If you’ve been on football Twitter this year, you know the warring factions of Dak Prescott fandom. It’s the most divisive area of Twitter outside of anime Twitter and Beyonce stans. However, what Monday night proved is that Dak Prescott is one of the best QBs in the entire league, and when he plays like he did in the Cowboys’ Wild Card win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas will be hard to stop.
The Athletic’s Ben Baldwin runs a website that tracks Expected Points Added (EPA) for every game, and this was Dak Prescott’s EPA, compared to Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady:
Dak was on a HEATER last night my goodness pic.twitter.com/zFOmLu9V0g— JP Acosta (@acosta32_jp) January 17, 2023
Dak put on a QB’ing masterclass on Monday night, one that highlighted his best skills.
Dak Prescott is a cerebral quarterback, who sees the game as good as any QB in the NFL. His ability to manipulate defenders with his eyes is among the best in the league. On this first touchdown to Dalton Schultz, the Cowboys run Schultz on a Stick Nod route, with both receiving options to Dak’s right. The Bucs are running Cover 3, which means Schultz could be open, but Dak has to keep the middle safety away from the route concept.
At the top of his drop, Prescott looks to his left to get the safety to move that way, then flips back and throws a perfectly placed ball to Schultz for a TD.
Dak was money against the blitz as well. The Bucs love bringing simulated pressures with blitzers coming from every which direction. According to Sports Info Solutions, Prescott was pressured 12 times on Monday. On those 12 drop-backs, Prescott went 7-10 and threw two TDs.
On one of those plays where he was blitzed, Dak sees the pressure before the snap, adjusts at the line of scrimmage, and gets WR Michael Gallup to adjust his route to find the open window and replace the pressure. Then the throw is stellar as well.
One of the biggest criticisms of Prescott entering the season is using his legs to extend plays. For a player who was a mobile, QB run game type of player entering the NFL, he didn’t really use his legs much (whether that be due to injury or play-calling). However, this year Dak is healthy, and extending plays like this when things aren’t perfect. It raises the ceiling of the offense when Dak can do this.
Prescott and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore are also in lockstep at the perfect time, with Moore calling the perfect counter for everything Tampa threw at them. Tampa likes to play in base coverage a lot: 3-4 defense, both inside linebackers on the field. So what Dallas did is play with heavier personnel (2 and 3 tight end sets) and then throw the ball, forcing the Bucs LBs to play in coverage on tight ends. This throw by Prescott was the definition of a dime, putting it only where Schultz can get it.
For the Cowboys to pull off the upset, Dak has to continue beating defenses with his mind and cerebral QB play.