ARLINGTON, Texas — Wentz vs. Prescott.
Two touchdowns vs. no touchdowns.
No interceptions vs. three interceptions.
Thirty-seven to nine.
The Wentz Wagon rolled into Arlington and rolled over the face of the Cowboys franchise; the reigning rookie of the year; the man who forced failed quarterback and kick holder Tony Romo to find his true calling, as a brilliant football analyst.
A prime-time national audience watched the North Dakota Kid make play after play in the Jerry Dome, where the Dak Attack led the Pokes to the playoffs a season ago.
It was a rematch, but not really. Last season, in Game 7, Wentz dinked-and-dunked the Eagles to the threshold of an upset that might have saved the season, but Prescott’s fourth-quarter drive tied the game. Wentz had two chances to respond. He did not. The Eagles lost in overtime and fell to 4-3, the first of a six-game losing streak that ruined Wentz’s rookie year. As for the budding rivalry, that game decided little. Neither did the meaningless rematch, the season finale, in which Prescott played only two series.
This would be the best barometer so far: two healthy, seasoned leaders on winning teams in a game that would go far in deciding the NFC East.
He finished 14-for-27 for 168 yards, the two TDs, no picks. And he was better than that. He wasn’t sacked. He made few mistakes. He won. Big.
Prescott was 18-for-31 for 145 yards, three picks, no scores. And he was worse than that. He was sacked four times. He was gunshy and rattled. He lost. Big.
Wentz wasn’t just good; he was thrillingly good.
His signature play might otherwise go overlooked, despite its breathless beauty, so let’s appreciate its magnificence. It came on the Eagles’ final touchdown drive, third-and-2 at the Eagles’ 38. Wentz dropped back, planted, sidestepped blitzing linebacker Damien Wilson; then, with Wilson doggedly latched onto his left ankle, he flat-footed a pass 10 yards to Alshon Jeffery.
It was a magnificent play, subtly ferocious; gladiatorial. It took every iota of agility to make Wilson whiff; every ounce of Wentz’s strength to turn his shoulders and torque his body to supply the pass its velocity; every scintilla of athletic ability to put the pass in the right spot at the right moment.
Very few quarterbacks in NFL history have possessed the size, strength, arm and instinct to even have a chance to make that play. Wentz has it all.
So go ahead. Compare him to Big Ben, or Favre, or Donovan. He’s worthy.
Prescott, simply, is not.
Wentz finished off the drive and, effectively, the game, with a 17-yard rocket to Jeffery for his second touchdown and a 29-9 lead with 12 minutes, 10 seconds to play. The Eagles’ defense added a touchdown later.
Look: Dak’s good. When he’s protected by the league’s best line, complemented by the league’s top rusher, Prescott makes the plays that need to be made.
Tasked with winning on his own merit, he does not.
Not yet, anyway. Maybe not ever. Still, it’s good for the NFL that two NFC East teams — one, a marquee franchise and the country’s No. 5 media market, the other the No. 4 market — have rising stars throwing passes.
“We’ve always known what the East is. We’ve designed the game so it needs … great quarterbacks,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “It’s really good to see these quarterbacks. Wentz made a couple of plays out there that were just unbelievably good plays, talent-wise.
“He’s going to be outstanding,” Jones continued. “Ours is, too.”
Which will be more outstanding? For now, the answer seems obvious.
The argument for Wentz over Prescott can be distilled into what each passer did on the first drive of the second half.
On third-and-1 at the Eagles’ 34, Wentz faked a handoff to the right side, pivoted, then floated a lovely pass to the opposite flat to Brent Celek, who trudged 28 yards. On third-and-9 at the Cowboys’ 37, Wentz fired an 18-yard bullet to Jeffery. Corey Clement ran it the rest of the way, and caught the two-point conversion screen pass to boot, for a 15-9 lead.
By contrast, on third-and-10 from the Eagles’ 39, Prescott, unmolested, overthrew Cole Beasley. Simple throw to the sideline, 3 feet high, brings a field goal into range, keeps the defense on the field.
But no. Three. Feet. High.
Later, after Jay Ajayi rumbled 71 yards from the Eagles’ 14, Wentz fired an 11-yard dart into Torrey Smith’s gut for his first touchdown of the night … and his 24th of the 10-game season. Then, on the two-point conversion, Wentz rolled right, broke two tackles and threw back across his body to hit Jeffery. Effortlessly.
Suddenly, it was 23-9.
Suddenly, the question was answered.
It hadn’t been answered in the first 30 minutes. Both made poor decisions. Both had drops. Prescott threw two interceptions, but the first was tipped and the second effectively served as a punt on third-and-17. Neither gave or cost either team points.
Each had their moments in the first half, good and bad. Each suffered drops and busted protections and bad routes. In the middle of the first quarter Prescott, fleeing Mychal Kendricks’ blitz, scrambled right and muscled a pass 10 yards to Terrance Williams. Prescott then rumbled for 11 more, on a designed run. He then failed twice to beat Ronald Darby, who was covering Dez Bryant, and the Cowboys took the field goal.
On the Eagles’ ensuing possession, Wentz ripped a pass 22 yards to Jeffery late in the first quarter, but then foolishly forced two toward Zach Ertz and sabotaged that drive.
Nobody’s perfect. Sunday night, Wentz was much closer to perfection than Prescott.
Maybe Prescott can rebound in the rematch, again the season finale, this time on Dec. 31.
Probably not. The Cowboys are 5-5. The Eagles are 9-1. The finale could be meaningless.
Wentz should be celebrating New Year’s Eve on the sideline.
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