There was no actual way for the Cowboys to clinch the NFC East with a win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, but everyone knew that it was a de facto division-clinching game. After getting a 29-23 win in an overtime thriller, the Cowboys now have a 99% chance of winning the division and making the playoffs. So how did it happen? Here are the five plays that shaped the game.
Jake Elliott misses extra point
With just over six minutes left in the third quarter, the Eagles offense took the field at the Dallas two-yard line after an interception that was nearly returned for a touchdown. Down 9-0, the Eagles were in a perfect opportunity to finally get on the board. It took just one play for Carson Wentz to find Alshon Jeffery for the touchdown.
However, kicker Jake Elliott missed the extra point and kept the score at 9-6. While this didn’t seem too influential at the time, Philadelphia would later score a touchdown and make the extra point to tie the game at 23 all, and it’s likely that every Eagles fan out there had to be thinking “If he had just made that extra point earlier...”
Dak makes a change at the line, gets a huge touchdown to Amari
The Eagles had just strung together a brilliant four-play scoring drive to tie the game at 16 apiece with just over three minutes left in the game. It seemed as if things were setting up for the Cowboys offense to lead a long, methodical drive down the field and get a go-ahead score with under a minute left on the clock.
Instead, Dak and Amari saw something in the defense and Prescott gave a subtle hand signal to Cooper, which Amari detailed after the game. Then Dak threw the ball to his receiver and let him do the rest on the way to a glorious 75-yard touchdown reception to take the lead.
The subtle audible: @rjochoa reported on Amari Cooper's comments post game that Dak Prescott had given him a hand signal to run the 9 route on his 75-yard touchdown reception. pic.twitter.com/DG2EtIST8D— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) December 10, 2018
Dallas Goedert gets questionable offensive pass interference call and loses his touchdown
The Eagles offense went back on the field after Cooper’s big touchdown catch, once again down by seven. With just under three minutes left in the game, Wentz took a shotgun snap on second and ten and hit Goedert down the middle. Both Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods missed the tackle, and Goedert took off for 75 yards of his own for a game tying touchdown.
Except there was a flag, and the call was that Goedert pushed off of Heath before catching the ball. After several replays, it appeared as if Heath merely stumbled, and Eagles fans justifiably became upset at the call. However, it ended up helping Philadelphia in the end; the Eagles scored a touchdown seven plays later to tie the game and gave the ball back to Dallas with much less time than if the Goedert touchdown had stood.
Joe Looney’s bad snap costs the Cowboys a chance at winning in regulation
This one is hard to write because Joe Looney has done such an incredible job replacing Travis Frederick this year. However, he made his first big mistake of the year at the worst time. Dak had marched the offense down to Philly’s 41-yard line, and the broadcasters noted that they were within range for a field goal after watching Brett Maher make a 62-yarder earlier in the game. However, Dallas surely wanted to get closer.
On second and six, Looney simply botched the snap, and it was on the ground before it even got to Dak’s feet. Prescott tried to scoop it up quickly enough to still throw it, but he was unable to and had to instead lay on the ball to ensure a recovery. The Cowboys had time to run one more play, but they were officially out of field goal range and, with no more timeouts, it would have taken a miracle to pull it off in regulation. Instead, the game went to overtime.
Ezekiel Elliott stretches out the ball for a crucial conversion of fourth down
The Cowboys were lucky enough to win the coin toss and get the ball first in overtime. They responded with what turned out to be a 13-play drive that ate up much of the clock. Yet, they found themselves facing a fourth down with one yard to go at the Philadelphia 19-yard line. With four minutes left, they could have kicked the go-ahead field goal and let their defense fend off the Eagles, but Jason Garrett decided to go for it with not even a moment of hesitation.
Prescott handed it off to Zeke for a run up the middle, and it looked as if Elliott wouldn’t get it at first. But he got through the initial pile and, as he was falling to the ground, Zeke stretched the ball out just enough to get the first down. If not for his awareness on that play, the Eagles would have gotten the ball with time to go down and kick a game-winning field goal. Three plays later, Dak hit Amari for the game-winning touchdown.
BONUS: Amari Cooper makes an insane grab to win the game
This one is just so beautiful that it deserves to be watched at least one more time, so here you go.