Dak Prescott amplifies Cowboys' Tony Romo question in win over Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. – “Tony’s team”?

Even the owner, who one week ago was sure of it, seems to be hedging his bets now.

Perhaps that is because rookie quarterback Dak Prescott aced a big test on Sunday -- on the road, against a perceived NFC conference contender, and again without the team’s best receiver.

Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys carved up the Green Bay Packers, 30-16, Sunday night in front of a nationally-televised audience.

Now, more questions linger about whether the team should stick with Prescott, or return to veteran Tony Romo, who continues to recover from a broken bone in his back, but is expected back after the team’s bye next week.

“We’re going to have the luxury of having Romo past the bye, we’re going to have the luxury of having Romo, when he does get on the field very healthy,” owner Jerry Jones said. “We would not compromise that. We might have, had Dak not been playing as well as he’s been playing.

“What we won’t know is what is the very best time, relative to his injury, his conditioning, what is the very best time for him to be on the field? On the other hand, we’ve got an opportunity in Dak to go out there and win these football games, which he is doing.”

That’s a departure from his statement after last week’s 28-14 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals that “Tony is our No. 1 quarterback.”

When a reporter noted Sunday night that it was the first time Jones hadn’t said that, Jones bristled and asked for words not to be put in his mouth.

Sure, the NFL’s most effective offensive line and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott’s turf-chewing production make Prescott’s job easier.

But Prescott’s efficient, take-what-the-defense-gives play has Dallas’ offense surging with momentum.

Asked whether he could say unequivocally who would start, Jones deflected, but noted that it wouldn’t be difficult to pull Prescott. “As far as it’s hard to have this situation, it’s not hard at all,” Jones said. “This is not hard times.”

But Prescott has the Cowboys sitting atop the NFC East at 5-1, and sparks the Cowboys to hot starts.

Out of six opening offensive drives this season, Dallas has now scored in five of them, after he completed all four of his passes in the first series Sunday, culminating with a one-yard touchdown grab by receiver Cole Beasley.

In six first quarters so far this year, Prescott and the Cowboys have scored 37 points. In six first halves, they’ve posted 98 points.

In most games, that has been enough.

Prescott protects the ball.

With another careful and calculated showing, the rookie broke Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s NFL record for most passing attempts without an interception to start a career. The record stood at 162, and after Prescott tossed the first pick of his career late in the third quarter, it now sits at 176 attempts to start a career without an interception.

Asked whether he could say unequivocally who would start, Jones deflected, but noted that it wouldn’t be difficult to pull Prescott. “As far as it’s hard to have this situation, it’s not hard at all,” Jones said. “This is not hard times.”

But Prescott has the Cowboys sitting atop the NFC East at 5-1, and the rookie has sparked the Cowboys to hot starts.

Out of six opening offensive drives this season, Dallas has now scored in five of them, after he completed all four of his passes in the first series Sunday, culminating with a one-yard touchdown grab by receiver Cole Beasley.

In six first quarters so far this year, Prescott and the Cowboys have scored 37 points. In six first halves, they’ve posted 98 points.

In most games, that has been enough.

“He is unbelievable,” Cowboys safety Barry Church said. “What makes him so impressive is that he is calm and cool. He doesn’t force the ball to anybody. If you look at the stats, he spreads the ball around. He is so smart. He knows when to check it down or change the play to a run. He is beyond his years and I am excited he is with us.”

Prescott protects the ball.

With another careful and calculated showing, the rookie broke Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s NFL record for most passing attempts without an interception to start a career. The record stood at 162, and after Prescott tossed the first pick of his career late in the third quarter, it now sits at 176 attempts to start a career without an interception.

Said running back Ezekiel Elliott: “He is a poised kid.”

Prescott did fumble the ball twice Sunday, losing one. But offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has highlighted his young quarterback’s strengths.
Perhaps most importantly, however, Prescott stays on the field.

At least, he has so far.

He and Romo are different players. Prescott provides a rushing threat, and the Cowboys sprinkle in the difficult-to-defend zone read plays that can confuse defenses.

Romo?

He is a veteran, and still a top QB when healthy. But if you include the preseason, he has broken a bone in three of the last five games he has played.

“It’s competitive,” Prescott told reporters after the game. “Everybody wants to be on the field. But as I’ve always said: It’s not my call. This is Tony’s team and I’m just here to help my team win each and every game that I can.”

So the Cowboys continue, headed to their bye, and the mystery lingers. Jones remains steadfast that Romo will return at some point. But what if when that time comes, when Romo’s “really healthy,” what if his presence disrupts the momentum Dallas has toiled to achieve?

“This is pretty stable, to say the very least,” Jones said. “Thanks to Jason Garrett. I don’t think that personnel decisions have the proverbial sensitivity or fragileness, even though the quarterback position is distinctly a different position on the team. I don’t see this team, this staff – I don’t see anybody around here – Tony or Dak that fragile. At all.”

Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.


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