The Dallas Cowboys have become increasingly reliant on the right arm of Dak Prescott, and for good reason.
Prescott is completing his throws at a career-high 68.3-percent rate. He's averaging 308.6 yards per game and has already thrown for 18 touchdowns, five shy of his career best for a season.
The Detroit Lions also have an accomplished quarterback having a career season in Matthew Stafford, but he has been ruled out with a back injury for Sunday's contest against the visiting Cowboys. Stafford's streak of 136 consecutive starts ended when he sat out a 20-13 loss at Chicago last weekend due to broken bones in his back.
The Cowboys (5-4) also lost on Sunday, falling to Minnesota 28-24 despite a big game from Prescott, who passed for 397 yards and three touchdowns. It was his second consecutive three-touchdown performance.
Prescott has completed 40 passes that have gone for 20 or more yards.
"He's playing with conviction and confidence," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "We're calling some of those things, trying to give those guys an opportunity to win down the field. Protection has been really good, allowing those routes to develop down the field and for Dak to see them. All of that contributes to it, and those big plays matter."
Lions coach Matt Patricia has noticed on film that Prescott has also become a smarter quarterback.
"He's doing a great job at the line of scrimmage," Patricia said. "He's changing plays, he's making audibles, he's making adjustments based on what he's seeing from the defense. His post-snap read of a coverage is a lot better. He's doing a really good job of deciphering some of those looks he's getting and really taking advantage of the skill players he has out there."
Top target Amari Cooper sliced through the Minnesota secondary for 11 catches, 147 yards and a touchdown. But the Cowboys didn't have good balance, as Ezekiel Elliott was held to 47 yards on 20 carries, snapping a streak of three straight 100-yard games. Elliott, who received a record contract extension just prior to the season opener, is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and has scored six touchdowns.
Detroit's offense can be dynamic when its top players are healthy, but that's not the case. Not only is Stafford injured, but top running back Kerryon Johnson is on injured reserve with a knee injury. Ty Johnson was injured against the Bears, however he was cleared from concussion protocol on Saturday.
Jeff Driskel started in place of Stafford in Chicago and passed for 269 yards and a 47-yard touchdown to Kenny Golladay. Driskel was also intercepted once, sacked twice and scrambled for 37 yards.
"I was really pleased with Jeff and the way he played in the game," Patricia said.
Golladay has made the most of his 38 receptions, averaging 18.3 yards per catch while scoring eight touchdowns.
"He makes a lot of plays down the field," Garrett said. "He's big, he's athletic, he's talented, and he's very good at going up and getting the football."
The Lions (3-5-1) have lost five of their last six games, with all but one decided by seven points or fewer.
"These games have all been really competitive, really tough mentally and physically," Patricia said. "Our guys are doing a great job of grinding all the way through that. There are a lot of situations where we've seen teams in the past that just mentally can't do that every single week. Each game is coming down to maybe one or two plays."
For the Cowboys, the offensive line is banged up. Right tackle La'el Collins (knee, back) was limited in Friday's practice and is listed as questionable to face Detroit. Offensive guard Connor Williams underwent minor knee surgery and won't play Sunday.
--Field Level Media