Instead, they'll spend all week answering questions about whether they've just set themselves up for more postseason disappointment — 27 years after they last made it as far as the NFC championship game.
A woeful showing in a 26-6 regular season-ending loss at Washington wasn't what Dallas (12-5) had in mind going into a “Monday Night Football” wild-card game next week at Tampa Bay (8-9).
Forget that there was never any indication the game against the Commanders would matter to the Cowboys as far as playoff pecking order. The dud on offense and special teams will sow doubts.
Prescott considers himself above such concerns, but the reality is a career-worst seven-game interception streak that's the longest for a Dallas quarterback in 18 years. He threw pick-6s in three of the last four regular-season games.
There was some solid play from Prescott in each of the first two games where one of his interceptions was returned for a touchdown. There was very little of that against the Commanders.
Prescott's accuracy was perhaps the worst in his seven seasons, and the numbers showed it: a career-low 37.8% completion percentage (14 of 37) and a season-worst passer rating of 45.8.
“Just completely not who we are,” said Prescott, who tied Davis Mills of three-win Houston for the most interceptions in the NFL with 15, despite missing five games with a broken thumb.
“Something that as much as you want to burn the tape and move forward, there’s a lot we can learn from and get better and use this tape.”
The only consolation for Dallas is that momentum didn't help last season.
The Cowboys blew out Philadelphia 51-26 going into the playoffs even though the outcome didn't matter. Then the offense went back to sputtering in a 23-17 wild-card loss to San Francisco at home.
“You have to reboot anyways. It’s playoff time,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I have great confidence in the locker room. I think we have exceptional leadership.”
The Cowboys secured playoff berths in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2006-07, which means most of the players remember the sting of the loss to the 49ers.
The best solution for ending a stretch of more than a quarter-century without multiple playoff victories in the same season is getting repeat chances. Before this season, Dallas had done it just twice since 1996.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
A road playoff game might be a good thing for the Cowboys after the way the loss to the 49ers on their home field ended when they ran out of time for a final play on a designed Prescott run with no timeouts.
Still, the reality is Dallas has an eight-game road losing streak in the playoffs. The last victory on the opposing team's field in the postseason was a 30-20 win at San Francisco for the 1992 NFC championship, which triggered a run of three Super Bowl titles in four years.
The last time the Cowboys opened the postseason on the road was the 2006 season, when quarterback Tony Romo was also the holder and infamously flubbed the snap on a potential winning field goal in the final two minutes of a 21-20 wild-card loss at Seattle.
S Malik Hooker has tied his career high of three interceptions after snagging one in the end zone to end a Washington threat. Hooker had three as a rookie first-round pick with Indianapolis in 2017.
The Cowboys might be developing a trust problem with kick returner KaVontae Turpin, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. He muffed punts in two of the last five games in the regular season, the latter setting up a Washington touchdown for the first points in the finale.
Rookie CB DaRon Bland left the Washington game in the first half with a chest injury. He didn't return, but it wasn't known if that was precautionary. The Cowboys already have lost starting cornerbacks Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown to season-ending injuries. ... LB Leighton Vander Esch could return after missing the final three games of the regular season with a neck injury. He practiced some last week.
7-0 — Tom Brady's career record against the Cowboys. The 45-year-old, seven-time Super Bowl champ has beat Dallas twice with the Buccaneers — in the openers last season and this season — after going 5-0 in his time with New England.
If the Cowboys beat the Bucs, there will be plenty of talk about them repeating the postseason feat of Tampa Bay from its Super Bowl-winning season of 2020. Brady's bunch won at Washington, New Orleans and Green Bay before dominating Kansas City for the title. Dallas needs multiple upsets to get a home playoff game.
Schuyler Dixon, The Associated Press