The DiNucci “dream” was more of a nightmare.
*What Dallas could want would be Dak Prescott (out for the year) or Andy Dalton (out for the week) instead of DiNucci, who became a sort of “neighborhood legend’’ at The Star last week with coaches and teammates raving about his “swagger’’ and foot speed and arm velocity.
Maybe some day we’ll all look back on DiNucci’s debut as a starter and giggle at the numbers because he’ll have eventually grown into the “Tony Romo traits’’ QB the Jones family has touted since the James Madison product was made a seventh-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
But right now? It’s the Eagles - with a move to 3-4-1 and the firm grasp on the lead of the wobbly NFC East - who are laughing.
There was no “foot speed.’’ There was no “arm velocity.’’ And the “swagger’’ never really allowed Dallas’ offense to move the ball.
5 thoughts from Cowboys-Eagles: Dallas’ defense a surprise positive; mixed results for QB Ben DiNucci - Calvin Watkins, Dallas Morning News
A run-down on the Cowboys unusual offense for the game.
The Cowboys couldn’t run their normal offense with DiNucci. So they utilized the wildcat formation four times, a double reverse, a near double reverse and Cedrick Wilson faking to attempt a pass in a low-scoring first half. With their struggles to move the offense, trick plays, particularly the usage of misdirection, were key. It was an interesting game plan because the Cowboys were hopeful they could just win an ugly game.
But the Cowboys went with one trick play too many. After a Trevon Diggs interception in the third quarter, the Cowboys gained some momentum. They ran the ball on seven consecutive plays, getting to the Eagles’ 26. The Cowboys decided to run a double reverse with Wilson, who was trying to throw the ball but was taken down by Fletcher Cox in the backfield for a 10-yard loss. On third and long, DiNucci completed a short pass to CeeDee Lamb. So the Cowboys settled for a field goal and Greg Zuerlein was wide right on a 52-yard attempt with 6:13 left in the quarter. Sometimes, tricking it up too much doesn’t work.
Greg Zuerlein knocked in a heck of a wobbler just prior to halftime.
Dallas Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein was named a captain for tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles. It seems that head coach Mike McCarthy is omniscient as he has accounted for the entirety of the scoring output through the first half.
The Cowboys gave up on the drive after the Eagles failed a fourth-down-conversion, handing the ball to Ezekiel Elliott despite seemingly needing another 10 yards at least to make a field goal attempt comfortable. Given the windy scene at Lincoln Financial, the odds were long that Zuerlein would be able to knock it home.
This may have to be changed to past tense.
“Here’s Ben DiNucci,” Cignetti explained. “A guy with a lot of confidence, borderline cocky, a lot of energy. He’s unflappable, he’s got an edge. He’s also got a lot of different releases like Philip Rivers. He’s smart, man, and he’s going to go in there with confidence. The biggest thing is, he’s not going to go in there with big eyes. He’s going to be jacked and ready to go.”
Cignetti is clear — he’s not comparing DiNucci to Rivers, the former Chargers and now Colts QB. But he did coach Rivers at N.C. State and sees some similarities with their fire and how they can deliver the ball from all kinds of angles. Unlike Rivers, DiNucci’s propensity to scramble on third downs could prove effective Sunday.
The confidence (or cockiness) stands out. It’s what causes teammates to feed off him. In fact, several teammates praised his demeanor this week, as well as simply how he’s throwing it.
Observations from the Eagles’ ugly win over the Cowboys, 23 to 9 - Brandon Lee Gowton, BleedingGreenNation.
The Eagles’ side concedes that it was a lose-lose type of night.
The Eagles are fortunate to have faced such an awful quarterback in Ben DiNucci.
15 offensive points against the NFL’s worst defense that is allowing 33 offensive points per game is pretty pathetic. Especially with the Eagles getting Dallas Goedert and Jalen Reagor back for this one.
Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz were pretty bad tonight.
Will Wentz ever stop fumbling? Doesn’t feel like it.
Brandon Graham is having a career year. He’s been awesome for this team.
The defense wasn’t perfect but they clearly carried their weight in this one.
Travis Fulgham continues to be the real deal. There can’t be anyone who thinks he’s a fluke at this point.
The bottom line: the Eagles are 3-4-1 heading into the bye. They have a real chance to get to 4-4-1 with a win over the New York Giants in Week 10. They’re certainly not a good team. But they’re very much still in position to win this abomination that is the NFC East.
More notes from the debacle.
Ezekiel Elliott was held to 63 yards on 19 carries but did manage to avoid fumbling for a second-straight game. Tony Pollard had 40 rushing yards on just seven carries, looking more explosive with his opportunities.
Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz were DiNucci’s favorite targets with seven and six catches each. The Eagles seemed content to let them eat up passes underneath while avoiding any big plays from Amari Cooper or CeeDee Lamb.
In addition to his two picks, Trevon Diggs also tied for the team lead in tackles (7) with Jaylon Smith. Unlike Diggs, Smith didn’t have any big plays to make up for the ones he gave up. As he has most of the year, Jaylon looked lost at times and is woefully underperforming his contract and prior accomplishments.
Sean Lee made his season debut tonight but was quickly shaken up on a play and wasn’t visible the rest of the way. Having considered retirement this offseason, you have to wonder if The General will keep playing once the Cowboys have no shot of winning the division.
Dallas is now 1-2 in the NFC East with head-to-head losses to Philadelphia and Washington. The Eagles already had a narrow lead thanks to their tied game on their record and now are the only team in the division with three wins.
Oh, the woeful melodies continue.
At 2-6, only the New York Giants have a worse record in the NFC. Yes, the Cowboys can claim to have hopes of still contending in the woeful NFC East, but they will need an offensive resurrection when Andy Dalton returns from a concussion as soon as next week against the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers.
For just the fourth time in franchise history, the Cowboys have failed to score a touchdown in back-to-back games. Their lone touchdown in the last three games was a garbage-time score against the Arizona Cardinals.
DiNucci completed 21 of 40 passes for 180 yards and was sacked four times. He also lost two fumbles.
Ben DiNucci struggled in his first start, throwing for 180 yards and no touchdowns. AP Photo/Derik Hamilton
Both of DiNucci’s turnovers were turned into Eagles points, including a 53-yard fumble return by Rodney McLeod that effectively ended the game in the fourth quarter. Opponents have scored 97 points off Cowboys’ turnovers this season, a trend no matter who quarterbacks the Cowboys. The Cowboys have allowed at least 13 points off turnovers in six of their eight games.
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