Last night against the Minnesota Vikings was, by far, the biggest challenge the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff has faced this season. Playing without franchise quarterback Dak Prescott, Mike McCarthy and company had to concoct a victory, in front of a hostile Halloween-infused crowd, without their most important player.
Whether this challenge was self-imposed or dictated to them by ownership is unknown. Dak Prescott entered the contest as a game time decision. But despite getting through pregame warmups without complication, and getting medically cleared from the medical staff, the Dallas powers-that-be opted to err on the side of caution and shelve their QB1.
Winning a tough game on the road, on national television, with a Cooper Rush, was the toughest task this Dallas Cowboys coaching staff has faced
Caution is a pathway this franchise has frequented this season with Prescott. His rehab from his season-ending ankle injury was especially methodical. And after a training camp shoulder injury reared its ugly head this summer, Dak was put on ice for the entire preseason. So none of us should be surprised the Cowboys front office stuck to the script here on Sunday Night Football.
Whether the coaching staff was involved in this decision or not really doesn’t matter. They had to deal with the consequences and at the end of the day that’s win a game against a playoff hopeful team, on the road, on national television, without their most important player.
Dak Prescott isn’t just a Comeback Player of the Year candidate, he’s also in the league MVP conversation. The Dallas Cowboys offense runs through No. 4 and by the numbers, it’s the best in NFL with him under center, and the worst in the NFL with him on the sidelines.
Last night the coaching staff would have to change that and do so with an undrafted journeyman playing making his first NFL start. Cooper Rush, a fifth year signal caller out of Central Michigan , had been in and around the Dallas Cowboys organization for years. He’d been a reserve behind Kellen Moore (when Kellen was QB2) and this year he worked his way up to first alternate behind Dak. His last start (college) was December of 2016.
What Rush lacks in arm strength he makes up for in knowledge and familiarity with the team. He knows the personnel, plays, and tendencies of this offense well, and was able to slide in with an abnormal degree of confidence.
After some shaky throws early, with one resulting in an interception and another nearly picked, Cooper Rush started to click. McCarthy and staff stayed calm and kept their QB calm throughout. Instead of scaling back they after the errant throws, they turned up the volume. With the Vikings clearly focused on stopping the run, it was clear Dallas would have to win through the air. And that’s exactly what they did.
The defense as a whole, kept them in the game. Limiting Minnesota to just 184 yards through the air and only one or 13 on third downs, it was possibly their best defensive performance this season. Even when personal fouls rained down from the heavens on Minnesota’s late fourth quarter drive, the Dallas D locked up, holding the Vikings to a go-ahead field goal and giving Cooper Rush the chance to win the game on the final possession.
Over the years the Dallas Cowboys have looked completely incapable of winning games without Prescott. To see them do so Sunday Night with Cooper Rush under center is a massive victory for the coaching staff (and frankly all of us). They were able to give Dak another week of rest on his calf strain, and they stole a win in the process. A fairly ideal outcome by anyone’s standard.
The fact Cooper Rush passed for 325 yards with 2 TDs is a testament to this team and this coaching staff. Now, with all due respect, let’s pray Dak is back next week and we don’t have to see Rush ever again.
- Published on 11/01/2021 at 12:39 PM
- Last updated at 11/01/2021 at 12:39 PM