Cowboys’ schedule about to get tough

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott speaks to reporters after an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Hodde)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott speaks to reporters after an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Hodde)

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys seem weary of questions about how -- and why -- they've play so well since getting blown out in San Francisco almost seven weeks ago.

With the schedule about to get tougher again, the evidence of that foundation-shaking loss as a tipping point is hard to ignore.

The Cowboys (8-3) have won five of six games since then, including a late runaway in a 45-10 Thanksgiving victory over Washington, and their quarterback has 18 touchdown passes with two interceptions since one of the worst games of his eight-year career.

It should be noted that Dallas hasn't beaten a team currently with a winning record, and that the next five opponents are sitting above .500 at the moment. Seattle (6-5) is the first of those on Thursday.

Regardless, the Cowboys could have let that puzzling performance in the Bay Area -- against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs each of the past two seasons -- send them spiraling.

Actually, it did -- except it's been up instead of down in Mike McCarthy's debut as the play-caller in his fourth season as Dallas' head coach.

"I don't know that I could just put my finger right on it and say this is the why," Prescott said. "As much as I've talked about the new system and the new play-calling, we know what we want to do. We know how we want to attack. We're running plays that we've ran since the spring."

Prescott and McCarthy got the same question after beating the Commanders, and settled on the same biggest reason about halfway through their answers. Prescott hasn't been sacked in three consecutive games, a first for the 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

"I think that's where it starts," Prescott said of his offensive line. "The way they're protecting, giving me time to take shots down the field, allowing me to extend plays."

The lone loss since the 42-10 defeat to the 49ers was a five-point setback in Philadelphia, the defending NFC champion, and current NFC East leader after winning the division last season.

The Cowboys felt they let one get away at the Eagles. The rematch looms after the visit from the Seahawks in the last of three consecutive home games.

Dallas has a 13-game winning streak at AT&T Stadium, the club's longest since an 18-game run at old Texas Stadium from 1979-81.

"Yes," owner and General Manager Jerry Jones said when asked if his team could end a 28-year run without even a trip to the NFC Championship Game and win the franchise's sixth Super Bowl title.

"There's four or five others at least that can win it, too, that are sitting there that some of them we've got to play," Jones said. "But this team is certainly capable of winning the whole thing."

WHAT'S WORKING

In a 33-10 victory at Carolina this past Sunday, the Cowboys had nine receivers with at least two catches despite just 189 yards passing from Prescott. In his 331-yard effort against the Commanders, 10 receivers had at least one catch apiece.

Prescott even got a completion from a different receiver than the intended target when rookie Jalen Brooks grabbed a tipped pass for a 24-yard gain after the ball was deflected away from Jalen Tolbert.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

The Cowboys might want to think a bit about a karma payback coming.

Four days before Thanksgiving, Dallas created a pregame sideshow on the road in Carolina by announcing Jones' plan to induct two-time Super Bowl-winning Coach Jimmy Johnson into the team's ring of honor.

Then, in anticipation of the holiday, Prescott said there was a plan to celebrate by eating turkey legs on the sideline with the game still going on if the Cowboys were comfortably ahead of the Commanders.

Sure enough, after his fourth touchdown pass put Dallas up 38-10 with 5:59 remaining, Prescott and right guard Zack Martin picked apart a turkey leg on the sideline.

Jones, ever the showman, loved the idea. McCarthy acquiesced only because he believes in players having a little fun when things are going well.

"I just told them that game better be well out of hand before we start pulling turkey nuggets out of a kettle can," McCarthy said. "That was a little different pregame for me."

  photo  Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy reacts on the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Hodde)
 
 
  photo  Dallas Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland, left, and quarterback Dak Prescott (4) celebrate by eating Thanksgiving turkey legs next to reporter Tracy Wolfson after the Cowboys defeated the Washington Commanders in an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
 
 
  photo  Dallas Cowboys wide receiver KaVontae Turpin (9) celebrates with running back Tony Pollard (20) after scoring a touchdown against the Washington Commanders during the second half of an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
 
 
  photo  Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) passes against Washington Commanders safety Kamren Curl (31) during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
 
 
  photo  Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Brandin Cooks catches a touchdown pass against the Washington Commanders during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
 
 

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