It's officially the Andy Dalton show in North Texas for the remainder of the 2020 season, and he's already passed his first test in continuing and finishing the rally started by Dak Prescott against the New York Giants in Week 5. When Prescott went down with a gruesome ankle injury that's now been surgically repaired -- a compound fracture with dislocation -- in the third quarter, Dalton entered the game and was forced to overcome an early lost fumble en route to going nine for 11 on pass attempts for 111 yards and a 108.7 passer rating.
He had no touchdown passes, but did have two consecutive game-changing throws to Michael Gallup to set up Greg Zuerlein for a game-winning field goal -- doing just enough to lift the team to 2-3 atop the NFC East. His next test will be a much more daunting one though, as he readies for his first start with the Cowboys against the visiting Arizona Cardinals. A team that boasts firepower on both sides of the ball, it's eight-time pro bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson who could give him fits.
When asked the formula for defeating the Cowboys sans Prescott, Peterson pointed squarely at Dalton.
"Stop the run," Peterson to CBS Sports analyst Bryant McFadden on the 'All Things Covered' podcast. "Definitely gotta stop the run and force -- not saying he can't do it -- but we have to force Andy Dalton to beat us. We feel if you take the ball out of Ezekiel Elliott's hands, there's more opportunities for bad things to happen if the ball is in the air."
Peterson did want to make it clear his comments are not in any way shade being thrown at Dalton, though.
"Andy Dalton is a very, very serviceable backup," said the four-time All-Pro. "I saw a crazy stat that said Andy has like 31,000 passing yards. It's not a lot of backups that -- technically, he's not a backup. He could be a starter in this league. He was a starter in this league and he has starter numbers. To have a guy that's a starter as your backup, that's huge.
"I believe coach Mike McCarthy did the right thing by going out and getting a better [backup] QB, just in case something like this did occur."
Outside of Tony Romo landing in the backup role behind Prescott in 2016 due to preseason injury that fueled the changing of the guard at the position, the Cowboys haven't had a backup as qualified as Dalton in several years. Their refusal to address the issue cost them mightily at times in the past, including the 2015 season that saw a carousel of bad quarterbacks muster just one win in 12 tries absent an injured Romo. One of the first orders of business for McCarthy was to change that storyline going forward, which led to the team moving on from undrafted and uneven Cooper Rush to make room for Dalton on a one-year deal.
Dalton, a three-time Pro Bowler in his own right, is 70-61-2 as a regular season starter with 31,705 passing yards and 204 touchdowns to 118 interceptions.
It's his 0-4 career postseason record that has some wondering what he might or might not do come January, but the first order of business is winning games in October through December. Peterson will have a say in that mission come Monday and, for his money, he likes the Cardinals chances if the game is in Dalton's hands instead of Elliott's.