Dak Prescott didn’t quite steal the R-E-L-A-X response quarterback Aaron Rodgers made famous last year when fans and media were questioning him about the Green Bay Packers’ 4-6 start.
But the sentiment was definitely there when the chuckling Dallas Cowboys quarterback met with the media on Wednesday, fittingly before Sunday’s game against Rodgers and the Packers (3-1).
Prescott wanted no part of the nitpicking of his or the team’s so-called struggles on offense that are a decided contrast to the success of a year ago when he had the finest season of any rookie quarterback in league history while leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 mark.
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And not just from the criticism, but also the silence on his phone and lack of text messages from friends and family.
“When you lose, you don’t get any text messages,” Prescott said with smile. “No love when you lose. You don’t hear anything when you lose.”
He added that the scrutiny and nitpicking from the media is part of the job. But there is no panic on the Cowboys.
“Y’all are going to do that regardless,” Prescott said of the criticism. “We score 50. We score 100. Y’all are going to find something to nitpick. It doesn’t bother us at all. According to y’all, we need to score more and we need to score every single time we get the ball. That’s our standard too. I’m right there with you.
“We are heading the right direction. We have gotten better each and every game. We know what we are doing when we do it the right way. So we know how to get back to that. We are going to do it.”
Greg Zuerlein made seven field goals in the Los Angeles Rams’ 35-30 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. His longest field goal was from 49 yards.
Prescott has an ally and soul mate in Rodgers, who says it’s the quarterback’s job to stay focused and not ride the roller coaster of emotions when things are not going as well. That’s what he did last year and believes Prescott is the right guy calm the tide in Dallas.
“Just trust the process,” Rodgers said, when asked about Prescott and the Cowboys. “At 4-6, knowing we had the guys, we just had to execute a little bit better. In this league, the difference between winning and losing is so thin. There are a few plays here and there that go your way. A few plays are the difference in winning and losing those games and changing the momentum in that game and really in your season, like you saw last year with us.
“I wouldn’t say that Dak has been struggling at all. I don’t know him that well. But I believe he is a guy that has his head on really solid. He has a great mentality, a great way about him. I’m sure he is going to get things going.”
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Rodgers said it’s too early in the season to panic, while displaying a detailed knowledge of the Cowboys’ schedule and their division, where the Philadelphia Eagles (3-1) are one game ahead.
“For us, it was Week 12 we were going into,” Rodgers said. “This is Week 5 we are going into. You need to remind people it is early. They are 2-2. Philly is 3-1. So they are one back in the division. You still have a couple of games against those guys. You still have a lot of time left in the season. You just got to make the most of your opportunities.
“The games you should win, you’ve got to win those. But again, we are in Week 5. There is a lot of football left to happen. You want to be playing your best at the right time.”
And that is the perspective the Cowboys are taking.
They know things aren’t perfect. The offense ranks 19th in the league, thanks largely to a struggling running game that ranks 22nd and with 2016 NFL leading rusher Ezekiel Elliott averaging 3.5 yards per carry.
It has bled into struggles on third down, where the Cowboys are converting 34.2 percent of their chances and no longer being able to control the ball and the clock.
That is not including Prescott’s own admitted issues with accuracy, which has him ranked 18th in the league in passer rating.
The Cowboys have faced four of the top defenses in the league in the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams, also playing a role in their inconsistency.
What’s not talked about are the changes on the offensive line, including new starters at left guard (Chaz Green) and right tackle (La’el Collins), which is still a work in progress.
Things aren’t quite as clean in the pocket or open in the run game.
“There are a lot of things different from last year,” Prescott said. “We want to get back to that efficiency. As much as I’m joking, we plan to score every time. That’s really our standard. We realize we are not doing what we want to do on third down. We have had glimpses of it. That’s why I say we are heading in the right direction. We are 2-2 and getting better every game. It’s about peaking at the right time in this league. I think we are heading in the right direction.”
The Cowboys believe they are just taking a little longer to jell than they did a year ago. But there is no panic, per Elliott who echoed the thoughts of Prescott and Rodgers.
“I just think that we’re taking a little bit longer to progress this year,” Elliott said. “I really don’t think it’s a bad thing. You ought to be hitting your stride mid-to-late season [rather] than peaking early … as long as you hit your peak, it really doesn’t matter how long it takes you. We could lose six games in this league and still go to the playoffs and as long as you’re hitting your stride at the right time, then you’re good. There’s no panic in this locker room at all.”
Cowboys vs. Packers
3:25 p.m. Sunday, KDFW/4