Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott’s 2016 season so far compares favorably with some of the best quarterbacks in football.
It’s the second straight Sunday for us with no Cowboys’ football, but consecutive Thursday victories (first on Thanksgiving against the Redskins and this past Thursday at Minnesota) have the Cowboys on the verge of clinching a playoff spot today. Losses by either Tampa Bay, who plays at San Diego, or Washington, who visits Arizona, will put Dallas in the playoffs for the 31st time in team history.
While we wait to see what happens in San Diego and Arizona, and probably more importantly in Pittsburgh where the Steelers face off against Dallas’ chief challenger in the NFC East (the New York Giants), let’s look at some interesting notes coming out of one of the most successful regular seasons (at least to date) in team history.
Cowboys rookie Dak Prescott’s play so far has been perhaps THE story of the NFL season. While many thought the Cowboys’ fortunes were sunk when veteran Tony Romo went down with a pre-season injury, Prescott has taken the reins of a talented Cowboys’ offense that has shown to be one of the best in the league.
Prescott’s ability to keep from throwing the ball to the opponent has separated him from most quarterbacks in the NFL. So far, Prescott has thrown 358 passes and has been intercepted only twice (a .6 interception percentage). Since 1970, the best interception percentage mark in a full season for a quarterback with at least 3,000 yards passing was Robert Griffin III’s 1.27 figure set in 2012.
The Cowboys’ rookie is also on pace to set a Cowboys’ record for fewest interceptions thrown by a quarterback with at least 358 pass attempts in a year. Troy Aikman’s 1993 season, in which he had only six passes intercepted in 392 attempts, is currently the best for the Cowboys, with Aikman’s 1995 campaign (432 attempts, seven interceptions) and Roger Staubach’s 1977 season (361 attempts, nine interceptions) next in line.
LEADING THE WAY
The Cowboys’ 11 wins so far in 2016 give Dallas 28 seasons with a double digit win total since the team’s inception in 1960. Dallas’ record is far and away the top mark in the NFL during that time period. San Francisco, Pittsburgh, New England and Indianapolis (including the Colts’ time in Baltimore) are behind Dallas with 23 double digit win seasons since 1960, with Philadelphia and Green Bay next with 22 such seasons each.
“X” TIMES 65
Dez Bryant’s touchdown catch on Thursday at Minnesota gave the wideout his 65th career touchdown reception, tying him with Hall of Famer Michael Irvin for the second highest total in Cowboys’ history. Bryant and Irvin trail another Hall of Famer, Bob Hayes who caught 71 scoring passes in his Cowboys’ career.
Here are some fun facts about the scoring catches for three of the four best wide receivers (I am including Drew Pearson in this list) in Cowboys’ history:
BRYANT- Has scored 50 of his 65 on passes from Tony Romo. Nine of Bryant’s scoring passes have been from 50 yards or greater, while Bryant has used his NBA-like body and toughness to score 26 touchdowns on passes of 10 yards or less.
HAYES- Connected with Don Meredith for 36 scores, Craig Morton for 21 and Roger Staubach for 11. Is the only member of the trio to have caught touchdown passes thrown by non-quarterbacks (Hayes was on the receiving end of scoring tosses by halfback Calvin Hill and fellow received Lance Rentzel during his career). 19 of Bullet Bob’s touchdown catches came on plays of 50 yards or more.
IRVIN- Teamed up with fellow Hall of Famer Troy Aikman for 49 touchdown passes. 23 of his touchdowns came on plays of 10 yards of less, and another ten came on plays of 50 yards or more. Irvin also has caught a Cowboys’ record eight touchdown passes in post-season play (Hayes had two playoff touchdown catches and Bryant has not yet had one).
LONG DRIVES TO PAYDIRT
In 2016, the Dallas Cowboys have had 24 drives that ended up in touchdowns when the team started out no further than its own 25 yard line. Since 1999 when Pro Football Reference started tracking this information, the Cowboys’ only year with more 75 yard plus touchdown drives was in 2014 when the 12-4 NFC East champion team had 28. The only other squad to even equal the 2016 team’s performance so far was the 2012 team that had 24 75 yard plus drives in route to its 8-8 mark.
While many were shocked by Prescott’s emergence in 2016, few have been over fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott’s dominant play so far on the year. The multi-talented rookie scored his 13th touchdown of the year against Minnesota three days ago, putting him one behind Herschel Walker’s 14 in 1986 for the most touchdowns scored by a rookie in Cowboys’ history. Since the merger in 1970, Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson has the most touchdowns in a year by a rookie with 20 in 1983. With four games to go, Elliott has an outside shot of equaling or exceeding that mark.