Prescott, Lamb spotlight Cedrick Wilson’s clutch 4th-down grab as reason for Cowboys win

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The box score shows that Cedrick Wilson was targeted seven times and caught four balls for 42 yards on Sunday. The replays show that, of the three passes he didn’t reel in, two could have been touchdowns.

But when the game was on the line, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott trusted Wilson enough to come back to him. And while Prescott, Trevon Diggs, and CeeDee Lamb are being held up as the heroes of the 35-29 overtime victory by Dallas, none of it happens without Cedrick Wilson.

“Huge,” Prescott told reporters of the clutch fourth-down reception Wilson made with under two minutes to play. “Great play call. Great play call that I’m very comfortable in, very comfortable with. The moment [Wilson] came in, obviously, I started with my reads and, knowing that he was coming open right there, great catch by him. Great job to get his feet down. Without that, we’re not up here talking about the win.”

“I was like, it’s coming to me,” Wilson recalled after the game. “I just had to find the ball and catch it.”

The Boise State product has been thrust into a more active role in the Cowboys’ offensive attack with Michael Gallup shelved after Week 1. And he’s delivered: 14 receptions for 168 yards and a pair of scores so far in his fourth season with the club.

Those numbers trail the stats put up by CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper, but they’ve been just as vital to the overall- and, on Sunday, the situational- success of the Cowboys’ passing game.

“It’s a huge confidence booster for the room and for Dak, I’m sure, just to have the ability to throw it to anyone, as you saw,” Lamb told reporters. It was his 35-yard touchdown catch that ended the game, and his 24-yard reception that allowed the team to tie the score as time wound down in regulation. But Wilson had to move the chains first.

“[You] talk about my dig route that I caught,” Lamb continued, “but two or three plays before that, Ced caught an out route that was probably the most important catch of the drive. Having a group of guys in that room that I can trust, that can make a play for Dak- Dak can trust us- it plays a huge part. It speaks about the room, it speaks about the quarterback, it speaks about the team.”

Up until that fourth-down haul, though, Wilson’s game was more notable for a couple of bad breaks. It was Wilson that Prescott was aiming for in the end zone at the end of a 13-play, seven-minute drive early in the second quarter. Instead of a tying touchdown, the ball was intercepted, taking the wind out of the Cowboys’ sails.

On the next possession, Prescott came back to Wilson, again in the end zone. The former sixth-round draft pick looked for a moment like he had caught a perfectly-placed scoring throw, but he was unable to complete the catch as he went to the ground, leaving the Cowboys to settle for a field goal.

But Prescott and the Cowboys kept looking Wilson’s way, knowing it would take a complete team effort to beat New England at home. It finally paid off with Wilson’s clutch reception late to extend the drive that ultimately forced overtime.

“We talked all week,” head coach Mike McCarthy explained in his postgame remarks. “Just the few times I’ve had a chance to go against the Patriots, you have to have more than one or two perimeter players if you think you’re going to have a productive day. We went in here clearly with the mindset of: it didn’t matter who was at X, who was at F, who was at Z. It didn’t matter which back was in the game. It didn’t mater which tight end was in there. We were going to challenge them schematically. Try to defeat their leverage and go play. Knowingly, to have success, your third, fourth, fifth- however you view them- your receivers, those guys needed to make plays today. That was a big part.”

Prescott also spoke of the team mentality of the Dallas pass-catchers.

“Just the brotherhood,” Prescott told reporters. “Just the way that we interact with each other throughout the building, off the field, and then it all just shows on the field. For CeeDee to say that [Wilson’s fourth-down reception was the key play of the game-tying drive], he’s right. That’s huge. Without Ced’s catch, we’re not talking CeeDee’s touchdown and we’re not even talking overtime, pretty much. Yeah, it’s huge. It’s a special group and a group that I’m so privileged to be a part of.”

When Gallup recovers from his calf injury, he’ll resume his spot in the starting lineup, and Wilson will likely see a drop in playing time. But Gallup is in a contract year, and likely to get high-dollar offers to play elsewhere in an offense where he’s not the third-best option. What Wilson is showing now, while filling in for his fellow 2018 draft-class-mate, may pay big dividends moving forward.

It certainly did as Sunday’s game in New England entered crunch time.

“It feels good that I trust in them just like they trust in me,” Wilson said after the game. “Obviously, in the red zone, a couple of those, I wish I could’ve pulled in. And I told [Dak], and he told me, ‘We’re going to get it when we need it.'”

Sure enough, when they did need it versus the Patriots, Prescott and Wilson made good on that prophecy.

“Supreme confidence,” Wilson said of his quarterback and the offense’s mindset in the huddle. “One, just knowing we can do anything we set our mind to. And then preparation. We do [a] two-minute [drill] every Thursday at practice. Either we win, or the defense wins. And that time, we won.”

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