Sunday’s Cowboys-Jaguars battle in the swamp had all the makings of a trap game before kickoff, but none of those same makings when Dallas was swarming, up 27-10, and beginning to pull away midway through the third quarter.
Things changed on a dime when Trevor Lawrence rediscovered a path the end zone with a quick strike before the Jacksonville defense stepped up, smothered Dak Prescott, and forced him into a game-changing turnover deep in his own territory. Even an illegal block on the interception return couldn’t halt Jacksonville’s momentum; two more unanswered touchdowns followed, giving the Jags a four-point lead.
All that meant was that it was time for Prescott and Co. to engage in the same way they had the week prior against the Houston Texans. The Jaguars are a more formidable foe, but none of that mattered now. One drive to go win a game. One drive to give yourself a chance. What have you got?
Unfortunately, it took a few more drives than that to get to an answer here. Noah Brown’s wave goodbye to the crowd with 3:02 remaining discounted the Jaguars offense’s ability to regroup. It discounted Kellen Moore’s ill-advised third down throw with a chance to salt away the win late after Jayron Kearse’s forced fumble. It discounted the randomness of the game of football, where a tipped ball can turn into a walkoff while you’re busy blinking.
The Cowboys lost a game they should’ve won Sunday afternoon in Jacksonville, and turned these would-be heroes into footnotes.
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – DECEMBER 18: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys hands off the ball to Ezekiel Elliott #21 during the first quarter of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on December 18, 2022 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images)
3. Dak Prescott
Forget the earlier interception that, yes, turned the game on its head. Dak Prescott was at his very best on the final scoring drive in this one.
He converted on not one, but two short keepers to sustain the offense’s momentum. He found CeeDee Lamb in space to get Dallas near midfield and ignite their progress. And, of course, he spun out of significant trouble on 3rd & 6 near the red zone and delivered a perfect strike to Noah Brown, who secured Prescott’s laser and gave Dallas the lead.
Discount the competition all you want. Look down on the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars, two below-average defenses. But whether it was 98 yards or a clock-chewing counter jab after Jacksonville had stolen all momentum, Prescott made winning plays two weeks running, and timed them perfectly to result in maximum drama.
The Minnesota Vikings keep getting credit for digging up “the will to win,” don’t they? Never mind that they went down 33-0 to the Colts; they stirred up something at halftime and regrouped.
Prescott won’t get the same credit because of a wayward bounce on the final drive of overtime. Disaster.