Contained in Tony Romo’s mostly unnecessary speech earlier this week was a universal truth that mostly went overlooked. He built a great narrative arc in his prepared remarks, and just before he told the world that Dak Prescott has “earned the right to be our quarterback,” much to the delight of those looking for a key quote less than 140 characters, Romo told us that football is a meritocracy.
It was smart and timely, especially as some Americans in this democratic republic argue why we still have an electoral college. But Romo is right. Football is a system where those in power place people in positions based on their ability. And Prescott may not have Romo’s ability, but he has the wins, and that matters in today’s snap-judgment NFL.
Prescott led the Cowboys to their ninth straight win on the season, a 27–17 triumph over the Ravens, to go to 9–1 and remain in control of both their division and the NFC. It’s the longest single-season winning streak in the history of the proud franchise, Prescott is the face of it and Romo’s fade continues.
Prescott had his second consecutive 300-yard game, completing 27 of 36 passes and three touchdowns, and arguably more impressive, he didn’t throw an interception for the eighth game this season. But that doesn’t mean the mistakes weren’t there, though. Prescott’s first six incompletions were all products of inaccuracy, from high to wide to behind his intended targets. The CBS cutaways to Romo were plentiful.
But Prescott seemed to find his groove on a 41-yard pass to Brice Butler that got the Cowboys inside the 10 with 7:15 left in the second quarter. Three plays later Prescott hit Cole Beasley in the end zone to knot the game at seven.
Then came the confidence-boosting drive at the end of the half. Down 10–7, Prescott captained a two-minute drive that got Dan Bailey into field-goal range to again tie the game going into halftime. Prescott relied heavily on Dez Bryant’s coffee-table-sized hands for receptions of 16 and 26 on the drive.
Noticeably absent in the first half was Ezekiel Elliott. Coming into the game on Sunday, the Ravens’ rush defense was the best in the NFL, allowing less than 72 yards per game on the ground, and at halftime, it showed—the Ravens held the rookie RB to a season-low 26 first-half rushing yards.
It wouldn’t last. Elliott finished with 97 yards on 25 carries, as he continues to motor toward Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record.
Elliott’s “feed me” celebration will soon be ubiquitous. (The Cowboys seem to be on national TV more times than not, and with the NFL’s best record at 9–1 that won’t stop anytime soon.) The move itself is simple enough. Put your right hand up to your cheek with your elbow bent and move it counter-clockwise as if you’re scooping spoonfuls of delicious food into your mouth. Using that same arm, you then motion for a first down.
It’s much easier to perform than the dab—everyone’s favorite celebration last year (with the exception of Tennessee mothers). People with no rhythm can’t mess this up like they somehow did simply tucking your head into your bent arm. And since Elliott does it after every first down rather than, say, a touchdown, he’s guaranteed to be seen performing the act at least five times during a game.
Prescott and Elliott remain at the top of the offensive rookie of the year race, and both are still competing for the NFL MVP, too. Their next three games will all be played at 4:25 p.m. ET or later, ensuring all eyes will be on the Cowboys as we inch closer to football in January.
Each win puts more distance between Romo and the only franchise he’s known—both literally and figuratively. The more the Cowboys win with Prescott, the fewer times cameras will cut to No. 9 on the sideline. And with those wins, Romo’s exit from Dallas—possibly to Denver?—becomes more of a certainty.