Dak Prescott is still just a rookie.
But he’s already twice the quarterback that Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden and Kellen Moore were last year.
Prescott led the Cowboys to an easy 31-17 win over the Bears, looking nothing like a first-year player in the process. He was efficient enough passing, but is able to move in the pocket and keep plays alive and run and get back up again, things that Tony Romo can’t always do (especially that last one).
Prescott finished 19-of-24 passing for 248 yards and a touchdown.
He’s played so precociously that it’s almost a surprise that his fourth-quarter touchdown to Dez Bryant was his first touchdown pass, but the fact we’re still waiting to see his first interception speaks to what makes the Cowboys love the almost-afterthought fourth-rounder so much.
It would be as irresponsible to suggest that he’s going to make Romo obsolete as it was when some were getting moon-eyed over Jimmy Garoppolo in New England the first two weeks of the season. But Prescott walked into a situation nearly as attractive as being coached by Bill Belichick when he got to take his first NFL snaps behind the Cowboys’ offensive line and surrounded by such skill-position talent.
That gives them two wins in three games without Romo, which is double what the Cowboys won in 12 non-Romo starts last year (Cassel had the one). There are plenty of people contributing to that, but unlike past situations, the Cowboys feel like they have a chance with Prescott at the helm.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. Prescott’s been good, but fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott is helping to make it easy for his quarterback.
Elliott finished with 30 carries for 140 yards, dramatically improving his totals. He went for 51 yards in the opener and 83 last week, and after a slow preseason, this was the first time he flashed star quality. As a pro, at least. His hurdle of Bears safety Chris Prosinski gave him a poster-worthy shot, and may have summed up the evening for both sides.
The idea behind drafting the Ohio State running back fourth overall was to help Romo-proof the offense anyway, and his ability to keep chains moving is going to be of assistance when the old guy comes back too.
2. On the other sideline, we probably should have seen this coming.
The Bears walked in the door undermanned and on a short week, after an embarrassing loss to the Eagles last Monday, with backup quarterback Brian Hoyer.
While it’s uncertain that Jay Cutler would have made things any better, there’s a certain hopelessness that descends with veteran backups of Hoyer’s ilk. But the Bears were in a transitional phase anyway, and then kept getting hurt.
To recap: In addition to starting Cutler, the Bears were without pass-rushers Lamarr Houston (IR) and Pernell McPhee (PUP), and center Hroniss Grasu (IR). That doesn’t even get into the recent injuries, including defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and linebacker Danny Trevathan, who were inactive because of problems of shorter-term nature.
3. While the lack of punch of the Bears offense was certainly a factor, the Cowboys’ defense looked almost competent at times.
They’re still short on pass-rushers, and will be for another game until DeMarcus Lawrence returns a week from now after his four-game drug suspension.
But considering they get the punchless 49ers next week, they might be able to survive the wait.
4. The Cowboys are going to be at their best when they can play from ahead, especially until Tony Romo returns.
But the way they got up on the Bears would have allowed many quarterbacks to have looked good.
The Cowboys had more first downs (19) than the Bears had plays (18) in the first half, leading to a 24-7 lead at the break.
5. There were some bright spots for the Bears.
Sort of. OK, not many.
Tight end Zach Miller caught a couple of touchdowns, but we already knew he was pretty good.
Rookie running back Jordan Howard popped a 36-yard run in the first half, and might have had more if they were in a position to run more often.
The fifth-round pick from Indiana (via Alabama-Birmingham) has shown some promise, but may need some time to gain traction because Fox is generally averse to playing rookies unless he has to.
Maybe he has to.