The Cowboys entered the season as the odds-on favorite to win the NFC East, and through three weeks they have sole possession of the division lead following a dominant victory over the Eagles on national television. It was a first for many things: the Cowboys’ first home game this year, their first divisional matchup, and Dak Prescott’s first game at AT&T Stadium since he got hurt last year.
The result? Prescott and the offense did whatever they wanted, and the Cowboys defense was swarming Jalen Hurts and the Eagles on nearly every play. They sacked the quarterback twice and picked him off twice, with Trevon Diggs returning one for a touchdown. By the end, Team 40 Burger had made its triumphant return. These five plays were pivotal in shaping the way this game played out.
Dak Prescott scores an obvious touchdown, but the officials botch it
The Cowboys won 41-21 in the end, but it
could’ve should’ve been 48-21. After the Eagles recovered Dak Prescott’s fumble in the endzone, the Cowboys were looking to strike back aggressively. It didn’t take long before they were in the red zone.
Dak threw a touchdown pass to Ezekiel Elliott, but the replay showed he was down a few inches short. Dallas then smartly ran a QB sneak, and despite Prescott getting half his body across the goal line, the officials ruled him short. They spent what felt like an hour reviewing it before sticking with the original call. If only there had been a clear shot of what happened.
Ruling on the field is Dak is short of the line of gain pic.twitter.com/R8Tlh8rEHf— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) September 28, 2021
In the end, it didn’t really matter. The Cowboys won, we all get to wear our #Team40Burger shirts, and everyone who bet the over still got their money’s worth. But it’s a continuing trend of missing these easy calls while the league continues to emphasize strict taunting rule enforcement. And taking points off the board when there’s clear and indisputable evidence like this is as bad as it gets.
Pressure flushes Jalen Hurts out of the pocket, leads to incompletion on third down
Right after the botched call, Philadelphia got the ball on their own one-yard line. It wasn’t long before Jalen Hurts was looking at third and five from his own six, and it was easy call for Dan Quinn to send pressure.
Hurts got flushed out of the pocket, running out to the sideline with Jaylon Smith and others in pursuit. He ended up having to chuck it out of bounds, with the Cowboys playing a perfect complement of good pass rush and tight coverage down the field. Philly had to punt from their own endzone, leaving the Cowboys with a short field that quickly became a touchdown.
Chauncey Golston chases down Hurts to prevent a bigger gain
Chauncey Golston made his long-awaited NFL debut, and he played more out of necessity than anything else with so many absences along the defensive line for Dallas. The rookie out of Iowa produced several positive plays, but there was one where he showed his closing speed.
With the Cowboys holding onto a 27-7 lead, the Eagles were trying to get something - anything - going. On second and ten from their own 25-yard line, Hurts tried to do something he hadn’t been able to all game: make a play with his legs.
As Hurts scrambled out to his right, both Smith and Golston were in pursuit. It became very clear that Smith wasn’t going to catch up to him, but Golston did, driving him out of bounds after picking up just one yard. This led to a third and long that the Eagles failed to convert, but if it wasn’t for Golston’s hustle play Hurts likely would have picked up the first down and then some. Instead, it was the Cowboys’ ball after a punt.
Trevon Diggs denies DeVonta Smith to bring up fourth down
The Cowboys ended up punting on back-to-back possessions, with an Eagles touchdown in between. Dallas still led 27-14, but things didn’t feel as hopeless for Philadelphia anymore. It was up to the defense to get another stop.
Backed up to their own 10-yard line by a penalty and looking at third-and-11, Hurts stepped up and made a pretty good throw to rookie DeVonta Smith. The only problem is Trevon Diggs swooped in like a hawk and punched the ball to the ground, bringing up fourth down.
That’s been a consistent theme for Diggs so far this season. His pick-six was a highlight reel play, but it was far from the only impactful moment he was part of on Monday night. Dan Quinn has himself a star at cornerback.
Mike McCarthy opts to go for the jugular on fourth and goal, gets rewarded with six
There was plenty to criticize Mike McCarthy for in this game, with most of it unfolding at the end of the first half, but he deserves some credit as well. After Diggs forced the incompletion, Dallas sent their offense out at their own 39-yard line and promptly moved the ball down the field, eating up over six minutes in the process.
They eventually drove to the Philadelphia seven-yard line but came up just two yards short. With a two-touchdown lead, most coaches would have been content to just kick the field goal there. But McCarthy left his offense on the field, and Prescott threw a strike to Cedrick Wilson for a toe-tapping touchdown pass that served as the official dagger in this game.
It wasn’t necessarily a huge play for the game’s outcome, which was decided long ago. But it sent a message to everyone: this Cowboys team is going to beat you and bury you. As worrisome as the clock management was, McCarthy’s resolve to go for the touchdown matters just as much.