William Shakespeare couldn't write a better script than the one set to unfold on Sunday at AT&T Stadium. The words "revenge game" are tossed around quite a bit in sports, with varying degrees of accuracy. Sometimes it's a player returning to battle a team they felt wronged by, and other times it's a coach in a similar situation. Few revenge games will ever contain the poignancy, nuance and timing of the one heading to Arlington, Texas this weekend though, when Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys take the field against the visiting New York Giants.
That's because it was Week 5 of the 2020 season when Prescott suffered a season-ending compound ankle fracture that also ultimately ended the Cowboys season as well and, now, they'll take on the same opponent, on the same field, in the same football week -- 364 days later.
Prescott is in line to land some poetic justice if he can dismantle the Giants en route to a 4-1 start, exorcising one final demon in his recovery and return to football. In a battle between the Capulets and the Montagues, Prescott is playing the part of Romeo, hoping to woo Juliet (i.e., his fourth straight win) into his embrace.
"I feel like I've healed well," he told media on Thursday. "The scars are pretty. I've got a bunch of them and they mean something, and they remind me. As I've said, it's really what I'm thankful for is the person that I've become after the scar I have."
Speaking of scars, Prescott and the Cowboys offense are leaving plenty of those on opposing defenses each week, and that's without being whole as wideout Michael Gallup readies to return soon from injured reserve. Currently, they're ranked third in yards per game (420.8) and fourth in points per game (31.5), behind only the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs -- second in the NFC in both categories. They're also getting a ton of help from a defensive unit that was a franchise-worst in several categories last season but has now been turned around by defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who runs a unit .
And even after hanging 36 points on the vaunted Carolina Panthers defense in Week 4, Prescott believes the Cowboys "left some meat on the bone", and he's looking to make sure the bone is scraped to the marrow when when Giants take the field. When asked if he feels as if he's in his bag right now, Prescott answered, with no double-speak.
To be or not to be, that is the question.
"Sure," he said. "I mean, yea, I would say so. I put a lot into this. I've made a bigger bag, I guess, and I'm able to reach into there.
"At that point, this whole offense is. There's a lot of guys that are playing the best that they've played. And as I've said, it's what they've put into it. It's what they've invested into themselves and into this team, into this offense, and we're able to lean on each other when maybe we don't have something in our bag, I guess you could say. We can lean on one another and count on the other guy.
"I think that's why we're balanced right now."
Prescott was swept by the Giants as a rookie in 2016, but has since won seven straight, including the Week 5 contest last season that he didn't finish, but did start. Now 7-2 against Big Blue and looking to stretch the streak to eight consecutive victories, Prescott harkens back to the aforementioned sweep as motivation for what drives him when he sees the Giants on the other sideline -- adding that to the more prevailing fuel of what took place on Oct. 11, 2020.
"I think about [how they swept me as a rookie]," said Prescott. "That was the first team -- they gave me a headache my rookie year and I let that set in. I just think over the time, obviously having [offensive coordinator Kellen Moore], having the continuity, just know that those guys are doing. That's a divisional opponent you get to play twice.
"Obviously, they've been through some different coaches. But overall, the way we've built this team I believe, and the way that the front office has built it with the offensive line. We established the run against them time and time again. We've taken advantage of our matchups outside when we need to."
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That last tidbit isn't something the Giants will be able to key in on though, considering Prescott made it clear earlier in the week he believes the Cowboys can defeat opponents with the pass or the run, and they're proving it. In his last three outings, two-time NFL rushing champ Ezekiel Elliott has amassed 356 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns, and he's averaging 4.2 yards after contact over his last two outings (4.95 YPC versus the Panthers defensive front).
"I mean, I've seen a lot of good Zeke," said Prescott. "And there's a lot left to be. I would say yes just for him being older, him being experienced, him knowing the whole offense and he could get back there and do the things I need to do mentally from the way he focused and how intelligent of a football player he is. You add that to the shape he's in, everything he's put into this offseason and this season? Yeah, definitely.
"There's going to be more of those performances to come."
Plug in the dynamic ability of Tony Pollard to complement that and the Giants will have their hands full on that front, while also having to keep up with Prescott, who himself is off to a blazing start and now has a familiar Giant-killer back in the mix as well -- namely tight end Blake Jarwin. None of this is to say the Giants won't/can't make things difficult for the Cowboys this coming Sunday, but it is to say they'll have to take the gloves off and ready themselves for an extremely motivated offense, led by a quarterback who still remembers his rookie year losses from Big Blue, let alone his season-ending injury a year ago; along with a defense that is the best in the league at taking the ball away.
It's a rare occurrence that the Cowboys see both sides play such complementary football and, until further notice, they're the frontrunners in a division. The Giants have a chance to send a message by potentially cracking their armor in Week 5, but Prescott is driven and locked in like never before. So when it comes to sending a message of his own to the Giants this week, he's looking to do so with a loud and noticeable "bang".
The rest is silence.
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