FRISCO, Texas — Dak Prescott has thought about going all Tom Brady on one of those tablets after throwing an interception. He has thought about ranting and raving about anything and everything. Instead, he counts to 10.
“I’d say a minute after I sit down on the sideline, I’ve got it out of my head,” Prescott said of having two more interceptions Thursday in the Cowboys’ 27-13 win against the Tennessee Titans that brought his season total to a career-high 14. “Said my words that I needed to say to myself and just moved on at that point.”
He has had to say a lot of words to himself so far this season.
Prescott has played in just 11 games, missing five following surgery to repair a fractured thumb. His 14 interceptions have come in 357 pass attempts. His previous career high was 13 in 2017 on 490 pass attempts in 16 starts.
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He has thrown at least one interception in six straight games, the longest such streak of his career. He has an interception percentage of 3.9%. Entering this season, his interception percentage was 1.7% for his career.
“They’re all frustrating,” Prescott said. “Somehow or another, I got to stop.”
Prescott’s first interception against the Titans was a throw that could not have been more perfect to Peyton Hendershot, but the rookie tight end tipped the ball to Tennessee safety Kevin Byard for the first of his two interceptions.
His second came on a late throw that was behind tight end Dalton Schultz and ended a scoring threat in the final minute of the first half.
“One was a drop and one was a minus decision,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “So we’ll look at it and just keep coaching it. The answer is not two [not] throw the ball. The answer is to not over-coach it, over-emphasize it. The goal is to be explosive on offense, and the stats speak for themselves.”
The Cowboys are averaging 34.6 offensive points per game since Prescott’s return from injury. His 25 touchdown passes since Week 7 are the most in the NFL. He has completed 71% of his passes. Top wide receiver CeeDee Lamb is on a tear. Recent addition TY Hilton is looking like he will be a receiving threat when the playoffs start. The run game has slowed down some in recent weeks but overall has been effective.
But the interceptions cannot be overlooked.
Not all have been his fault, like the game-ending interception in overtime against the Jacksonville Jaguars off the hands of receiver Noah Brown. He and Lamb had a couple of miscommunications, too.
“I think it becomes in the category of ‘snakebit,’ if we keep making it more than it is,” McCarthy said.
But there has been faulty decision-making, like an anticipation throw in the end zone at Green Bay, when a field goal would have given the Cowboys a 10-0 lead, and a pass Indianapolis Colts corner Stephon Gilmore intercepted when he had outside leverage on Michael Gallup.
“To be able to play this position, you got to have a short-term memory,” Prescott said. “Whether the interception you threw is your fault, not your fault, whether you throw it to the guy and lose out on points before the half or not, you’ve got to be able to turn the page and just move on. That’s something that honestly I take pride in.”
Despite the high rate of interceptions, the Cowboys have continued to win. They are 5-1 in the past six games in which Prescott has thrown a pick. They are 8-2 since his return from the thumb injury. They have beaten three playoff teams (Minnesota, Philadelphia, New York Giants) and two other potential playoff teams (Detroit Lions, Titans) despite the interceptions.
But the postseason heightens everything. Prescott, who has three interceptions in 146 pass attempts in three playoff games, knows it better than anyone.
The ultimate goal is to get to the Super Bowl. If he gets there after leading the NFL (or being tied) in regular-season interceptions, he would be the fourth quarterback in the Super Bowl era to pull off the feat, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Jim Kelly (19) did it in 1992 with the Buffalo Bills. Eli Manning (20) did it with the Giants in 2007. Matthew Stafford (17) did it with the Los Angeles Rams last season.
Manning and Stafford could serve as guides for Prescott. They won the Super Bowl those seasons by cutting down their interception rates in the postseason. Manning had one pick in the Giants’ playoff run and a 0.8% interception rate, down from 3.8% in the regular season. Stafford had a 2.8% interception rate in the regular season and a 2.1% rate in the postseason.
“I don’t sit there and think of that, ‘Oh, this is going to continue to happen,'” Prescott said. “As much as anything, I’ve got to fix the ones on my end, and I’ve just got to make sure the guys, the receivers and everybody that may take part in it then are just focused and understand that we don’ t got a lot of opportunities.
“As we move forward to this last game and all these playoff games, every drive matters. And we have to play every drive like it’s to win the game, and that’s the reality of it when you get to the postseason. It’s just heightening our focus and understanding, for me, the risk versus the reward, whether it’s a tight window or not. Just as everybody being on the same page and understanding the magnitude of each play.”