By his own account he didn't play his best ball in the Cowboys' 33-13 steamrolling of the Philadelphia Eagles on "Sunday Night Football." In 2022, that would have likely meant an interception was tossed. For Prescott in 2023, that means his output of 271 passing yards and two touchdowns on 24-of-39 passing for a 99.4 passer rating could have been much more explosive.
"Solid enough to get the win," Prescott said of his performance postgame on Sunday. "I'm my biggest critic. I don't think I played, obviously not my best game. I'm a completions guy. I want to get completions, I want to get it rolling. There was a streak there that felt like 7 to 10 or so, a few incompletions in a row. But then we got it back going, we got it back on track. … We did enough to win, but I always want to be better."
While he didn't toss an interception, he was strip-sacked by Eagles Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, a play that ended with 2023 NFL Draft top-10 pick defensive tackle Jalen Carter running back a 42-yard fumble return touchdown. That's something that frustrated Prescott because he saw a potential for six points downfield.
"That was a touchdown play," Prescott said. "[Head coach] Mike [McCarthy] dialed up a great play right there. My eyes are downfield. I see if I can get half a second, a third of a second, more maybe. I'm about to get the ball off and really throw it with anticipation in that sense and so I had the ball kind of little low getting ready to hurl down the field when Fletcher [Cox] grabbed me. At that point, I think I was going for the tuck and just trying to tuck it away and it came out. That's football. I'm on the ground, watch it roll and watch the guy pick it up with a clean scoop.
"As I talked about my performance tonight, it was good enough to win but I hold myself to super high standards. If I play my best game, we were putting up 50 out there and, so, that's not going to change. And I'm going to keep pushing for that. That's the work that I put into this thing. That's the preparation that I do."
Prescott's preparation since the Cowboys' most embarrassing loss of the season, a 42-10 defeat at the San Francisco 49ers in Week 5, has led to the best quarterback play in the NFL since Week 6, a stretch of eight games that has vaulted him to the top of the league MVP conversation. The Cowboys have won seven of their last eight games in the stretch, and they avenged their sole loss in the span, a 28-23 defeat the Eagles in Week 9, with Sunday's victory. Prescott leads the NFL in nearly every key passing metric across his last eight games.
|Prescott stats (since Week 6)
* Among 30 quarterbacks with multiple pass TD in span
Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has regularly spoken about how his top regret as an owner is not getting a Tony Romo-led Cowboys squad to the mountain top, and he now said he would be just as frustrated if Prescott's presence didn't result in an eventual party with the Vince Lombardi trophy.
"Dak is a player who is qualified in every way to have a Super Bowl in his career," Jones said postgame Sunday. "I would say he's become the most valuable player right before our eyes in the last several months."
The Vegas oddsmakers agree with Jones. Prescott now has +170 odds to win NFL MVP, according to Caesar's Sportsbook, the best in the NFL. His numbers since Week 6 also put the 30-year-old quarterback in a select club as only the fifth quarterback in NFL history to throw 23 or more passing touchdowns and two or fewer interceptions in an eight-game span in a single season. Three of the five have taken home league MVP honors at the end of such seasons.
NFL players with 23+ touchdowns, two or fewer interceptions in eight-game span (single season)
|WON NFL MVP
"He's been the same guy since Day 1," Cowboys left guard Tyler Smith said postgame Sunday night. "Elite, elite, true leader through and through. He's playing his game. We take pride in that in the offensive line room. We protect Dak and make sure that he can do his job by us doing our job, so that's something that's helpful to you. It's a quite a high leverage opportunity to play at the level we're going to."
The level McCarthy's Cowboys are on is that of their Super Bowl-winning predecessors from the 1990s. After reaching their 10th victory this season, Dallas has posted three consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins. The last time the Cowboys did that was a six-season stretch from 1991-1996 in which they had three Super Bowl-winning seasons (1992, 1993, 1995). Those aren't expectations Prescott is shying away from even though the team hasn't reached the NFC Conference Championship game since that final championship season in 1995.
"That's what I play for, what this team plays for," Prescott said. "Talking about a common goal. I've always mentioned that. That's what this team has their eyes set on. But obviously, we have to take it one game at a time. ...Yeah, I mean they did a great job with defense. Don't get me wrong, that's a good team over there and they did a great job. They had a good plan of trying to make us go the long way maybe taking a lead, had jumpers early in the game, tip ball. A couple of passes were a little off. Just hearing that, credit to those guys, but as I said, we did enough. I did enough to win, but because my expectations are on that common goal for this team, I always want to play to my best."
According to Caesars, Dallas is tied with the Eagles at +750 odds for the fourth-best chance to win the Super Bowl this season, trailing the San Francisco 49ers (+250), the Baltimore Ravens (+575) and the Miami Dolphins (+700). If Dallas (10-3) wins out and the Eagles (10-3) drop a game, they could take home the NFC East division title. Those Super Bowl odds indicate the Cowboys have a legitimate shot at eternal football glory in 2023. Those prospects run through Prescott's mind daily.
"Every day, that's part of running our own race," Prescott said when asked about the last time he dwelled upon the idea of winning it all. "Every day. I've got different reminders throughout my daily routine. Things that I'm aware of perhaps. Alarms that I set. Different things throughout, but it just allows me to keep the goal in front of my mind. Allows me to be disciplined. You talk about sacrifice. You talk about doing something that you may not want to do at the time but doing it like you love it. When you have those little reminders and you have things like that, that just helps. Just locked in, focused. We have a great team, a great support system around that's doing the exact same thing and playing the part."
Right now, he's playing the part of NFL MVP. Should that level continue, AT&T Stadium may see once again what a Mike McCarthy offense piloted by a league MVP caliber of quarterback looks like: a Super Bowl champion.