It took overtime. After not paying at all well enough to win the game, the Dallas Cowboys won the toss in overtime and marched the ball downfield against the Philadelphia Eagles. It took going for it on a fourth and one, but they drove 75 yards to end the game on a touchdown throw to Jason Witten and take a two game lead in the NFC East.
For most of the game, the Eagles outplayed the Cowboys. But Dallas came back late in the final quarter of regulation to tie the game up 23-23 on, of course, a touchdown pass to Dez Bryant.
It took a late game surge for the Dak Prescott we have grown to love to emerge. For three and a half quarters, he struggled, but when the Cowboys needed a score, he marched the team the length of the field to tie the game with just over three minutes left. It was definitely a growing experience for him, and he would have his issues both before that drive and after.
And the defense finally got to Carson Wentz inside the two minute warning, getting two sacks to bottle the Eagles up and force a punt. That was crucial in getting the game to overtime.
There was always a question whether rookie phenom Prescott would run into that famous rookie wall, and that happened. The Eagles pressured and confused him much of the night. They also bottled up Ezekiel Elliott for much of the game. By putting up seventeen unanswered points to take a 20-10 lead in the third quarter, they forced Dallas to play from behind, and they proved that they have a serious defense. Dallas was able to move down the field, but Prescott struggled near the end zone, throwing his second interception of the season late in the first half. Not only did the Cowboys squander a likely touchdown or near-certain field goal, the Eagles were able to march down the field in 1:26 to get a 55 yard field goal to take a three point lead into halftime. Prescott was also just a beat late on several passes.
But part of the problem was that the Eagles’ defense lived up to its reputation. They covered receivers like blankets and moved Prescott out of the pocket repeatedly, and frequently stuffed Elliott at or behind the line.
Unlike Prescott, Wentz was generally on target, although he was mostly throwing short passes. It was a mixed thing, since he was effective with them, but just did not get many yards. And once again Dallas struggled to get consistent pressure on the passer. They also let Darren Sproles gouge them too frequently on first down, and in the fourth quarter, he passed Elliott to be the leading rusher for either side at the end of regulation (although Elliott would retake the lead in overtime). The Cowboys also kept drawing flags, playing perhaps their sloppiest game of the season. Perhaps no penalty was more damaging than a holding call on Travis Frederick that wiped out Elliott’s longest run of the night by far with about six minutes left in the game.
It was a failure through much of the game on both sides of the ball for the Cowboys. The last chance for them may have come on a failed trick play, when Cole Beasley missed on a pass to Terrance Williams, but on the first play of the Eagles’ next drive, Terrell McClain stripped the ball from Wendell Smallwood at the Dallas 36. However, the Cowboys had to settle for a field goal when they were unable to get a first down. That was the story far too many times, and included the possession in the third quarter when they had a first and goal from the seven and also had to settle for three. Defensively, when they would get the Eagles in a bit of a hole, they would let them escape too often.
One silver lining to the issues that Prescott had was that the arguments for giving Tony Romo the starting job back now make much more sense. It was evident that Prescott still has some growing to do as a quarterback, and the veteran needs to get his chance to show if he can be the Romo of old.
But the main thing is that the Cowboys, led by their rookie quarterback and aided by a few wily veterans in Bryant, Witten, and Sean Lee, who had more than one crucial play, pulled it out in the end. They are still tied for the top spot in the NFC. And that is all that matters.