Dak Prescott was on a torrid pace not only to blast past Dallas Cowboys records but also reset NFL annals. Sunday's devastating ankle injury ended that threat to the record books and thrust Andy Dalton into the spotlight.
The Prescott injury has owner Jerry Jones recalibrating forecasts for American's Team.
"We should adjust expectations. (It's) different than optimism. But we should adjust our expectations. Dak is a very incremental part of the potential success to this football team," Jones said Friday on the K&C Masterpiece on 105.3 The Fan. "On the other hand, if we don't reach where we want to go ... and the ultimate success is to win the championship ... it will not be because of Andy Dalton. It will not be because of our play at quarterback. He's capable of stepping in and playing at that level."
Dalton is no Dak. He's not as mobile, as lively, as explosive, nor does he have as many reps with the Cowboys play-makers.
The 32-year-old, however, was signed just for this specific emergency situation. To keep the playoff hopes alive if Prescott suffered a catastrophic injury.
The "Break Glass in Case of Emergency" pane was broken.
Dalton might not be Prescott, but he's not some JV walk-on either. Having 133 starts over nine seasons in Cincinnati is nothing to sneeze at. The three-time Pro Bowler proved that he can distribute the ball when the pieces are in place around him. His best years in Cincy, he was buffered by play-makers like A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Jermaine Gresham, Mohamed Sanu and later Tyler Boyd.
Dalton might not be a shoot-the-three type QB, but he can be an assist machine with the type of weapons the Cowboys boast. What better to get the most out of a limited passer than Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup and just ask him to hit the open target.
In Sunday's win, Dalton showed he could make plays down the stretch to swipe a victory, albeit against a lifeless opponent. The Cowboys are fortunate enough to play in the dumpster fire that is the NFC East keeping the postseason door open despite the QB downgrade.
Perhaps the torrid pace the passing game was on under Prescott will need to be readjusted, and expectations tampered slightly. But they still lead the division at 2-3 and have the best prospects of making the playoffs if the defense can find some semblance of a backbone.