Teams in the National Football League do not find success in moral victories. Ultimately, teams have to put enough tallies in the win column in order to capture the ultimate prize.
But if the Dallas Cowboys and their fans needed a moral victory, last Thursday was exactly the time for one.
Dak Prescott showed everyone that he's worth every penny of the four-year, $160 million contract he signed earlier this year. And with Thursday's performance, not only has he made himself the far-and-away favorite for the Comeback Player of the Year just one week into the season, Dak has thrust himself into the MVP discussion.
As Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore said on Monday: “He stood in there strong, he took some shots, delivered and didn’t flinch.”
Prescott was simply sensational in his return to the field after missing the vast majority of 2020 with one of the nastiest ankle/leg injuries you'll see on the gridiron. Prior to the injury, Dak was putting faith in so many that questioned whether or not he was the guy to carry the mantle as the franchise quarterback of America's Team. He was on a blistering pace in passing yards, coming off a 4,900-yard season the year prior. When a quarterback with Dak's skill set goes down with such a severe injury, then has a shoulder issue in training camp, skepticism was warranted.
Dak put all of that to rest in Week 1.
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Sure, the stat line is sexy. But this goes beyond what the box score says. Prescott and the Cowboys faced serious adversity to open the 2021 season. Not only did Dak have to answer the questions surrounding him, but there was the added pressure of opening the season on the road against the defending Super Bowl champions. In addition, it was the first NFL game with a packed house since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the sports world.
Even in game, Dak and the Cowboys faced plenty of adversity. But Prescott found his form seamlessly, established his rapport with Amari Cooper and the receiving corps, and led his troops into the adversity. And they nearly upset Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which would have been the exclamation point the Cowboys desired to put the league on notice.
"We can be great and come up short," Prescott said on Thursday. "I feel like that's what tonight was. It was a great effort, but we came up short. We want to be the best."
To be the best in today's NFL, you need to have a quarterback. Plain, pure and simple. Sure, there are plenty of other variables and football is the ultimate team game. But Super Bowl hopes live and die on the shoulder of a franchise — maybe even an MVP-caliber — quarterback.
And that shoulder of Dak Prescott (not to mention the ankle) looks to be just fine.
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