The Cowboys offense goes as Dak Prescott does, and his focus this offseason will be to identify where recent struggles with INTs stem from; vowing the problem will be fixed in 2023
FRISCO, TX - Change will never arrive if accountability is absent from the driver's seat. It's an attribute that Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys excelled at harboring in 2022, and it served as the fuel for what became one of the most resilient seasons in recent memory, but they've unfortunately run out of opportunities to again demonstrate the latter.
Their loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Divisional Round puts a premature bookend on their second consecutive 12-5 season, a campaign that saw them achieve an impressive feat of having never suffered a two-game losing streak before marching into Super Wild Card Weekend to humiliate Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But, ultimately, the Cowboys became victims of self-inflicted wounds, and that included Prescott's struggles with interceptions, amongst other things that helped end their season (e.g., drops, untimely penalties, etc.).
"It's just disappointing," Prescott said following the loss in Santa Clara. "Those [defensive] guys played their asses off. The defense gave us an opportunity to win this game - who played hard against a really, really good offense, a really good team. And for the offense to only put up the points we did is unacceptable, and it starts with me.
"I've got to be better. There's no way to sugarcoat it."
The two-time Pro Bowl quarterback walked away from the 19-12 defeat with two INTs, both occurring in the first half, along with 14 incompletions in his 37 passing attempts. It was one of the more uneven outings for a quarterback only a week removed from playing near-perfect (and franchise record-setting) football in Tampa, and one Prescott will carry the entire offseason.
He ended the 2022 season with an uncharacteristic tally of interceptions, 17 total in 14 starts (including the postseason), typically one known for protecting the ball over the majority of his NFL career. And though not all of the INTs were accountable to Prescott, many were, and he's focused on controlling the things he can control, a mantra he holds dear on a daily basis.
It's fair to wonder if Prescott was pressing a bit in his return from a fractured thumb, or if the thumb "feels" different during his throws and, if the latter is true, then an entire offseason to recalibrate will/should serve him well.
Prescott has made a vow to escape the vortex of INTs for the upcoming 2023 season, a Bermuda Triangle or misfortune that is not entirely dissimilar from when Ezekiel Elliott suffered a rash of fumbles in 2020 - five (four lost) in his first six outings of that season.
Elliott has since fumbled only twice in the 44 starts since.
Simply put, such issues are fixable, and Prescott intends to do just that: repair his.
"It's very frustrating," he readily admitted. "It's something I've got to get in the offseason and take a look at, all of them, because they all have their own story. Two tonight, as I said, is unacceptable. I can't put the ball in jeopardy like that; whether they're tipped up from tight throws or whether I'm late on a stop route - can't happen.
"The number that it's gotten to is ridiculous. I can promise that the number will never be this again. I can promise that."