Prescott-Cooper connection moves Cowboys closer to playoffs

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Defining where Dak Prescott is in the NFL quarterback hierarchy is a difficult task.

The Dallas Cowboys would rather he be defined by what he does when it matters most.

Prescott threw touchdown passes of 28 and 75 yards to Amari Cooper in the fourth quarter Sunday and another for 15 yards in overtime to give the Cowboys a 29-23 victory that put their chances at winning the NFC East at 99 percent, according to ESPN Football Power Index.

This game will not be remembered as one of Prescott’s best, even though he threw for a career-high 455 yards on 42-of-54 passing. But, it might be one of his finer moments.

“You talk about mental toughness, that guy we’ve got playing quarterback for us, he’s a tough son of a b---- now,” coach Jason Garrett said. “You saw that today. You saw the physical toughness. You saw the mental toughness and you saw him throughout the game overcome adversity and make the critical plays at the critical moments.”

Just as he did his rookie season when he beat the Eagles in overtime on a touchdown pass to Jason Witten at AT&T Stadium, Prescott maneuvered the Cowboys down the field and faced third-and-7 from the Eagles 15, knowing he would be blitzed.

“We knew they were going all out,” Prescott said. “We knew they were bringing everybody. I made the protection call. The offensive line did a great job. I think a couple of guys made Superman blocks, blocking two guys at once. I just knew I had to get the ball out.”

The blitz came and Prescott rifled a throw to Cooper that was popped in the air with Rasul Douglas in coverage. Cooper came down with the pass, danced into the end zone and led the Cowboys to their fifth straight win.

In 2016 against the Eagles, Prescott completed all five of his passes for 56 yards before finding Witten. On Sunday, he completed all five of his overtime throws for 58 yards in the win.

The Eagles were only in the game because of Prescott’s mistakes and the Cowboys’ woeful execution in the red zone, a season-long problem.

In the second quarter, his string of passes without an interception ended at 165 when he tried to hit Cooper for a touchdown. In the third quarter, he overthrew a wide-open Michael Gallup on pass that was intercepted and set up the Eagles’ first touchdown drive.

The Eagles tied the game in the fourth quarter after Prescott lost his sixth fumble of the season on a Michael Bennett sack.

“I’ve got to stop fumbling in the pocket, point blank, period,” Prescott said. “That’s the one that’s going to bother me.”

But in the fourth quarter and overtime, Prescott was magic, except for missing Gallup for what could have been a touchdown. He completed 17 of 20 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns. He and Cooper were unstoppable, combining seven times for 163 yards and touchdowns of 28, 75 and 15 yards.

“I’m never going to give up. I’m never going to stop,” Prescott said. “When you have teammates and coaches that support you and push you and believe in you, then no matter what goes on, no matter the interceptions and no matter the fumbles, they always got your back. It just allows me to keep my eyes forward and focus on my goal.”

When the Cowboys got the ball to start of overtime, Prescott said he thought of the overtime game his rookie year.

“Some things just kind of happen that way,” he said “and I said, ‘I guess we just have to go finish it off the right way.’”

Somehow, he found a way. Somehow the Cowboys have gone from 3-5 to 8-5 and in control of winning the NFC East for the second time in Prescott’s three seasons.

“Man, he’s a warrior,” Ezekiel Elliott said. “I don’t think there’s any other way to describe him. Just the way he bounced back from all the adversity he had in the game, three turnovers, and the fact that he still sat in the pocket and very confident and very confident in the receivers and made those big plays when we needed them.”