We had a special Mississippi moment in Green Bay, Wis., Sunday.
Just as Brett Favre of Southern Miss was leaving the field in his Pro Football Hall of Fame sports coat, wearing his new Hall of Fame ring, Dak Prescott of Mississippi State, wearing No. 4, was coming back onto the field to resume his especial play as a rookie for the Dallas Cowboys.
This was at the end of halftime ceremonies honoring Favre, unveiling his name on the stadium at Lambeau Field.
There the two No. 4s were, at mid-field, face-to-face, eye-to-eye, shaking hands. We couldn’t see Dak’s face, but Brett was smiling, warmly.
“I just told him I was very impressed with his play and poise,” Favre said in a text message Monday.
Isn’t everybody? Dak Prescott, a fourth round draft choice, continues to play at a Pro Bowl level. Playing a huge game on the road in one of the NFL’s most hostile environments, Prescott handled the situation as if he were facing Tennessee-Martin at Scott Field.
Prescott first broke Tom Brady’s NFL record for throwing consecutive passes without an interception to begin an NFL career. And then, he broke the Packers’ hearts.
He solidly out-played the great Aaron Rodgers, Favre’s successor, completing 18 of 27 passes for 233 yards. He threw three touchdowns, one interception.
But the numbers don’t tell the story of Dak’s poise, his athleticism and how he deftly moved around in the pocket, creating time for his receivers to break open. The numbers don’t tell how, when nothing was there, he did not force the issue. No, given those circumstances, he simply threw the ball away. The numbers don’t tell how his teammates rallied behind him, just the way his teammates did at State when he made everyone around him better.
It would be totally wrong to say Prescott’s play reminded us of Favre. They are two starkly different players. Both are big, athletic, country-strong men and both wear No. 4. But that’s where the similarities pretty much end. Favre played the game with a pirate’s audacity. He took chances. He had a bigger arm and he believed he could use it to throw the ball through the tightest of windows.
Surprisingly, Prescott, the rookie, plays a more measured, cautious game. He doesn’t take the risky chances. He throws high percentage passes or he doesn’t throw at all. That’s why six games and five victories into his professional career, he has thrown but one interception.
Both styles are thoroughly entertaining in their own way.
Afterward, Favre said what anybody with eyes can see. That Dak Prescott should be the Cowboys quarterback going forward. Yes, veteran Tony Romo will be healthy soon, but Romo is having his Wally Pipp moment. The Yankees didn’t sit Lou Gehrig when Pipp became healthy enough to play. The Cowboys shouldn’t sit Prescott.
And it’s not just Favre who says it. Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach and others have weighed in. Prescott has earned the No. 1 quarterback job. You don’t switch back when you’ve won five straight and the rookie is playing like a seasoned All-Pro. No, you hold the now-brittle veteran in reserve in case the rookie slumps, which doesn’t seem likely at this point.
Two drives should have showed Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones all they needed to see.
The first was after the opening coin toss. The Cowboys, the visiting team, won the toss and elected to receive, going against conventional NFL wisdom, which is to defer the decision to the second half. The Cowboys, instead, wanted the ball, albeit with a rookie quarterback at Lambeau Field. Prescott delivered, completing his first four passes good for 46 yards and a touchdown. He ran once for six yards. Lambeau Field? It was Dak’s playground.
The second defining drive came when the Cowboys got the ball back at their own three-yard line at the end of the half. Dallas led by only 10-6. Packer fans were thunderous. So, Prescott gave the ball to fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliot twice for nine yards, while the Packers took timeouts, hoping to get the ball back with time to take the lead.
Big mistakes, those timeouts were. Three plays and just a few seconds later, the Cowboys were in the other end zone after two pinpoint perfect passes of 46 and 20 yards from Prescott.
Keep in mind, during this five-game Cowboys win streak, they have played several times without their best wide receiver and their starting left tackle.
The Cowboys now have a bye week, in effect two weeks to make what ought to be a slam-dunk decision.