Welcome to life after a Dallas Cowboys victory, it sure has been a minute.
The Cowboys won their first road game of the season on Sunday night, at the house of the reigning Super Bowl Champions no less. Getting a win in Philadelphia is always a great thing and it’s certainly a welcome boost of joy to a team that hadn’t won a game in almost a month.
On the subject of wins, who were the winners from Sunday night’s game? Who were the losers? Welcome to BTB’s five winners, five losers, and whatever else happens in between. Let’s have some fun.
Winner: Leighton Vander Esch and the mountain he was carved from
One of the plays of the game came on the Eagles penultimate drive when they were trailing by seven points. Philadelphia had a third and two so naturally Carson Wentz dumped the ball off to one of his running backs.
This was not okay with Leighton Vander Esch, the same LVE that intercepted Wentz himself earlier in the game. Went wrapped those big pythons attached to his torso around Corey Clement to the tune of a five-yard loss.
This play by Leighton Vander Esch was unreal. Part of what won the game. Look at that tackle. pic.twitter.com/yOCIIO5R1t— Blogging The Boys (@BloggingTheBoys) November 12, 2018
It was the exclamation point on the coming-out party for Vander Esch. You know, Dak Prescott (who we’ll get to in a bit) had a game in Pittsburgh during his rookie season that cemented his place as the team’s starter. In fact, Tony Romo gave his “football is a meritocracy” speech in the week following it. Leighton had a game of a similar nature in Philadelphia so if the Cowboys are playing a game in the state of Pennsylvania you can bet your bottom dollar that a torch of some kind will be passed.
Winner: Ezekiel Elliott, hurdling, and feeding your best players
There have been more than enough times this season when the Dallas Cowboys refused to feed Ezekiel Elliott. It’s frustrating not only because the man gets fed as a slogan but because he’s one of the most explosive players that Dallas has.
As the second quarter was winding down Zeke exploded for a huge gain and pulled off one of his signature hurdles. It was clear how much his hops energized the offense even though they only walked away with three points. But I mean, look at this thing. Then look at it again. And again and again and again and again.
Zeke, this man has a family pic.twitter.com/K6GRcEvZaM— Blogging The Boys (@BloggingTheBoys) November 12, 2018
Zeke finished the night with the second-most rushing yards he’s had in a game, 151. He had one more when the Cowboys defeated the Detroit Lions so basically Golden Tate’s teams are usually on the wrong side of his utter dominance.
Elliott did more than contribute on the ground, though. He was critical in the receiving game as he served as a great option for Dak Prescott out in screens and as a great line of defense for him when other people were running their own routes.
Zeke is elite at everything pic.twitter.com/FdEkIShRQ2— Blogging The Boys (@BloggingTheBoys) November 12, 2018
Winner: Xavier Su’a-filo, Marc Colombo, and the Cowboys offensive line
Travis Frederick has been absent from the Cowboys offensive line all season long and to make matters worse rookie second-round pick Connor Williams missed Sunday night’s game in Philadelphia.
This made for a tall order for Marc Colombo who was just in his second week of overseeing the men up front after Dallas fired Paul Alexander. The team spent all week trying to find an answer for Williams’ absence and finally settled on Xavier Su’a-filo who wasn’t even on the team not that long ago.
Handling Fletcher Cox is hardly an easy task, but somehow Xavier held his own throughout the contest. Many people were upset with the level that Connor had been playing at anyway, Xavier jumping in and the group not totally breaking down feels somewhat like Ron Leary coming in for La’el Collins in 2016.
On the subject of winners along the offensive line Zack Martin’s toughness needs to get an honorable mention. He took a gruesome hit early on in Philly and it looked like more than his night was in jeopardy. Zack battled back and managed to help pave the way for the fourth Cowboys win of the season. Respect.
Winner: Michael Gallup and the Amari Cooper trade
One of the more critical plays of the game came on a third down near the end of the first half for the Cowboys. After a horrendous sack that Dak Prescott took on first down the team ran the ball on second, seemingly looking to just get out of the half with a three-point lead.
It was on 3rd and 15 that Dak Prescott threw what looked to be a routine screen pass to rookie wide receiver Michael Gallup who then proceeded to pick up 25 yards. The play singlehandedly resuscitated an otherwise-dead drive and the Cowboys capitalized on it by scoring a touchdown that would give them a 10-point halftime lead.
As important as this particular play was so was the overall play of wide receiver Amari Cooper. Amari without question looks like a talent that’s worth a first-round pick. He had six catches for 75 yards, but his ability to separate and get open can no longer be questioned. He’s the real deal.
After two games in this offense, Amari Cooper is on pace to catch 50 balls for 600 yards with the Cowboys.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) November 12, 2018
Amari’s play helps open things up for Gallup and the rest. Eight different Cowboys recorded receptions on Sunday night and a lot of them were fairly large. His influence is vast and it’s certainly welcome.
Winner: Jason Garrett and the idea of desperation moving the needle
The Cowboys are making it a bit of a habit to run fake punts against the Philadelphia Eagles while playing on Sunday Night Football. They did it in 2016 and did it again on Sunday night. Unlike two years ago when Chris Jones ran it himself the Cowboys snapped it straight to the GOAT Jeff Heath who picked up the necessary yardage.
THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME pic.twitter.com/01wvI7WUkB— Blogging The Boys (@BloggingTheBoys) November 12, 2018
This was big to see from the Cowboys. It doesn’t mean that Jason Garrett’s job should be safe or that he’s suddenly not all of the things we’ve said he was for the last few weeks, but it does mean that he did a solid job overall on Sunday night. Garrett clearly coached with some desperation and we saw that in areas besides the fake punt. It may have been forced, but that level of aggressiveness was needed for some time.
Loser: The Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles lost to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, November 11th, 2018.
They have literally never defeated the Cowboys in games where they have a Super Bowl banner hanging in their stadium or in instances where they are coming off of a bye after playing the Jacksonville Jaguars in London and then acquiring Golden Tate.
When Scott Linehan is dunking on you pic.twitter.com/mu2ugRKt1v— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) November 12, 2018
I repeat, the Philadelphia Eagles are losers. They lost to the Dallas Cowboys.
Loser: Dak Prescott ball security and also Dak Prescott’s blocking at times
Getting back on track here, Dak Prescott had one of the weirdest moments you’ll ever see when the ball just slipped out of his hands in the second half. He was incredibly fortunate that the oblong-shaped ball happened to bounce back into his hands.
This game is like: pic.twitter.com/JniPUPBlv8— Blogging The Boys (@BloggingTheBoys) November 12, 2018
It’s moments like these that still give us pause towards completely trusting Dak as he clearly still makes occasional mistakes. If this ball doesn’t bounce one particular way it’s potentially recovered by the Eagles. That’s not a good thing.
Also not a good thing was the first offensive possession of the second half for the Cowboys. With the entire intermission to plan ahead the Cowboys very clearly didn’t do much in the locker room as they not only came out flat but left Dak Prescott out to dry. Hard.
Things like this can’t happen. Dallas was lucky to survive them.
Loser: Jeff Heath floating out in coverage
Jeff Heath is the GOAT don’t get me wrong, but Jeff Heath is not very good when he’s tasked with covering folks, especially if they’re fast.
The game against the Eagles got particularly dicy when Carson Wentz found Nelson Agholor late in the contest for a 51-yard gain. Philadelphia would go on to score which forced the Cowboys to have to score again, something thought to be impossible at the time due to our scars from seeing this offense over eight games.
Safety hasn’t been the achilles heel that we all thought it would be entering the season, but these moments will undoubtedly continue to happen. Jeff Heath is great at a lot of things, but working deep down field in coverage certainly isn’t one of them.
He’s still the GOAT, though.
Loser: Hope for fair officiating in Cowboys games
The Philadelphia Eagles had as many penalties as they did wins on Sunday night, that number is zero. (The Eagles lost to the Cowboys btw).
It’s obviously not impossible for a football team to play penalty-free, but the idea of it happening is fairly improbable and sort of absurd. Nevertheless the Eagles were not called for a single penalty and that’s something that Cowboys fans have a right to complain about.
The Eagles played a penalty-free game against the Cowboys -- only the second team all season to play a penalty free game. The Patriots were the other against KC. There have been 30 penalty-free games since 2000 and a league-high five have come with the Cowboys as the opponent.— Rick Gosselin (@RickGosselin9) November 12, 2018
At one point in the game Damien Wilson was blatantly held when trying to get to Carson Wentz. The quarterback ultimately made a nice throw on the play, but when NBC went back to it for a second look all Cris Collinsworth could do was obsess over the fact that Wentz made the throw despite his wristband being pulled by Wilson. He didn’t at all mention the hold itself. How?
Cris Collinsworth is out here fascinated by Wentz's wristband when Damien Wilson is getting choked. https://t.co/Laj9o9BYrX— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) November 12, 2018
Be better, officials.
Loser: Brett Maher and the idea of stability at kicker
Brett Maher’s miss in the final seconds of the Cowboys game in Washington isn’t something that he should be charged with too severely, we’ve been over that.
Maher missed a field goal in consecutive games when he followed up his Washington miss by whiffing on his first attempt against the Tennessee Titans last Monday night. He’s now not only missed in consecutive games twice in a row but he’s missed in three consecutive games for the first time as he also failed to connect at one point during the win in Philadelphia.
We’re not necessarily at a point where we need to freak out about Maher, but misses in three straight games does raise some red flags. Hopefully he bounces back in Atlanta where the Cowboys are going to need all the points that they can get.
Winning sure does feel good, doesn’t it? They say winning cures all, but the Cowboys are far from totally healed. While this week will be a lot more enjoyable than last there are still issues that the Cowboys are going to have to address if they want to keep this type of success up on a consistent basis.
Let’s all hope that they do. For now, let’s enjoy.