Cowboys’ Dak Prescott comes up big vs. Bucs, but bigger challenge awaits

After a night where Dak Prescott provided all the necessary answers and more, there was only one question that came to mind:

What is bigger than the biggest?

Confused? Let’s explain. Monday night was the biggest performance of Prescott’s postseason career, in the biggest game of his life against the biggest rival quarterback of all, in the biggest display of evidence to influence those who say his skill set isn’t one of the NFL’s, well, the greatest.

But what’s next for the Dallas Cowboys and their seventh-year quarterback? Even bigger.

Prescott was in moody majesty at Raymond James Stadium as Dallas defiantly cruised to a 31-14 loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and straight into an absolute humdinger on Sunday, a divisional-round visit to San Francisco 49ers (6:30 p.m. ET, FOX). and the FOX Sports app).

Perhaps fueled by a week in which he openly wondered if his 1-3 record in the playoffs was an indicator of any deficiency, whether in terms of mentality or steel or technical prowess under pressure, he designed a sublime masterpiece, albeit one with a seemingly permanent grudge etched into its face.

“I didn’t listen,” he told ESPN after the game. “I just didn’t listen to anybody else’s opinions, anybody else’s thoughts. I made sure I was aware of what I was putting in my own head. I just focused on what I can do.”

In doing so, he reminded us that no one likes the narrative of his and the Cowboys’ postseason woes — this was their first playoff win since 1993 — more than he does, and that he’s on a mission to do a serious historical rewriting.

Next week, against a 49ers team that looks like a big lean after an 11-game winning streak, it will be a tougher, heavier test than Tom Brady and Tampa were able to provide.

And yet, if there was ever a time to face that situation for Prescott, it would be now, with a confidence boost big enough to match the hype that will overwhelm Sunday’s build-up.

Make no mistake, San Francisco will not enjoy facing Prescott in this type of form. No one would.

Because this wasn’t the nervous young man from six years ago against Green Bay. Or the timid version that showed up against the Los Angeles Rams in 2019. Or the inconsistent guy who went to the floor too late against the Niners a year ago and watched time run out before his eyes.

This was a bristling, confident and purposeful performance from a man who seemed to feel it coming.

Prescott wanted to be out there, wanted to be involved, wanted the responsibility, wanted the gravity of the situation. Must want the next one just the same.

At times, it felt like I was playing Monday’s game in slow motion with everyone else in real-time speed. He read the pressure, reacted instantly and breathed life into the Bucs’ resistance.

In the end, nothing else mattered. Nothing from the preamble. Not the record that said Brady was 7-0 lifetime against the Cowboys. Not the cooling of public opinion about Dallas following a stuttering end to the campaign. Not his losing record on grass pitches. And not Brett Maher’s missed extra point streak.

Prescott accounted for five total touchdowns, one of them on a deliciously disguised run, rolling to the left, plus scoring throws to Dalton Schultz (twice), CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup.

It wasn’t just him and the offense, naturally, with the way the Dallas D shut down Brady and his crew nothing short of a merciless stranglehold on that side of the ball.

However, if the Cowboys want to turn this campaign into anything resembling their dream, they’ll need their $40 million-a-year QB, the man whose big deal sparked the current string of similar contracts for call-ups. signal in the top third of the league in his position.

Prescott wants a higher status than that, and if he can shine when it matters, shine how thisthen he will convince many that he is a possible target.

He wants the Cowboys to be in that position every time, not fleetingly. And among QBs he wants to be one of the big dogs.

Or bigger

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX i subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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