The Cowboys are determined to ruin everyone’s holidays. Why else would they come into a game with an easy mandate - win and you’re in - and somehow make a team featuring practice squad players at all three receiver spots look like the better team? Well, that’s what happened, and despite the close final score it became clear early on that the bad version of these Cowboys had showed up in Philadelphia. Here are five plays that impacted the outcome of this disappointing game.
Chidobe Awuzie gets shook by a rookie receiver for a third-down conversion
With the Eagles getting the ball to start, they inexplicably managed a strong opening drive that made effective use of their few playmakers, with tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert being focal points for the passing game.
After bringing up a third and ten from the Dallas 36, the defense had a shot to stop them and force Jake Elliott to kick a 53-yarder, a distance he later proved to be unreliable from. But Carson Wentz once again targeted Awuzie to find a pretty open JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who made just his ninth reception all year for a 12-yard pickup and the first down. This was in part what led to Awuzie’s benching for part of the game, and it helped put the Eagles in position for an easier 36-yard field goal.
Jake Elliott’s first missed field goal helps keep Dallas in the game
Despite leading 10-3, the Eagles knew they left some points on the board when they got the ball back under two minutes left in the first half. They probably should have scored a touchdown on their opening drive and failed to convert a fourth and one in Dallas territory earlier. A game that could’ve been 21-3 was instead a one-score game.
But Philadelphia had a shot to score once more before going into halftime, and they only needed three plays to completely flip field position. Then, their offense fizzled and Doug Pederson sent Elliott out for a 53-yard field goal. He narrowly missed and gave the Cowboys the ball back with 29 seconds and three timeouts in good field position. A first half of missed opportunities helped keep Dallas in it when this very well could have been a blowout by halftime.
Tony Pollard’s fumble
Last week, Tony Pollard had another great game in large part because the Cowboys actually used him as more than a change of pace back. Then, all week long there was talk around the team facilities about continuing to get Pollard more involved going forward. That didn’t happen.
Through the first half, the Cowboys had given zero touches to the electric rookie. Then on the opening drive of the third quarter, they suddenly remembered he existed and ran it to him twice in a row inside the Philly 30-yard line. On the second run he fumbled, which took a coach’s challenge to get, and the Cowboys coughed up a perfect opportunity to take the lead. On the bright side (for Jason Garrett), it gave Dallas the perfect excuse to never use Pollard again for the rest of the game and rely solely on their $90 million running back and his whopping 3.6 yards per carry in the game.
No pass interference called on Michael Gallup pass
Down 17-9, with a chance to score a late touchdown and try for a game-tying two point conversion, Dak Prescott helped lead his team down the field after starting at the Dallas 12. When the drive fizzled out at the Philadelphia 23, the Cowboys were forced to go for it on fourth down with just over a minute remaining. Dak fired an endzone shot to Michael Gallup, and this happened.
Dak Prescott’s endzone pass to Michael Gallup hits Cowboys WR in the head. Ladies and gentlemen, the NFC East pic.twitter.com/3USfFRBecn— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) December 23, 2019
A booth-initiated review took a long, hard look at the play, where it appears that the defender very clearly was holding down one of Gallup’s arms, but they ruled that the call of no pass interference stood. If the penalty had been called, Dallas would have had the ball on the goal line. Instead, it was Philly’s ball.
Wentz hits Goedert for a game-sealing first down
Even after the controversial no-call in the endzone, the Cowboys still had hope. With all three timeouts left, the Cowboys just needed to get a three and out from an offense that hadn’t scored a touchdown in their last two drives. Things started off well by stopping a first down run for two yards.
But then the Eagles drew up a pass play and Wentz found Goedert along the sideline. The tight end caught it short of the first down marker but managed to run forward to move the chains. The clock stopped as he went out of bounds, but Dallas was down to two timeouts and the game was effectively over.