Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy knows what the statistics say.
He knows what the numbers are. He also knows what he knows as a quarterback whisperer for two Hall of Famers in Joe Montana and a future one in Aaron Rodgers.
And most importantly he knows what he sees from Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
And while the rest of the world points to Prescott’s rash of interceptions of late — seven in the last four games, including two in last Sunday’s 40-34 overtime loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars that was sealed on a 52-yard walk off tipped pick- six by Rayshawn Jenkins — and sees a mistake-prone quarterback, McCarthy’s grading system tells a different story.
“I know I can stand here with confidence and tell you the quarterback position is graded with extreme detail,” McCarthy said. “Dak Prescott played at an extremely high level [against the Jaguars]. Extremely high level. Just go watch the tape. You got to go deeper than the statistics. I mean statistics point directions, highlight things, but sometimes it doesn’t tell the whole story.”
Owner Jerry Jones agreed with McCarthy.
He said Prescott played outstanding against the Jaguars.
“If he will play like that we can win most games,” Jones said on his radio show on 105.3 the Fan Tuesday.
Prescott began the game completing 15 of his first 16 passes with two touchdowns in the first half to help the Cowboys jump out to a 21-7 halftime lead against the Jaguars.
He had a bad third quarter interception that led to a Jaguars touchdown
But he also threw a touchdown pass to Noah Brown in the fourth quarter to put the Cowboys in the lead 34-31.
The game went into overtime and Prescott appeared to be driving the Cowboys towards a game-winning score when disaster struck.
On third-and-three from the 47-yard line, Prescott’s pass hit Brown in the hands. Not only did he not come up with the catch for a first down, but he tipped it up in the air into the waiting arms of Jenkins, who ended the game with the walk-off score.
“The first interception that was a decision that you’ve got to just take the sack there,” McCarthy said. “But other than that, you know, he made a second base throw on the second interception. That ball was placed right where it needed to be.”
McCarthy and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore reiterated that Prescott “played at an extremely high level” in the game.
Prescott’s final stat line saw him complete 23 of 30 passes for 256 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions and a quarterback rating of 107.1
“I thought he threw the ball well for so much of that game and gave us a great opportunity with three touchdowns,” Moore said. “Ultimately the last interception was a very unique set of circumstances. And, so, it’s frustrating when you see a guy play the type of game that he played. I felt like he was doing a great job getting a bunch of completions and finding, making awesome, awesome decisions throughout the game, and ultimately the two interceptions in that category, as a QB, it doesn’t feel good and it doesn’t look good from the outside world.”
McCarthy says the interceptions were unfortunate but he doesn’t want Prescott to change his approach to the game.
The Cowboys lead the league in points scored, third-down conversions and yards since Prescott returned to the lineup after missing five games with a fractured thumb.
Prescott, whose touchdown to interception ratio of 17-11 is the highest in the league, has also thrown the most interceptions in the NFL during that time but the Cowboys have won six of eight games and have already clinched a playoff spot with a 10- 4 marks with three games remaining.
“And most importantly – most importantly – he needs to keep firing,” McCarthy said. “He needs to keep going. So let’s make that clear. Because we’re not slowing down.”
The Cowboys still have an outside shot at the NFC East title heading into Saturday’s showdown against the division-leading Philadelphia Eagles (13-1).
This story was originally published December 20, 2022 7:59 AM.