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Cowboys' Prescott risked injury, re-weaponized legs on gritty 25-yard QB sneak vs Bears: 'You asked for it, and you got it'

A week after all eyes were on Dak Prescott’s right thumb in his return to action, the Cowboys quarterback reminded everyone about his legs.

Prescott kicked off the Week 8 scoring bonanza for Dallas with a seven-yard carry, finishing in the end zone for the 26th rushing touchdown of his career and his first in almost a full calendar year.

“He’s just a really smart runner in the red zone,” offensive coordinator Kellen Moore said of Prescott’s scoring run the day after the Cowboys’ 49-29 win. “I think he’s always done that, for as long as he’s been here. He had the opportunity to pull it, I thought our guys up front did a great job blocking, leading him.”

A quarterback keeper out of the shotgun to cap off the game’s opening drive may have seemed like an unusual play call, but it wasn’t at all random.

A week prior, as Prescott reclaimed the starting quarterback job from Cooper Rush after rehabbing a fractured thumb on his throwing hand, it was Cowboys owner Jerry Jones who had said what he really wanted to see from his returning passer was more running.

“I’d like to see him get more chances with [run-pass options],” Jones told Yahoo Sports. “Because to me, that does a lot of things that gets him out of the pocket. I think that’s some of his best football. And I think that gives him edge.”

Enough edge, in fact, that this week after the victory over the Bears, Prescott admitted that he was sending a very conscious message to management as he crossed the goal line.

“When I stuck my arms out,” he said, “that was for Jerry: ‘Here you go. You asked for it, and you got it.'”

Prescott is no stranger to touchdown carries; he walked it in three times in a 2020 game versus Atlanta and has 26 total for his 88-game career.

“I know that I can run the ball,” Prescott said Sunday, “which is just going to open up the offense and the running game more.”

But what he may not have realized was that he’d be opening up the running game… for himself.

Early in the second quarter, up 14-7, the Cowboys offense found itself facing a 3rd-and-1 just past midfield. It was the kind of situation the team had been focusing on of late: converting third downs to first downs, maintaining possession, sustaining drives, moving the chains.

Prescott tucked the ball and ran headlong into the scrum of bodies in front of him, looking to just eke out the yard needed.

Instead, he improbably squirted free and was looking at a whole lot of daylight.

“I had my head down, just trying to get the first down,” Prescott explained. “I
was just moving my feet, and I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, nobody’s touched me yet,’ and I looked up, and it was just me and the safety. Going for a QB sneak untouched, 20 yards down the field, is a credit to those guys and everybody.”

He picked up 25 yards. According to Touchdown Wire and Sports Info Solutions, that one run represents over 10% of the entire NFL’s total quarterback sneak yardage thus far in 2022.

And the Cowboys made it count. Tony Pollard took the ball 18 yards to the end zone on the very next snap to give Dallas a two-touchdown lead.

“You’ve got to extend plays in this league,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy told media members this week. “When you talk about the fundamentals of professional football, big-play opportunity generation and production is critical. You can’t win in this league without making big plays. You can’t score points on offense going 10-, 11-, 12-, 13-play drives every time. You need big plays. Extended plays from the quarterback position is a big part of that. It was the coolest quarterback sneak I think I’ve ever been a part of, the way he came out of there.”

The short-yardage sneak turned into the third-longest run of Prescott’s pro career, trailing only a 28-yarder against Jacksonville in 2018 and a 42-yard rush recorded against Washington in 2019. Perhaps more important, it was Prescott’s longest run since coming back from his 2020 ankle dislocation and compound fracture.

For a frightening fraction of a second at the end of the run, though, Prescott looked like he was going to try to do too much and lay a stiff-arm on approaching Chicago safety Eddie Jackson. Replays seem to indicate he thought better of it at the last moment, much to the relief of his teammates, who just got him back from a hand injury.

“I’m not a fan of that,” receiver CeeDee Lamb shared. “I’m not, and I’ll be the first to say that. I mean, that was great that we got the first down, et cetera. But I’m not… not really nervous, I just don’t know what’s going to happen. I have all of the faith in my quarterback; I’m sure no one else is a fan of that either.”

Moore joked about it in his weekly press conference.

“Yeah, he’s going to get me in trouble,” Moore laughed.

As it was, Prescott didn’t come away from the ensuing tackle completely unscathed.

Jackson stepped on Prescott’s non-throwing hand after hurling him to the sideline turf. Thankfully, the wound seemed to be just superficial.

It was a tough and gritty run that checked a lot of boxes: for the Dallas offense as a unit, for Prescott personally, for Cowboys fans waiting to see if No. 4 could still be an effective dual-threat, even for Jerry Jones.

“I thought Dak played his best game of the year,” McCarthy summed up.

Prescott could always utilize his legs before his ankle injury; now he’s shown that weapon is still very much in his arsenal.

“I know who I am, and I know what I am capable of,” Prescott said.

He ended the day with only five carries for 34 yards. But between the I’m-baa-ack touchdown and the sucker-punch QB sneak that traveled a quarter of the field, Prescott made the most of his ground-game opportunities.

“He’s going to mix in a few of them here and there,” said Moore. “He’s not going to be the 15-attempt guy, but he’s going to get a couple when we need it.”

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