back Dak Prescott’s first game was in the LA Memo­rial Coli­seum. He re­turns Saturday to play the Rams.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.