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Dallas Cowboys

Film Room | Dak Prescott dazzles in loss to Packers

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) carries the ball for a long run as Green Bay Packers safety Morgan Burnett (42) and Clay Matthews (52) give chase in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
AP Photo/Ron Jenkins

After four weeks of up-and-down play, the Dallas Cowboys got the dominant effort they had been waiting for from their offense in Week 5 against the Green Bay Packers. The Cowboys punted only once while posting 31 points, 408 total yards, converting 58 percent of third downs, and going 3-for-3 in the red zone.

The catalyst for the success of the Cowboys’ offense was Dak Prescott, who finished 25-of-36 for 251 yards and three touchdowns and one interception, along with 37 yards rushing and a touchdown on four carries. Prescott made several big time plays as a runner and a passer, both in and out of the structure of the play design. He went toe-to-toe and blow-for-blow with one of the best quarterbacks in the league, Aaron Rodgers.

Let’s look at some tape to see how he did it.

This might have been Prescott’s best play of the day. The Packers roll from a single-high safety look into a split safety “Cover 2” look.  Prescott’s read takes his eyes to his left at the top of his drop, but after his first hitch step, he quickly flips his eyes and his feet to the right, where he knows that either Terrance Williams or Ezekiel Elliott will be open on their Flat-7 combination.

The Flat-7 is an extremely common Cover-2 beater that isolates the corner playing in the flat and forces him to decide whether to sink under the corner route from the wide receiver, or play downhill to try to stop the flat route from the inside player, in this case running back Ezekiel Elliott.

On this snap, the corner doesn’t get much depth, and with the safety rolling all the way from the middle of the field, Williams is open. However, as soon as Prescott gets to that read, the pocket has begun to break down. Right Tackle La’el Collins has pushed his man past the pocket, and Prescott is able to step up and clear that potential pressure. At the same time that Prescott climbs the pocket, outside linebacker Nick Perry is coming clean inside on the twist stunt from the opposite side.

Because of Perry’s pressure, Prescott isn’t able to unload the ball to Williams as he breaks, but his mobility allows him to escape the pocket. His lower-body strength allows him to stay on his feet even in Perry’s grasp.

With the front-side safety driving outside toward Williams, Dak knows that Bryce Butler will be coming clear across the middle of the field and is able to unload the ball to the spot where Butler is headed, and Butler does the rest for a 49-yard gain.

This is the play that turned the game in the Packers’ favor. With a 24-22 lead, and just over 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys had an opportunity to put together a long scoring drive and give themselves a two-score lead while bleeding clock to keep Aaron Rodgers from having time to mount a comeback.

On this second down, the Cowboys are running a two-man stick concept to the near side, with Terrance Williams running the stick route and Jason Witten running the flat. With the Packers playing Cover 2, the corner widens with Witten to the flat, leaving a window for Prescott to deliver the ball on the stick route. Prescott delivers the ball perfectly on time, and with perfect location, away from the inside coverage from linebacker Clay Matthews.

Unfortunately for Prescott and the Cowboys, Williams is unable to secure the ball although it hit him in his hands. The ball deflects into the hands of Damarious Randall, who returns it for a game-changing pick-six.

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