June 16, 2024

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — It’s only mid-October, but Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott knew Monday was important for the psyche of his team, calling it “a must-win.”

Mission accomplished with a 20-17 victory against the Los Angeles Chargers.

“It’s early in the season but 4-2 or 3-3, it’s a huge difference. Yeah, it just is,” Prescott said. “Yeah … it’s early in the season. I’ve been in a 3-5 season that we turned around and went on a win streak and won the division … but 4-2, second road win of the year, against a great team, against a great offense, great defense.”

The fallout from Dallas’ Week 5 blowout loss — 42-10 — against the San Francisco 49ers brought questions about the entire team, from Prescott’s effectiveness to Mike McCarthy’s playcalling and the ability of a defense that was shredded.

“We talked after last week about not allowing this thing to landslide, and obviously I think a win like this allows you to really close that book,” Prescott said.

Last year, the Cowboys were 4-2 after six games en route to a second straight 12-5 finish that qualified them for the playoffs. Since 2000, the Cowboys have started 4-2 or better nine times and made the playoffs seven times, including their last five. When they have been 3-3 after six games since 2000, they have missed the postseason six of eight times.

“The win was good,” edge player Micah Parsons said. “It’s good to always get back on track. That’s our record: prove the naysayers wrong.”

The Cowboys are 10-1 after a loss over the last three seasons, but the heat they were catching after the San Francisco loss seemed to come at a higher temperature than at any other time in McCarthy’s time as coach. Prescott was intercepted three times and nine of his 11 drives were three plays or less. Brock Purdy threw four touchdown passes, shredding a defense that had given up 41 points in its first four games.

“A lot of talking this week,” McCarthy said. “So they’ve been quiet. They worked hard … I just loved their resilience and fight and we came out on top.”

On the go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys converted three third-down opportunities, although Prescott lamented a missed touchdown pass to running back Tony Pollard before Brandon Aubrey‘s 39-yard field goal gave Dallas a 20-17 lead with 2:19 to play.

A defense that had not sacked Justin Herbert or forced a turnover in the first nine possessions was finally able to get him on the ground (Parsons) and pick him off (Stephon Gilmore) to secure the win.

“Anytime I get an opportunity in the game, I’m waiting for them,” Parsons said. “I feel like that’s my moment. That’s what my teammates are looking for me the most. It feels good to come up big for them.”

It allowed Prescott to twice take a knee to seal the win in a close game.

“We haven’t had close game but this is what the NFL is about,” Prescott said. “That’s all I said is we’ve got to get used to this. We’ve got to stay confident in this, understand that these close games, one-score, field goal games, touchdown games, we’ve got to believe in ourselves, finishing it on our terms with the ball in our hands and thankful for our defense right there getting us that ball.”

What made the win even better for the Cowboys is what happened to the teams they are chasing. San Francisco lost to the Cleveland Browns, and the Philadelphia Eagles lost to the New York Jets.

“Crazy weekend in the NFL, but we were on the right side of it this week,” McCarthy said. “And you know how fast that can change.”

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