I know why you clicked. You saw that title and figured this was going to be a long, possibly nasty gloat about how incompetent the Philadelphia Eagles were in losing 37-10 to the Dallas Cowboys. Both teams came into the contest with a chance to be in the thick of the playoff race, or fall behind, and we know what happened. The Cowboys looked great, and the Eagles crapped the bed. But the purpose of this article is not to ridicule our beloved division rivals, or laugh at their misfortune. First off, that’s already been done brilliantly. More importantly, this article is about the state of the Cowboys as they enjoy the rest and recuperation of this bye week.
However, no one is stopping you from engaging in whatever hilarity suits you while reading this. Just remember, there is another Eagles game for Dallas to play, and that one is at their house in winter. Anything you put out on these interwebs could come back to bite you. Of course, any scorn or derision you hold in your heart is yours and yours alone to enjoy.
On to serious business.
The Cowboys have established a pattern of beating up on bad teams, with one notable exception against the New York Jets that remains mystifying. In their four other games against teams that currently have a losing record, three of them in their own division, they have exceeded 30 points and 400 yards of offense per game, while the defense has helped them win by two or more scores in each contest. Philadelphia certainly fit into the category of a bad team on Sunday. It is now becoming an open question of just how bad they are, as they have had back-to-back big losses, losing to the Minnesota Vikings 38-20 the prior week, and there are signs that things are not good within the franchise. But the focus here is just on the performance they had against the Cowboys.
It was bad. Really bad. Some “highlights”:
- Only 283 total yards of offense, with a fair chunk on the last, “garbage time” possession
- 33% third down conversions
- Four turnovers, leading to three Dallas touchdowns
- Gave up three sacks
- Allowed 189 yards rushing after having allowed second-least in first six games
- 0-2 on red zone possessions
- Allowed Amari Cooper, who is probably not 100%, to get 106 yards on only five catches
Now, there is a caveat. The Eagles were missing DeSean Jackson, Timmy Jernigan, Jason Peters, and Darren Sproles due to injury. Those undoubtedly had a large impact, and the multiple mistakes they made speak for themselves. Almost no NFL team can come back and win after giving up two extremely quick scores via turnovers in their own territory early in the first quarter, one of them only requiring sixteen yards from Ezekiel Elliott to reach paydirt.
That means that there is a real danger of overestimating just how good the Cowboys are based on this game. To a lesser degree, that is true of all their wins. This one not only has a bigger impact because of the very lopsided score, it also has the bye week to percolate in people’s brains.
Another thing that has to be considered carefully is the role those turnovers played in things. Despite our longing for the defense to dial up more plays that take the ball away, those remain one of the most unpredictable things in football. It is very likely that the Cowboys will not have another plus-three turnover margin this season. They will have to work harder to win in most if not all of the remaining games.
It is going to be crucial for the team to keep an edge. There are some much harder games coming up. Few of the remaining opponents are likely to lay down for Dallas to stomp on the way Philly did.
Those are the cautions to keep in mind, and why the very enjoyable result against the Eagles has to be kept in perspective.
But there are some quite positive things about the Cowboys to consider.
Biggest of all is the situation in the division. Obviously, Dallas has the undisputed lead for the NFC East spot in the playoffs. And they are 3-0 against the rest of the East, which is huge. The Eagles are struggling to find a way to win again. Meanwhile, the New York Giants and Washington are mired in the bottom quarter of the NFC, with no real signs of being able to climb much higher. I am not going to pencil in a win at Philadelphia in the rematch in week 16, but it would take a Jets level of failure to drop the remaining games against the other two. Never say never, but I, for one, expect the staff and players will make sure that doesn’t happen.
On a more intangible level, the beatdown we just witnessed showed something very good, and that is a killer instinct. One less than obvious example came on the worst play of the day for Dak Prescott, the interception on a pass intended for Tavon Austin in the end zone. That came at the 11:07 mark of the fourth quarter, when the Cowboys were already up by 20 points. Not too long ago, that would have been a time the offense would have been content to just feed Zeke and burn clock, knowing that the Eagles would have to mount three touchdown drives to take back the lead. They had certainly not shown any ability to do so to that point.
Instead the Cowboys elected to go for a kill shot. That is a sign of just how much the mindset has changed with Kellen Moore running the offense. It was risky, and gave the ball to Philadelphia. It hardly mattered, as the ball came right back to Dallas when Carson Wentz mishandled a shotgun snap, and the Cowboys got their second sixteen-yard scoring drive of the game.
There is another thing that needs to be talked about more. Leading up to the game, the Cowboys were in danger of having as many key players out as the Eagles, or even more. Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb, and Byron Jones all were banged up, but somehow, all five of them managed to get back on the field for a turning-point game. All contributed. That warrior spirit is something the team will have to have to finish the season strong. The bye week will only help to get those five closer to full strength and speed.
While the Cowboys had Leighton Vander Esch, Robert Quinn, and Jeff Heath all leave the game after getting shaken up, reports are that all should be ready by the next contest against the Giants. That will put the team very near 100% for the stretch run. And Kerry Hyder, Joe Thomas, and Darian Thompson acquitted themselves well. We should also give a nod to Sean Lee, who had his best game of the season. The depth was adequate last game, at the very least.
Again, we should probably temper our enthusiasm a bit after a game where the ineptitude of the opponent was the biggest factor in the win, but we shouldn’t lose it entirely. If the Cowboys can keep level heads, both on the coaching staff and the roster, this could be a very exciting nine-game finish coming up.