One fumble, two fumble, red fumble, blue fumble, he fumbled -- you fumble. In essence, that's a very Dr. Seussian way of summing up the first quarter for the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2, as they coughed up a total of four fumbles in the first 15 minutes -- losing three of them -- to help propel the Atlanta Falcons to a 20-0 lead. Things were way out of hand and the odds of the former somehow climbing out of a 20-point whirlpool to defeat the latter were laughable at best, but then it happened, and what Dak Prescott was able to do in conjunction with big plays from his compatriots will be discussed from now until an asteroid strikes the Earth.
The Cowboys outscored the Falcons 10-9 in the second quarter, 14-0 in the third and 16-10 in the fourth. For those of you doing the math at home, that's a final of 40-39 -- Dallas having reached into the mandibles of defeat and escaped with a victory.
In doing so, the Falcons are now tied to yet another of the more catastrophic failures in NFL history, the most prominent being the infamous 28-3 collapse in Super Bowl LI against the New England Patriots that ended in a 34-28 victory for Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. This time they can thank Prescott for the rotting albatross they were forced to shove into their carry-on luggage on Monday morning, the two-time Pro Bowler amassing 450 yards and four touchdowns in also gaining his 15th career game-winning drive and ninth fourth quarter comeback -- becoming the first player in NFL history to throw for more than 400 yards in addition to rushing for three touchdowns.
On Sunday, he tied Tony Romo,, for the most games in franchise history with 400 yards or more passing (5) -- three in 2019 alone -- and the first in team's storied 60-year history to rush for three touchdowns in a single game. For added spice, Prescott now also has six games in his last 19 regular season start wherein he's thrown for more than 380 yards, long debunking the myth of dink and dunk.
Is that good? That seems good.
But wait, there's more.
With starting right tackle La'El Collins on injured reserve and , the pre-game smelled like smoke reminiscent of "The Burning in Atlanta" from 2017. Prescott was sacked a career-worst eight times in that contest in the absence of Smith, but took the win from the Falcons in 2020 with undrafted players at both left and right tackle. With Terence Steele (rookie) and Brandon Knight (Year 2) manning the posts, even thought the first quarter looked like Prescott was standing behind subway turnstiles in Manhattan. That's when he and the Cowboys went uptempo -- keeping the pass rush at bay and putting their first touchdown on the board to start the second period.
From there, they stayed focused, yielded no additional turnovers and climbed Mount Everest one step at a time.
"Credit the offensive line," said Prescott, refusing to take full credit for the win, via the team's website. "Two were quarterback sneaks -- they allowed me to get in. And credit those receivers. They went out there and continued to get open.
"Yeah sure, I had to find them and I had to make some plays here and there, but that was a team win all the way around."
While that reply is both fair and admirable, the bottom line is the Falcons got Rayned on.
"No matter what the score is, Dak always has that same mentality -- that we're going to be able to come back and win that game," Ezekiel Elliott said of Prescott's legendary performance. "And he's going to lead us to come back and do that. For him to go out there and be as clutch as he was and make the plays that he made, him and those receivers -- it's special."
The biggest difference in Week 2 over Week 1 (or several critical games in 2019) was the lack of drops by Prescott's receiving targets, with big plays coming by way of Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup and even backup tight end Dalton Schultz, the latter having a career game in his first start in the absence of Blake Jarwin. Time and again, they reeled in and held onto timely and accurate passes from Prescott, and his ability to punish the Falcons on the ground combined with Elliott having done the same en route to a comeback fueled by both sides of the ball.
But let's not forget special teams, a unit that's been abysmal for the Cowboys entering 2020.
The team needed every phase of the game to begin firing on all cylinders in the fourth quarter to make the historic victory happen, and that included a wild onside kick recovery that saw the Falcons staring at the ball as if it were a baby duck trying to cross the road, and Greg Zuerlein following that up with a game-winning 46-yard boot after a crisp route by Lamb that sent the defenders ankles to the nearest urgent care center -- instantly deleting two botched fake punts from the unit earlier in the game.
What happened on Sunday at AT&T Stadium can't simply be dismissed as luck for the Cowboys, because they had zero of it when they were coughing up fumbles left and right -- if that's your argument. Nor can it be discounted by the fact the Falcons defense began to stack injuries, considering the Cowboys have nine players on injured reserve (a league-high) with five of them being starters, and with a sixth in Tyron Smith inactive for Week 2.
No, instead of feverishly trying to identify reasons as to why they were able to avoid losing, take a moment and look at the minutia of what it took for them to win, because it's all right in front of you.
Was it pretty? No. Can they be better? Presumably so, and they'll only get healthier as guys return from IR over the next several weeks. Until then, Mike McCarthy Los Angeles Rams rings ever true heading into Week 3, after he got his first view of what Prescott can do when they're wearing the same colors. All told, the Cowboys are only a few mistakes and some poor NFL officiating from being 2-0, and after not having minicamp or preseason to acclimate to their new head coach, his coaching staff, or installs on both offense and defense (not to mention hefty infusion of new personnel on the d-line and in the secondary).loss to the
Clean up the errors and they won't have to overcome a -4 turnover margin to get a W, which isn't much to ask.
"We put ourselves as players in a hole by not taking care of the ball, so we had to go out there and just stay at it -- stay believing in the game plan, stay believing in one another," Prescott said.
The Cowboys didn't take their first lead over the Falcons until there was only four seconds left on the clock, and it's because of what Prescott so astutely points out: they never said die, and never stopped believing they could do the unthinkable. Teams were 440-0 when scoring 39 points and having zero turnovers going into Week 2 of this young NFL season. They're now 440-1, because the game isn't over until the clock says so.
Just win, baby.