The regular season is over. It would have been nice to reach 14 wins for the first time in franchise history, but the Cowboys have bigger fish to fry. They took a nice step towards their goals by having a successful Week 17 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Our own Dave Halprin recently wrote about how Dallas scored a huge victory against the Eagles, despite coming out on the wrong side of the scoreboard. Indeed it was a big triumph for the Cowboys to come out of the game unscathed by injury as they enter the playoffs. Jason Garrett is all about finishing the fight, but he didn’t even give two of his biggest playmakers, Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee, a chance to battle. But health was only a part of it. The Cowboys have plenty of other things to be happy about from their season finale against the Eagles.
Here are my five thoughts from the game.
The League’s Best Backup
This weekend, I wrote about four possible scenarios involving Tony Romo in this meaningless game against the Eagles. As it turns out, the best possible scenario took place. Romo played and he played well. He only played one series and was 3/4 for 29 yards, but he looked sharp. When the Cowboys were facing a 3rd and 11, it was an unsettling moment. The Eagles were going to bring the pressure and so many things could go wrong. But Romo, like he has done many times before, calmly stood in the pocket and threw a nice strike to Terrance Williams for the first down. It was a pretty throw and had a lot of zip on it.
Romo would finish the drive with a touchdown pass to Williams. It was like he had never left.
While teams like the Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins, and Houston Texans enter the playoffs with their QB situation in dire straits, the Cowboys are sitting in great shape.
Protecting The Stars
Week 16 was a terrible week for teams like the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks, who lost key players that will hinder their Super Bowl chances. The Cowboys would not have to worry about such a risk as Jason Garrett made a game-time decision to sit his star running back, Ezekiel Elliott. He would also have Sean Lee take a seat. Both players didn’t seem too pleased about this decision, but they’ll feel a lot better about when they both make their first career playoff appearance in a couple weeks.
It should let you know where you stand in terms of value when your coach designates you as the chosen ones that are too valuable to risk. And while it may have come as a surprise, it was a brilliant idea to have them prepare all week like they’re playing. That is how you sustain a fighting mentality.
For some reason, Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks shows up time and time again for the games against the Cowboys. He’s most remembered for the hit that broke Romo’s collarbone in Week 2 of the 2015 season. He then would torment the Cowboys backup quarterback when he picked off a Matt Cassel pass and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown in Week 8 of last year. He would continue is dominance against the Cowboys earlier this season when he picked off Dak Prescott in the end zone.
He was back to his old tricks on Sunday, picking off Mark Sanchez twice. For some reason, he really has the Cowboys number. He is to the Cowboys as manure is to Biff Tannen.
Carson “Humdrum” Wentz
The Eagles gave up a lot to select Carson Wentz with the second-overall pick in the 2016 draft. They have to like what they’ve seen from him from his rookie season, despite some lackluster numbers. His 16 touchdowns to 14 interceptions is a little sketchy, but he has completed more passes than any other rookie in NFL history with 379 completions. That would seem like a great feat, however, Wentz is a check-down champion. He has a yards per attempt average of 5.7 yards, which is only 70% of Dak Prescott’s 8.0 Y/A.
Wentz did find Zach Ertz for a 20-yard touchdown pass, but in his two career games against Dallas that pass was the deepest completion he’s had against them. He tried to go deep to Dorial Green-Beckham once, but the ball was severely under-thrown. Wentz just hasn’t shown a whole lot to give Cowboys fans much to worry about in the future.
Fixing The Little Things
This game provided the Cowboys the opportunity to work on some of the things that have plague them this season. And one of those things have been the penalties. Surprisingly, they only had five for 35 yards against the Eagles. Despite playing with so many bench players, the Cowboys had their lowest penalty outage since the Thanksgiving game against the Washington Redskins.
This is somewhat welcoming considering teams that are getting flagged a lot in the playoffs usually don’t last very long. It was good to see Dallas clean this up.