In the second, Prescott eluded pressure and scrambled to his right before nailing receiver Michael Gallup in stride on his way to a 13-yard score.
And in the fourth quarter: Why not sail the back-shoulder fade to Gallup, to extend Dallas’ lead from 2 points to 9?
At last, a two-possession lead. And soon: a 54-19 victory.
The Cowboys’ 35-point win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night was tight for three quarters. Then, it was suddenly and thoroughly lopsided. A score-checker or fourth-quarter-joiner might have asked: How much did Prescott go off for anyway?
The seventh-year quarterback himself said he didn’t know his stat line during a postgame news conference.
He was told he threw for 170 yards.
“Geez,” Prescott responded. “That’s it?”
The dichotomy was evident. On one hand, the Cowboys have won five of six games since Prescott returned on Oct. 23 from a fractured thumb in his throwing hand. The Cowboys have averaged 37.2 points per game in that stretch, outscoring opponents by an average of 19.2 points. For context, entering this past weekend, the Kansas City Chiefs led the league with 29.6 points per game. The Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles followed with 27.8 and 27.6 averages, respectively.
Only the Bills, with a 10.3-point margin of victory, are knocking off teams by at least 8.5 points.
The Cowboys’ victories aren’t just reaching the NFL standard of late. They’re shattering it. And yet: Is this offense actually reaching its potential?
The Cowboys, hosting free agent receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for a visit beginning Monday, want to find out.
‘Really make some music with him’
NFL fans probably have heard more about the Cowboys’ excessive courtship of Beckham than anyone wants to in their lifetime. But let’s rehash briefly so we’re all on the same page: The 30-year-old veteran wideout is returning from an ACL tear suffered in the Super Bowl in February. He visited the Bills and New York Giants last week as he narrows down his suitors. Now, Beckham is Dallas-bound.
Or better yet, likely Dallas-arrived by the time you’re reading this.
The Cowboys’ scheduled visit with Beckham begins Monday and is expected to continue into Tuesday.
Team owner and general manager Jerry Jones is ebullient.
“I want this to work. I want it to work,” Jones said Sunday night. “I’ve felt very good about his opinion about what we’re about as Cowboys. We have felt and been public about it, what he is as a ballplayer and what he is as an NFL competitor. All of those things are nothing but complimentary.
“He’s the real deal and I think he’s very capable of having a lot more career in the NFL.”
Beckham has caught 531 passes for 7,367 yards and 56 touchdowns since his 2014 first-round draft selection by the Giants. He most recently caught on quickly with the Los Angeles Rams last season, contributing five touchdowns in eight regular-season games, then two more in the postseason. The production, after an October 2020 left ACL tear, encourages suitors. The drawbacks: questions about Beckham’s second tear of the same ACL in 20 months, and his timeline to return to play after 10 months off the field. Beckham had suited up all season for the Cleveland Browns before his quick adjustment to Los Angeles.
Jones, the eternal optimist, believes the Cowboys can lift Beckham as Beckham lifts the Cowboys. He pointed to Prescott as the No. 1 reason why Beckham should choose Dallas rather than the Bills or Giants. A deep stable of talent on offense came next.
“We’ve got a quarterback [who] could really make some music with him,” Jones said. “I think we’ve got an offensive line that would give the quarterback time to make some music with him. And then I think we’ve got serious alternative places for the quarterback to go so that [Beckham] would help open it up to give us more offense.
“If his skills are skills that we’ve come to associate with his name, if he’s got some of that, that would help us.”
Jones was less firm on how he’ll assess Beckham’s health than he was on how he sells Beckham on the fit. Jones said the details of a physical evaluation can range, though a person with knowledge of the Cowboys’ plan confirmed to Yahoo Sports that Beckham is expected to work with Cowboys director of rehabilitation Britt Brown. The person spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of negotiations.
Jones expects any signing to carry risk given Beckham’s age and two recent injuries. But risk won’t stop the 80-year-old team owner determined to return his team to the NFC championship game, and ideally the Super Bowl, for the first time since the 1995 season. Financial considerations could impact negotiations more than comfort in and certainty about Beckham’s health. The Cowboys want him to “give us every opportunity to have a big year this year with him,” as Jones said, but aren’t ruling out a multiyear deal. An NFL fan watching the Cowboys’ 54-19 route may not see a clear void on offense, but the energy accompanying a splash move would mean as much as the talent boon.
“We’re trying to be as great as we can be in every aspect,” Prescott said. “Obviously making a run at the Super Bowl, you want to make sure you have as many weapons as you can.”
A risk worth taking?
Meetings with coaches, personnel and Jones will likely dot Beckham’s schedule on Monday. Cowboys players seemed to confirm Fox insider Jay Glazer’s report of a Mavericks game on Monday night, followed by a meeting with the Cowboys’ player leadership council on Tuesday.
The Cowboys are not devoid of talent without Beckham. Lamb has collected 928 yards and six touchdowns through quarterback changes this season, while Gallup has now caught three TDs on his own after Sunday night. Dallas has a deep tight ends room led by franchise-tagged Dalton Schultz, and versatile Tony Pollard chipped in 106 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns Sunday night to surpass 1,100 offensive yards this season.
But Beckham could provide valuable insurance should Lamb or Gallup sustain injury, in addition to demanding defensive attention that better spaces the field and diversifies Prescott’s options. Prescott referenced the Cowboys’ 2018 midseason trade for Amari Cooper as an example of how quickly a weapon could elevate the attack.
“When you’re making a trade for a guy like that, you know how talented he is and they actually expedite that by how talented they are in creating space, being very decisive in their body language and then just for us, it’s just about communicating with each other,” Prescott said. “A guy like that, a guy that has strong hands, contested catcher, create space? Yeah, it’s exciting.”
If Beckham watched the Cowboys’ rout of the Colts, he’d have seen the highest-scoring game of any NFL team this season, the Cowboys’ three 50-point efforts since the beginning of 2021 equal to the other 31 teams’ combined. Beckham would have seen the Cowboys’ absurd 33-point fourth quarter — credit four turnovers by a defense that consistently gives its offense opportunities — the second-most fourth quarter points since the 1970 NFL merger. The Cowboys’ 26 points off turnovers in the fourth quarter were the most the NFL has seen in years.
Dallas hopes a squad that’s sometimes inconsistent but ultimately extremely talented shows Beckham how he can elevate a 9-3 team from regular-season force to postseason contender. If Beckham buys in, and can in concert convince the Cowboys of his worth, expect Jones to pony up.
“I’ll know it when I feel it,” Jones said. “I think the promise of it might work. The willingness to take the risk can be worth the money.”
Follow Yahoo Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein