The Dallas Cowboys ended the regular season on a high note Sunday with a win over the New York Giants.
Cole Beasley’s diving 32-yard catch from Dak Prescott in the back of the end zone on fourth-and-15 set the Cowboys up for the go-ahead two-point conversion in the final two minutes of a 36-35 victory.
It was a thrilling win for the Cowboys and their fans.
It was also completely meaningless.
Cowboys risk Dak Prescott while resting his protection
The Cowboys had the No. 4 seed in the NFC playoffs locked up. They weren’t going to fall with a loss or improve their standing with a win. Nothing that happened on the field Sunday changed the fact that the Cowboys are going to host the Seattle Seahawks next Saturday.
Instead of taking the opportunity to rest and protect quarterback Dak Prescott, the Cowboys put him on the field for every offensive snap.
Prescott responded with one the best performances of his career, completing 27 of 44 pass attempts for 387 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Fortunately for him, head coach Jason Garrett, owner Jerry Jones and the entire Cowboys fanbase, he didn’t get hurt.
Elliott, Martin, Smith all rested
While he played in a game that didn’t matter, running back Ezekiel Elliott and offensive linemen Zach Martin and Tyron Smith rested.
That’s right. As Prescott put himself at risk, Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith got a well-deserved break.
Why? Because the Cowboys were all in on the concept of momentum, apparent believers in that the performance in a meaningless game Sunday will impact their play next week in a game that absolutely does matter.
At least for Prescott.
Jerry Jones’ reasoning
It was a well-orchestrated message that came from Jones and was parroted Sunday by Garrett and Prescott himself.
“We hedged our bets a little bit with two or three players,” Jones told reporters about the team’s decisions on resting players Sunday. “In general, what we were trying to get done — to our coaches credit — we got done.
“I wouldn’t give anything for this team and Dak to have experienced that comeback. I’m thankful that we got him out safely, but boy am I glad that he got that work.”
Jones didn’t explain why Prescott wasn’t deemed valuable enough to rest while some of his teammates were.
Garrett: Prescott wasn’t banged up
Garrett tried to shed a little more light on the situation with an answer that stayed on message.
“It was our decision,” Garrett said. “We wanted him to play, we wanted our guys to play. If guys weren’t healthy or banged up, we were gonna keep them out of the ball game. But everybody else was going to play. We wanted to practice well. We wanted to play well in this ball game.”
While neither Elliott, Martin or Smith were suffering injuries that would have kept them out of a game with stakes, the Cowboys attempted to explain their absence from Sunday’s game as being due to “various bumps and bruises” and prior injuries in the team’s official report on their absence.
Prescott wanted to play
Prescott apparently didn’t have any bumps or bruises.
He toed the line and kept on point while answering numerous questions about his playing time after the game.
“I feel good,” Prescott said. “A bunch of us wanted to play and needed to play to get this momentum and keep that win going.”
Asked again, he stayed on message.
“I played all four,” he said. “We won the game. I feel great.
“The competitor in me wanted to play. I wanted to get out there. I said it during the week I wanted to play. I wanted to have this momentum — throw the ball and just carry this into the postseason. So I’m glad with the way it turned out.”
Cowboys are lucky dumb gamble didn’t cost them
Of course he’s glad the way it turned out. The completely unnecessary gamble was rewarded without injury.