The Dallas Cowboys all season have been the team, one of the best in the NFL, and it’s funny now that we get into the playoffs no matter who I talk to, all of the talk has shifted to, “Can Dallas beat Green Bay?” It’s not, “Can Green Bay go into Dallas and win?” It’s “Can Dallas beat the Packers?”
The Cowboys are almost looked at as the underdog now. It’s kind of crazy. I don’t know I would have thought that way a couple of weeks ago, but just look at Green Bay and what it’s done lately against some pretty good teams, against the Seahawks, the Vikings and the Giants. They all have pretty good pass defenses, and the Packers put up 38 points against each of them. You look at the Cowboys, and they have a rookie quarterback in Dak Prescott and a rookie running back in Ezekiel Elliott – and don’t forget this either: Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers has been around for a long time.
So Sunday, we’re going to find out what kind of team Dallas is. All year we’ve been questioning whether Prescott is legit. Is he the guy? I think he’ll play well and with a calmness that you have to have, the kind you heard Eli Manning talk about after the Giants lost to Green Bay last week. You can’t make the moment too big. You have to stay levelheaded, and I think Prescott has done that all year. But that’s the X-factor for me. The Cowboys have an unbelievable running game and he makes smart decisions with the ball. He can get hidden yardage. He’s not going to force the issue. He’s not a prototypical drop-back passer who’s just stuck there 7 yards deep behind the center. In that regard, I give him a chance. But the experience factor is huge, and we’re really starting to see it in the playoffs.
There really isn’t a substitute for experience and seeing all of the different things from a NFL defense. There are just so many subtle changes during a game.
There really isn’t a substitute for experience and seeing all of the different things from an NFL defense. There are just so many subtle changes during a game. If you haven’t seen it a lot, you might not be ready for it. You might be a tick slow, you might miss a read here or a throw there, and it’s not a big thing. But they add up, and at the end of a game, it could be the difference between having a couple of extra seconds on the clock, having an extra timeout when you need it. You’re not going to have the blowout games, I don’t think, in this round or the next one.
That’s a factor – and defensive coordinators, unlike the regular season when you might watch a team’s last three or four games, they’ve watched every game.
I remember sitting with Eli Manning the night before the Super Bowl. The meetings were over and we were in a room in Indianapolis and trying to finish the last of New England’s seven games – the last seven they’d played against just the Giants. We had watched probably 20 football games the Patriots had played – all of their games in the regular season, their playoff games and literally the last seven times Manning had faced them. He was going over every detail, every blitz, everything they had ever shown – and then sure enough in the game he made a huge play to Mario Manningham against a coverage we saw maybe one time.
Manning saw the safety cheat in and he made a big play on it and won the Super Bowl. That’s the kind of experience I’m talking about. Unless you have been there and done that, maybe you just don’t dig that deep. We’ll see. We’ll find out if Prescott has it.
I think he’s going to do just fine, because of the guys on his sideline. Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, they’re phenomenal playcallers, great guys to have. Quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson is an ex-quarterback standing there with him. Prescott has a ton of guys who are going to help him get through this mentally. He really does, from a personnel standpoint and from the guys he has in his ear. Tony Romo is there, too. He has done this a couple of times. That’s invaluable for a young guy.
It’s funny now that we get into the playoffs no matter who I talk to, all of the talk has shifted to, ‘Can Dallas beat Green Bay?’ It’s not, ‘Can Green Bay go into Dallas and win?’
Prescott has the physical ability. He’s going to be prepared. The good thing with him, that offensive line is so incredible and being able to run the football when they want to, he’s not going to be put in a ton of situations where he has to make plays. He’s going to have to go out there and run the offense like he has all year, and he hasn’t done anything that has been highlight-reel stuff. He runs when he has to, he makes throws when he has to, and he has been pretty efficient and pretty consistent. I think he’ll be prepared and ready for the playoff atmosphere. I don’t think it will be too big for him. I’m not worried about him from that standpoint.
It’s going to be a great game.
Question of the week
From Jeannie Flores: What advice do you have for parents to keep their kids out of trouble? I work with at-risk youth and am always looking for helpful suggestions.
That’s a good question. I would say the most important thing you can do is be there for them, obviously. Be around as much as possible. You hear it all the time. People will say, “It’s the quality time, not the quantity of time,” and I don’t think that’s true. My dad was at every practice. He did everything he could to be there – and he worked. He would find the time. He was always around. He would be in his suit and his tie, and he’d be sitting in the stands. My mom was always around. That’s the most important thing.
Second to that is just keeping them active. Try to get them involved in as many sports as possible. I moved a lot when I was growing up – I was in a new school in the third grade, fifth, sixth, new school in the seventh grade, switched schools in the eighth grade and I got to stay in the same school for high school. I was always moving around throughout the Central Valley with my dad’s job, but I was always put into a sport immediately whether we showed up in basketball season or baseball season or football season. I jumped right in and instantly had a group of buddies that had a common goal, that were working toward something and weren’t just going home to do nothing. Idle hands, we know what that is – you’re going to end up doing things you should not be doing, especially when you’re young.
I would say just get them involved in some type of activity. It doesn’t have to be sports. There are so many things kids can be involved in. But get them involved, especially a team activity or some type of group effort, because all of the kids that are struggling or looking for something do or something to get into, at least with that common goal there’s something or someone there for them to lean on.
David Carr is a former Fresno State quarterback, NFL No. 1 draft pick and Super Bowl champion. Now he’s an analyst for the NFL Network and writing a weekly column in collaboration with The Bee’s Robert Kuwada. The column is sponsored by Valley Children’s Hospital.
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