It wasn’t just a Dallas Cowboys victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. The stomping 41-21 was a statement to their opponent, the rest of the NFC East and the NFC as a whole. Having managed a 1-1 division in the first two games of the season, they have shown they can score as a group on offense, add a defensive stacking score and control a game from start to finish. It took a real touchdown of waste time from Jalen Hurts to keep him from being an even more dominant score.
ESPN really overplayed Dak Prescott’s return from his devastating injury last year, but we know that’s yesterday’s story. He was already performing at a high level in the first two games, and he didn’t give up at all against the Eagles. He got circled in his own end zone and gave up a fumble for a sack, but for much of the game the green-clad defenders simply had no answer for him. Aided by a very efficient running game, the game was turned badly in favor of the Cowboys. Although “evil” is not the word we could choose. Kellen Moore would sometimes just run an offensive training clinic, confusing opponents, not meeting and arranging long trips to the field. The defense was also strong, continuing the off-ball streak and frequently taking advantage of a quarterback who was just not up to par with his counterpart. On at least two games, the big passes were canceled out by ineligible downline men’s flags that occurred because he wasn’t at the time of his throws.
He had a few moments, however. Faced with a 20-point deficit in the third quarter and needing to find a spark for his team, he had a heroic moment. Somehow avoiding Osa Odighizuwa, who already had a sack, he unleashed a superb 41-yard throw at Quez Watkins that led to a possible Zack Ertz touchdown and narrowed things down to a lead of two goals for Dallas. The Cowboys offense had had three consecutive halftime strikeouts before that. A few balls from Prescott quickly got them through the midfield, but a sack halted that practice and suddenly Philly had a real opening to come back fully into the game. Bryan Anger narrowly avoided getting blocked on a punt, which could have made things really interesting. The defense got three more and went out. Then, with a combination of short passes, power Ezekiel Elliott, an offside penalty and going for the 4th and 2, the Cowboys got a touchdown from Cedrick Wilson to push him to a lead of three points early in the fourth quarter, and it looked more and more like a decisive game for Dallas as they pushed to take the undisputed lead in the NFC East.
This was a great example of empty stats, as Hurts ended up with a lot more yards than Prescott, but the latter had a much more efficient play and help from that powerful running game that debuted ago. has a week. When a team’s quarterback comes in for the last practice, you know who’s in control and who’s watching themselves get run over.
The Cowboys came in at halftime with what should have been a nice 13-point lead, but it felt like they were dropping points on the pitch multiple times. The first time, it really wasn’t their fault. After running for 74 yards on the field, Prescott attempted a sneaky QB from the 1-yard line, but officials decided he was stopped dead. The replay still showed him fighting and hitting the ball across the line, but congestion blocked the right camera angles and the game held on. Later, as they passed a two-point lead, Greg Zuerlein showed he was much more reliable at long distance than at short distance by getting the extra point.
Still, it was a half dominated by Dallas. They had 19 first tries against just three for the Eagles. They ran 42 games at just 18. They had a 262-to-121-yard advantage and a better-than-two-to-one advantage in possession time. The only runs Philadelphia scored was on a sack / fumble in the end zone on Prescott, as Kellen Moore may have gotten a little too cute going into the empty backfield inside her own line. 5 yards. With the exception of another practice from the depths of Dallas territory, the Eagles’ defense just couldn’t stop. And Prescott nearly pulled that off with a deep ball in Cedrick Wilson, but he was only able to descend a foot close to midfield.
Speaking of deep bullets, there were concerns Prescott would only feed on short stuff. But it resulted in a 44-yard lift to CeeDee Lamb that led to the first touchdown on a three-yard dive from Ezekiel Elliott. On this game, Connor McGovern was in the back, and it wasn’t the only time Moore used him to get his top five linemen on the field.
If there was one concern for Dallas, it was that Tyler Biadasz was repeatedly pushed back into Prescott’s lap. Javon Hargrave seemed to have his number. Connor Williams was also reported for three detention penalties, although one was a bit questionable.
But the offense was cooking, with Prescott throwing for 148 yards and a touchdown from Dalton Schultz. (Schultz would later add a touchdown on a play that showed incredible footwork from the tight big end.) Thunder and Lightning were back. Elliott had 60 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns, while Tony Pollard carried the ball 10 times for 56 in the first half. Elliott also had three catches for 21 yards and nearly scored a touchdown on the play before the hapless Prescott stealthily. Meanwhile, the defense was very strong with only a few long plays dropped. Jaylon Hurts was just 7 of 12 for 102 yards and an Anthony Brown pick, when they had just 30 rushing. To a large extent, only their own mistake and a questionable call from officials could not stop Dallas’ offensive attack.
If there was one thing to worry about, it was Mike McCarthy’s somewhat curious clock handling late in the first half. He could have used his two remaining timeouts (one was caught in a failed challenge for the failed quarterback) to get the ball back with at least a minute to try and let his formidable offense try a few more points. But he was content to enter half-time with a 13-point lead.
The only way the Eagles could get back into the game was to do something on offense. They got the ball at halftime, but after a long pass to Dallas Goedert, Trevon Diggs gave any resurgence a quick jerk with a beautifully timed pick-six, passing a stumbling and falling DeVonta Smith and going 59 yards at home. If you lost count, that’s three steals for Diggs in the first three games. That took the Cowboys’ lead to 27-7 with just 53 seconds left in the first half.
Diggs himself had a good night’s sleep with several defended passes in addition to the interception, and Micah Parsons was once again active and efficient, including an inclined pass, half-sack and a hold call against Lane Johnson. As they gave up too many big wins in the game, against the severely exhausted Philadelphia offensive line, Odighizuwa was a constant threat for Hurts down the middle. Dan Quinn’s defense continued to improve and have a nose for football.
A great victory with still a lot of work for the coaches is an excellent result. It was an imperfect, dominant, and utterly pleasant trampling of our beloved rivals. Now Dallas is facing a fairly soft part of their schedule trying to round out their winning tally.
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