Prescott finished 17 of 37 for 165 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Coming into the game, he had 19 touchdowns and just two picks. He looked out of sorts all evening -- and some of the credit has to go to the Giants' defense -- but it was no doubt a worrisome sight for Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones, who originally hedged on the idea that Tony Romo wouldn't return to the starting lineup before finally relenting in the face of overwhelming evidence.
So naturally, Prescott's job status is an issue, one that coach Jason Garrett will no doubt face for the rest of the season, whether it ends in mid-January or early February.
"You can make it as simple or as complex as you want to make it," Garrett explained Monday. "It's pretty simple for us: Dak's going to play quarterback as we go forward."
Seems reasonable enough; Prescott, by just about any measure, is one of the league's best quarterbacks this season. He entered Sunday's game ranked No. 1 in Football Outsiders' value-per-play metric among quarterbacks, and he grades out as the No. 11 quarterback, according to Pro Football Focus.
Is there room to get better?
But there has to, you know, be room. You can't bench him at the first sign of trouble, a reality Garrett understands.
"He's done a really good job for us up to this point, won 11 of 13 games that he's started, and he's handled really every situation as well as you can handle it," the coach said. "So we'll just continue that way. Tony will be in a backup role for us and he'll be ready to go if he's called upon to play. But Dak's done an outstanding job up to this point. [I'm] excited to see him continue to play."
But here's the deal: Any hiccup could cause the sometimes impetuous Jones to rethink his plans, which explains this tweet from CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora late in Sunday night's game:
Dak is playing rookie ball tonite. We're about to find out how patient Jerry is. They get stifled by the Bucs and I bet it's Romo Time— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) December 12, 2016
This is the second straight week a defense has had success against the Cowboys' passing game. Last week, it was the Vikings, but on Sunday, the Giants took discombobulating Dak to another level.
So what happened? When ESPN analyst and former NFL safety Matt Bowen describes it, it sounds simple:
Blitz Collins & play the sticks in the secondary. You know the ball has to come out. Don't back-pedal. Sit on the route.— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) December 12, 2016
The truth is, you need a tenacious front four and a just-as-tenacious secondary, both of which the Giants have, even with the absence of Jason Pierre-Paul.
If we were to offer Jones a reason for optimism (and perhaps a reason to step away from the ledge), it would be this: The Cowboys still have the league's best offensive line, they still have Ezekiel Elliott, and there's also this little nugget.
Wanna know how bad QB was today?— Adam Pfeifer (@APfeifer24) December 12, 2016
Russell Wilson, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger combined for 1 TD, 11 interceptions.