Dak Prescott’s health at heart of Cowboys-Vikings showdown

The status of Dak Prescott was to be firmed up later in the week as the Dallas Cowboys prepare for an offensive showdown with the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night in Minneapolis.

A bye week didn’t totally cure the calf strain Prescott suffered in Week 6, and he was a limited practice participant on Wednesday.

The Cowboys (5-1) badly want Prescott on the field against the Vikings (3-3) but aren’t pushing the pace yet. Backup Cooper Rush received work with the first team on Wednesday in case Prescott’s calf doesn’t progress to the liking of team trainer Britt Brown.

“I think it’s a matter of trying to make sure Cooper’s ready and make sure Dak is getting what he needs,” Dallas coach Mike McCarthy told reporters on Wednesday. “Until Dak clears the threshold of the rehab component with Britt, we won’t make that determination on going full go until we get to that point. With that, we’ve got to make sure we get Cooper ready.”

Rush has never started an NFL game and his three career pass attempts came in 2017. Surely that isn’t the guy anyone associated with NBC’s Sunday Night Football wants to see on the field for Dallas.

Prescott topped 400 yards for the second time this season — finishing with 445 — in the game he was hurt, a 35-29 overtime win over the New England Patriots. He also threw three touchdown passes, marking the fifth time he has tossed three or more this season.

Prescott has demonstrated he is fully recovered from last season’s devastating ankle injury by passing for 1,813 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Entering Week 8, the Cowboys led the NFL in both scoring offense (34.2 points per game) and total yardage (460.8).

Perhaps the one disappointment is that Dallas is tied for 24th in red zone efficiency, having scored touchdowns on just 56 percent of its opportunities from inside the opponents’ 20-yard line

“Yeah, it’s not good,” Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore said. “I think we’re really, really close.”

Minnesota also is coming off a bye. The Vikings are 14th in scoring at 24.5 points but fifth in yardage (414.2) behind quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has thrown for 1,769 yards, 13 touchdowns and two interceptions.

Cousins passed for a season-high 373 yards and matched his high of three touchdown passes as Minnesota registered a 34-28 overtime victory over the Carolina Panthers in Week 6.

Cousins is aware that the Cowboys are a dangerous and potent team.

“I think you have to be aware of the team you’re playing, which includes the offense and the special teams,” Cousins said Wednesday. “Just be aware of the whole picture, and much of that is coaching decisions as opposed to me as the player.”

Vikings running Dalvin Cook had a season-best 140 rushing yards against the Panthers. Wideout Justin Jefferson has 41 receptions this season and has caught at least five in each of his past nine games.

Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer is wary of the Dallas passing game. Wideouts CeeDee Lamb (33 catches, 497 yards) and Amari Cooper (30 for 373) and tight end Dalton Schultz (31 for 359) have combined for 11 touchdown receptions.

“It’s hard to fool him, No. 1, when they have a good idea of what’s going on,” Zimmer said of Prescott. “But all quarterbacks for the most part do a good job of trying to figure out post-snap coverage. That’s really what’s important.”

The Vikings are tied for the NFL lead with 21 sacks. Defensive end Danielle Hunter has six.

The Dallas defense is led by cornerback Trevon Diggs, who has an NFL-best seven interceptions. He has returned two for scores.

Diggs (ankle) was limited in practice Wednesday as were left tackle Tyron Smith (ankle) and defensive end Dorance Armstrong (ankle).

Defensive tackle Michael Pierce (elbow) and receiver Dede Westbrook (ankle) sat out for the Vikings. Linebacker Anthony Barr (knee) and tight end Ben Ellefson (knee, foot) were limited.

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