Notes From Foxboro: Patriots react to facing Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

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By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

FOXBORO, Mass. -- Lamar Jackson might be the most dynamic athlete the Patriots face in an opposing quarterback this season. But the Cowboys' Dak Prescott may be the best quarterback they've faced so far, period.

Prescott is coming off a monster game in a 35-27 win over the Lions last Sunday, throwing for 444 yards and three touchdowns. Since throwing an interception on the first play from scrimmage against the Giants three weeks ago, Prescott has gone 79-for-126 (62.3 percent) for 1,098 yards, nine touchdowns, and one interception that was on a Hail Mary attempt at the end of the Cowboys' loss to the Vikings in Week 10.

When he's at his best, Prescott can pick you apart in the deep and intermediate areas of the field and limit his mistakes. He's not going to force it too much. He's smart enough to audible out of troublesome plays and take what the defense gives him.

"I think the more film I watch, you kind of really see how good he is," said safety Devin McCourty on Prescott. "He’s able to be on one hash, look maybe to that side, see if that route’s open. If that’s not open, he’s able to swing his hips, his whole body, around to the other side and throw a comeback to the wide side of the field with a corner breaking underneath it.

"So, very accurate, strong arm. We saw one of the Hail Mary’s, about 55 or 60 yards in the air. So, I think you have a guy like Dak Prescott that can really move the ball around, and does a great job of kind of taking care of the ball and reading defenses."

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott looks to pass against Detroit Lions outside linebacker Devon Kennard during the first quarter at Ford Field. (Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott looks to pass against Detroit Lions outside linebacker Devon Kennard during the first quarter at Ford Field. (Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)

Prescott shredded the Lions last week, thanks in part to getting plenty of time to throw and his receivers undressing defensive backs. If the Patriots defense make it that easy for Prescott, it's going to be hard for their offense to keep up. It's unlikely this secondary gets toasted like the Lions' did. But they certainly know what they're in for with the Prescott-led Cowboys offense, arguably the most complete unit they've faced in 2019.

"He can make every throw," said cornerback Stephon Gilmore. "He can throw it deep, short. He’s smart, he can get them out of checks when the defense shows him something. So, he’s been having a good year this year."

It's rare to hear Bill Belichick deliver such genuine praise and respect for an opposing quarterback. The Patriots head coach didn't have the same boilerplate descriptions for Prescott that he may have when buttering up a lesser talent.

"This guy can throw the ball," Belichick professed on Wednesday. "He’s very accurate, he’s got great poise in the pocket, stands in there. He can extend plays and run if he has to, but he doesn’t do much of that unless he really needs to. He has great patience and poise, discipline in the pocket, gets his eyes down field. He’s a very good intermediate-to-deep ball-thrower. He’s got good weapons, but he’s been super impressive. Just, great, great quarterback – sideline throws, inside throws, in-cuts, posts, over routes, flag routes, you name it. Possession passes on third down, best third down team in the league, best passing team in the league, most big plays in the league – I mean, I don’t know where you want to start, they do it all. And, he does it all. He runs options, he runs read zones, keeps the ball in critical situations, tough guy to tackle, makes tough yards when he needs them, so he’s really good."

The aforementioned Lions defense did make life too easy for Prescott. Not enough pressure, too much time and space. Key to slowing him down will be, first and foremost, pressing their pass-catchers man-to-man like they often do. And if they don't let the Cowboys' impressive offensive line push them around, they'll shrink Prescott's options.

Easier said than done. Especially when they're going up against a quarterback who's less likely to shoot himself in the foot than other passers they've faced, particularly with how well he's played lately.

Dorsett upgraded to limited participation in practice

In a promising sign for Phillip Dorsett's progress through the concussion protocol, the Patriots receiver was listed as a limited participant in Thursday's practice. There's optimism that he could be cleared in time for Sunday, according to Jeff Howe.

Tom Brady of the New England Patriots celebrates after Phillip Dorsett II scored a third quarter touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 17, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Tom Brady of the New England Patriots celebrates after Phillip Dorsett II scored a third quarter touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 17, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The same can't be said for Mohamed Sanu, who reportedly is dealing with a high ankle sprain that could keep him out of action for a couple of weeks. So the Patriots offense is desperately going to need Dorsett to get back on the field against the Cowboys. Otherwise, they're another injury away from special teams captain Matthew Slater having to take snaps as a wide receiver. Hey, he is listed on the roster as a WR, so...

Pats sign Bower, Adeboyejo to practice squad

The Patriots have made a couple of moves on the practice squad this week, filling in some vacant spots. They officially announced on Thursday that they've signed DL Tashawn Bower, who spent 2017-18 and part of 2019 with the Vikings. Minnesota released him on Oct. 15 after he started the season on the non-football injury list.

Also joining the Patriots practice squad is WR Quincy Adeboyejo. That move has not been officially announced. But Adeboyejo does have a locker in the Patriots' locker room and he wears Josh Gordon's old number 10. Adeboyejo played one game for the Ravens in 2017.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].