Dak Prescott’s perfect performance against zone looks is actually a trend

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was nearly flawless in his performance against the Eagles on Christmas Eve. After a pesky first quarter interception was returned for a touchdown, Prescott put on a passing clinic, going 27-for-35 for 347 passing yards in the Cowboys 40-34 victory over Philadelphia.

In the 10 games since Prescott has been back from a Week 1 thumb injury to his throwing hand, he’s elevated the Dallas passing attack to league-high levels. The Cowboys are among league-leaders in yards, points, DVOA, EPA, and success rate. On Saturday, there was one stat that encapsulated just how special the QB was, but it spoke to a season-long trend. not just a single-game performance.

A very perfect Christmas

Given the Cowboys’ statistical dominance this season, it should be no surprise Prescott posted such impressive numbers again in Week 16. Yet, when Next Gen Stats reported Prescott’s perfect performance against zone coverage, one couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow.

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Going a perfect 24-24, Prescott passed for 300 yards and three touchdowns against the Eagles’ zone coverage.  He carved up the highly regarded Philadelphia secondary with precision passing and smart decision-making. Looking at the numbers this season, it appears to be more than just a flash in the pan.

Anomaly or trend?

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After the painful interception to start the game, Prescott put on a clinic from the quarterback position. Despite the suspect offensive line, and a generally ineffective running game, Prescott showed the league even the NFC’s top-ranked pass defense was no match for him when he’s fully entrenched in his groove.

While rhythm certainly seems to be a factor with Prescott’s play, Saturday’s performance was more than just “getting hot” for Prescott. It’s a season long trend.

It’s no secret Prescott likes man coverage. Pro Football Focus (paywall) tracks passing performance against various coverages, so we can see where different passers’ strengths and weaknesses lie.

Looking at their data from Week 1 through Week 15, we can see Prescott’s 0.354 EPA against Cover 1 (a man heavy coverage) leads the entire NFL.

He’s similarly as dominant against Cover 0 (man coverage with all-out blitz) looks where he produces a 0.402 EPA.

Prescott’s performance against more zone-heavy looks has been dropping jaws as well. Against Cover 4 (four deep, quarters coverage) he’s producing an EPA of 0.281/play and against Cover 6 (Cover 4 to strong side, Cover 2 to weak side) looks he’s posting a 0.419 EPA/play.

The only look to give him issues this season is a traditional Cover 2 (two deep, five under) which he sees less often (as of Week 15) than Cover 1, Cover 3 (three deep, four underneath), or Cover 4.

Conclusion

Prescott’s stellar performance deserves accolades but it didn’t come out of nowhere. He’s been producing at high levels ever since he came back from his Week 1 thumb injury.

What’s important to point out is his performance against zone coverage, specifically, is not an outlier but rather the next step in a trend of week-over-week success.

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire