ARLINGTON, Texas -- When Dak Prescott ran out for his early workout routine, those inside AT&T Stadium cheered loudly. When he returned for pregame warm-ups in full pads, the cheers were louder. When he was announced with the starting offense before kickoff, it was even louder.
Playing in his first home game in 351 days after suffering a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle, Prescott helped deliver the Cowboys to a 41-21 thrashing of the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday by completing 21 of 26 passes for 238 yards and three touchdowns.
Leading up to the game, Prescott said he would take a moment or two to reflect on his work to get back to the field, although it was not a tear that trickled down his cheek during the national anthem.
"I think that was sweat," he said. "I don't remember crying but definitely just appreciation and gratitude. Thankful for just the opportunity to be back out here, doing what I love and doing it here at AT&T in front of the fans, with my teammates, in an atmosphere like this, first home game. It was special. It was definitely special.
"As I said, usually the national anthem or pregame [are] the moments that I take in, and that was definitely one of them. Yeah, just thankful for everything I've been through and got me back to this point."
On his first drive, Prescott moved the Cowboys quickly down the field with a 44-yard completion to CeeDee Lamb near the goal line, which was followed up by the first of two first-half rushing touchdowns by Ezekiel Elliott.
On the second drive, Prescott was sacked and lost a fumble in the end zone for the Eagles' first touchdown. And he was stopped on a fourth-down quarterback sneak at the Philadelphia 1 on the third drive.
But on the fourth drive, he threw his first of two touchdown passes to Dalton Schultz for 19 yards to give the Cowboys a lead for good.
Prescott finished the first half completing 13 of 16 passes for 148 yards. In the second half, he missed on only two more passes, becoming the second quarterback in Cowboys history to complete at least 80% of his passes in back-to-back games. He completed 23 of 27 passes for 237 yards in the Cowboys' Week 2 win at the Los Angeles Chargers.
Hall of Famer Troy Aikman had consecutive games with an 80% or better completion rate in the final two games of the 1993 season.
Monday's outing marked the 10th time Prescott has had three touchdown passes and no interceptions in a game. Only Tony Romo (22) and Hall of Famer Roger Staubach (11) have had more in franchise history.
"I'm very happy for Dak," Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think any of us that has had a chance to witness how much he puts into it and he's just a great leader for our football team. He's obviously playing the quarterback position at a very high level right now, and I think it's like a lot of things: You get what you put into it."
Prescott had two surgeries after suffering the ankle injury in the third quarter of the Cowboys' win against the visiting New York Giants on Oct. 11, 2020. He went through countless hours of rehab and was only not cleared for full contact during the offseason program because the organization did not want to put him at unnecessary risk.
By training camp, he was 100 percent; but he suffered a strained right latissimus muscle on July 28 that kept him out of 10 practices and all four preseason games.
"I said it earlier in the year, and I'll say it again: I think just getting hurt last year and having to sit back and watch football, a different perspective and just different ways people play this game," Prescott said. "Going back, the experience obviously has helped, but just studying and preparing myself and then all the work that I've put in just to get back healthy, not only the leg but the shoulder ... I feel like I'm playing the best I've ever played."
McCarthy agreed, even if Prescott was on pace to throw for more than 6,000 yards before getting hurt last season.
"I think he's clearly playing better now, in my opinion," McCarthy said. "Last year, we were in track meets. This is a clearly a different football team than last year. You're seeing three games where I felt like we've been very complimentary both on offense and defense. He's doing a lot in the run game as far as handling the checks and things like that.
"Yeah, I feel like he's playing better this year than last."