At 4-5, one game below .500, the Cowboys are still very much in the division race after defeating the defending Super Bowl champions in Philadelphia on Sunday. We’ve been here before with these Cowboys, riding high after a win only to be grounded the very next week with a loss. Was this complete win by the Cowboys a sign of things to come or just another ascension before the drop on this roller-coaster of a season?
The Cowboys win over the Eagles is going to be this team’s statement win one way or the other. Either this win will be that jolt to this Cowboys offense that allows them to go on a run or it won’t but the hope remains alive that something finally clicked. There are a lot of reasons to hope that the Cowboys will finally make a run at their division, especially after this win.
The team finding a way to win on the road is a really big deal because the Cowboys had played their worst football on the road this season. It was the second time all season that they had over 400 yards of offense, the last time being at home in their win over the Lions. We can’t forget how huge a win on the road is for this team who hadn’t done it since their last visit to Philadelphia in December of last season, and even then it was not a true road win as the Eagles sat most of their starters. The Cowboys only have one road into the postseason and that’s the division title but they can’t get there without road victories.
One of the biggest contributors to the failures in away games has been the play of the Cowboys offensive line. It was probably unrealistic to expect drastic changes in Marc Colombo’s first week against the Titans but he deserves praise for his gameplan in Philadelphia. The line was already going to be without rookie left guard Connor Williams, so they had to decide between Adam Redmond or Xavier Su’a-Filo. When Zack Martin went down for a spell in this game, both guys were on the field while every Cowboy fan held their breath until Martin returned.
Nothing against Connor Williams but he’s a rookie that was struggling with strength at the point of attack. With his strength struggles, it’s been very hard for the Cowboys to block the better defensive tackles in this league. When you face the Eagles, you can’t afford to let Fletcher Cox go unblocked because he’s an absolute game-breaker. The Cowboys line played it’s best game against a ferocious Eagles defensive line. Xavier Su’a-Filo hasn’t been the most consistent player over his career but he deserves a lot of credit, as does the rest of the interior line, for holding Cox to three tackles and no sacks. Tyron Smith’s returned to dominance as he looked like an entirely different player during his resurrection in Philly. That was a huge swing that ended up opening a lot of opportunities for the Cowboys run game.
Up until the final drive before the half, the Cowboys offense was working through a lot of the muck that we’ve seen through the first eight games. Dak Prescott walked into at least two of his four sacks on the day. He was missing guys in that first half with an indefensible miss to Ezekiel Elliott in the red zone and one other to Cole Beasley on a third down. However, the response by Prescott was very impressive because this might have been his best game along with the win over the Jaguars. We got to see the Dak Prescott that can finish his opponent in the second-half and his will to win is incredible.
Philadelphia’s secondary is struggling and this game set the Cowboys up to use the pass to help their run. Having Amari Cooper out there has shown exactly what the Cowboys were missing. Dak got Cooper going from the start of the game and that’s what you have to do to keep a defense honest. Though it took some time for Dak to get on the same page with his receivers, it turned out to be the back-breaker for the Eagles. It started with that final drive to go up 13-3 at halftime.
Prescott connected with Cooper and he goes for 15-yards setting them up with a new set of downs at their own 40 with 1:12 left in the half. On the next play, Prescott feels pressure from a collapsing pocket but bounces it out and takes a sack he cannot take that loses 13-yards. With 1:05 left, Zeke earns eight yards on 2nd and 23. On 3rd and 15 at their own 35, Dak exploits a nice matchup by hitting Michael Gallup for a screen that he runs right behind Tyron Smith to pick up 25 yards. Dallas had 51 seconds and that’s when Prescott threw two of the most beautiful passes of his career:
First up, this 21-yard sideline strike to Cole Beasley that was placed perfectly and saved the clock:
This was Dak Prescott's best play of the game. Steps up in the pocket and relievers a strike to Cole Beasley. pic.twitter.com/SopL8hsDRt— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) November 13, 2018
Two plays later, Prescott finds Allen Hurns to set the Cowboys up with a scoring opportunity with 21 seconds left. Prescott hurried everyone to the line as he sneaked it and quickly stretched that ball over the line for the score. It didn’t always look pretty for them and their first two drives of the second half ended with no points while allowing the Eagles to tie them up. However, though Philly got back in it, the Cowboys never trailed in this game and they owned the second-half on both sides of the ball. Ezekiel Elliott had two touchdowns as he and Prescott made up for that miscue in the early portion of the game. At one point, our friend over at BGN was actually scared of seeing the Cowboys offense again, when was the last time that had been said:
You gotta make this the last drive of the game if you're Doug. Score and go for 2. Don't give Dallas the ball back.— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) November 12, 2018
All in all, Elliott did the second-best rushing defense in the league dirty breaking multiple big runs, including this hurdle from the second quarter:
The Cowboys that we had known this season weren’t capable of winning games like this but when their season was on the line they rose up. Getting a division win over the Eagles puts them right back in thick of things in this division. This team’s victory was one where their offense and defense collectively earned it on the field. It is by far their best win of the season because now we see Jacksonville is just a bad football team.
The Cowboys head to Atlanta this week which was the scene of this quarterback’s demise last season, when they allowed Prescott to get sacked 8 times. Prescott has had some good games since but he hasn’t been able to carry that over to the next week, he hasn;t been consistent. The Falcons are also 4-5 but they have scored over 30 points in four of their five home games. The Cowboys can’t turn in a performance like the one we witnessed on Sunday Night Football only to fold this week in Atlanta. It’s all about the carry over for the Cowboys and now we need to see them get it done, on the road, in hostile territory, to truly become believers again. The Cowboys were supposed to be entering their funeral in Philadelphia but instead they came back to life. Well, in Atlanta, against a high-powered offense, the Cowboys must now exorcise those demons . Hopefully if the Cowboys can put that awful memory to rest for good, it’ll be a sign of a team ready to make a run toward the postseason.