It may have been the last gasp for the Dallas Cowboys as they fell to the Philadelphia Eagles 37-9. They sit at 5-5 now, and would have to win five of their last six games to have any chance at all at making the playoffs. And even with some players returning from injury, that is not going to be easy in any way, shape, or form.
If there was one thing that really made this game impossible for the Cowboys to win, it was that Dak Prescott had very bad performance. While he had a few catchable passes dropped by receivers, there were many other times when he was just horribly off target, including the pass that resulted in his second interception of the night. It certainly appeared that he was jumpy after the terrible beating he took against the Atlanta Falcons. It was perhaps the worst performance of his career. Meanwhile, in the second half at least, Carson Wentz was extremely good. One example was on a third down play when Damien Wilson had Wentz in his grasp, and Wentz still fired a nearly perfect pass to move the sticks. There were also some drops by the Eagles’ receivers, but there were also some really good catches, while there just seemed to be none for the Cowboys.
The Cowboys actually played a really good game in the first half, and took a two point lead into the break. After letting the Eagles march right down the field for a touchdown on their opening possession, the defense really cracked down for the rest of the half. The Eagles did not get close to scoring again. But Dallas was only able to score three Mike Nugent field goals as the offense repeatedly stalled out, and that would be a crucial failing.
Dallas did get its running game going, putting up over 100 yards on the Eagles stout run defense. Alfred Morris was the workhorse, with 91 yards. But the Eagles had far more, including a back breaking 71-yard run by Jay Ajayi in the third quarter.
And it was the third quarter that really broke the game open for Philadelphia, as the Eagles got two touchdowns while the Cowboys were unable to sustain drives. It wore the Dallas defense down, and they soon yielded another touchdown in the fourth quarter, then Philly got to Prescott for a strip sack that was run in for a touchdown, building the lead to 37-9. By then, it had already become a case of just getting the game over with without any more injuries.
It was also a very disappointing game for the Cowboys’ pass rush, as they failed to record a sack. There were multiple hits on Wentz, but he just shrugged them off and kept making plays. With the Cowboys going to the air as they fell further and further behind, the Eagles were able to tee off and drop Prescott four times, and they intercepted him three times. One was a ball that bounced off Terrance Williams’ hands after being tipped at the line, but the other two were just bad throws.
The Cowboys were able to go toe-to-toe with the team boasting the best record in the NFL for a half. And that is a worthless ability, as Dallas was totally destroyed after halftime. There were puzzling play calls, such as running the ball behind Byron Bell on a third and two. But mostly, the fact was that the Eagles just brought more talent to the field. And it cannot all just be attributed to the absence of Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith, Sean Lee, and Dan Bailey. Those certainly hurt, but Morris was certainly capable. Bell had some bad plays, but was not the turnstile that Chaz Green. The defense was very sharp for most of a half, but could not keep things dammed up with no support from the offense. And the Eagles lost their placekicker to an injury on the opening kickoff.
The fact is that there were so many issues for Dallas that it would take all night to tabulate them. They are in danger of falling back into the good year/bad year pattern of recent seasons, and now there may simply be no way to avoid it.
The Cowboys are now at 5-5, and face a huge hill to try and make the playoffs. It was clear watching the game that the Eagles are just a superior team. They have to be seen as the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl at this point, and they finally might really have the talent to make it all the way. The thought might disgust us (and winning it all would make the Philadelphia fan base, already arguably the worst in the NFL, completely insufferable), but that is the reality of the situation.
The 2017 season is now in a salvage situation for the Cowboys. It is going to be a very hard thing to do.