The Good, the Bad, and the Close to the Regular Season

The Good:

1. No Major Injuries: That was going to be the biggest risk going into the game, particularly with the stated intent to play the starters, but aside from one special teams' player and the possibility of some minor injuries... no one on Dallas was seriously hurt.

2. Explosive Plays in the First Half: A lot of this may end up getting "dismissed" as a win over a bad team or a win over backups or something else... but they were there in the first half. Dak was good in the passing game and had several big passes that moved the ball and lead to scores, including a second game where he's thrown for four TDs in the first half, including two to Cedric Wilson. Cooper and Lamb also made some big plays as well, all of which contributed to the points scored, particularly in the second quarter.

3. The Running Game: This has generally been something that's been missing over several of the past few games... and particularly missing last week... but it was here. Zeke may not have gotten 100 yards individually, but he still averaged almost five yards a carry, Clement and Hardy averaged over 8 yards a carry. Hardy and Smith would add rushing TDs in the fourth quarter. All of this was good and even showed that our backups could do well.

4. Defending the Pass: While the defense struggled against the run through the game... the pass defense was largely there. Minshew had a completion percentage over 50% and two touchdowns, but things weren't necessarily all that great... and some of his biggest completions of the night came more due to luck than skill. The first third down completion of the game came off a tipped pass that happened to go to an Eagles receiver... and it looked like Joseph was going for the pick on that play and just couldn't get high enough to bring it in. The result was a lame duck that just happened to wobble to DeVonta Smith. And later, Vander-Esch would get the last INT for the Dallas regular season. Thus, there was one pass that could have been picked off and one that was picked off. And ultimately the Eagles averaged about 4.5 yards per pass on offense which allowed for a good night passing the ball.

5. Dak Setting Records: This again may end up belittled because of the Eagles not playing their starters or not being considered "good," but Dak had a very good night. His passes weren't always perfect, and Lamb and Wilson had to adjust to some throws, but they weren't uncatchable and allowed for Dak to have a very good night, throwing for 5 touchdowns in the game and throwing for more TDs in the regular season than anyone else in Dallas's history. Regardless of opponents, that's a good thing.

6. Red Zone Offense on the Road: This has been something marked as missing in previous road games... that we've been bad in the red zone on the road. That wasn't the case today with five appearances and five TDs from inside the 20. Most of which were passes from Dak.

7. Cedrick Wilson: All of the receivers had a relatively good night... but Wilson was the biggest star in the passing game with over 100 yards and two TDs.

8. Clement in the Passing Game: While he's largely been relegated to being Pollard's backup, the former Eagle did well in the game, and not just in the running game. While he only had 4 catches and 22 yards, one of those catches was a TD.

9. Efficiency in the Second Half: Dak's night ended on a good note with the TD pass to Clement to start the fourth quarter, but it also lacked a lot of the explosive plays that were there in the first half. As he only had one big pass in the second half in terms of yardage, which went to Wilson, but unlike the second half of the home game against Washington, Dak was 5 of 6 in the second half and all for positive yards. That's all good, and this then combined with the running game for chewing up time and allowing the starters to rest going into the fourth quarter. And then even the backups had a good night.

10. Rush's Completion Percentage: Sure, he only threw one pass... but he completed it, gained ten yards, and set up a TD.

The Bad:

1. The Quality of the Opponent: The win is good, and technically this does count as a win over a winning team as the Eagles finish 9-8, but the Eagles came in hurt and with guys out with Covid and thus made it clear that they weren't going to go 100%. Guys like Kelcee only played one snap and DeVonta Smith left the game shortly after setting his own rookie record. This then left the Eagles offense without many of their starting players and the defense we clobbered on... wasn't the Eagles starters either. In this, while we may claim the win and momentum... we have to remember it was against the Eagles' second string.

2. Defending the Run: While the defense against the pass was good... the rush defense was not. Gainwell averaged over 6 yards a carry and had a TD. Huntley averaged almost 4 yards a carry... and this was all with backups against our starters.

The Close to the Regular Season: And so, we end the regular season on a win. In terms of regular seasons... we've likely exceeded most expectations. Many here probably had us as an at best 9-8 team with 8-9 being more likely and thus in line with where we've been most of the previous few years, around .500. 12-5 in the regular season was likely seen as overly optimistic by many. In this, we've done better than expected. We also end the year with a chance of receiving the number two seed in the playoffs, not something that was going to be expect coming into the season. All of which is better than what was expected coming into the season, particularly for those expecting us to limp through the season and finish at or below .500.

The team has also done fairly well against other teams that have finished well. While they didn't finish well, Carolina was still 3-0 when they came to Dallas and entered playing well on defense. We entered Minesota with questions given that Dak was hurt and that the Vikings were coming into the game fairly hot. And at the time we played them, Atlanta was in line to compete for the playoffs. So, it wasn't as if they were in a bad "place" at the time we played them. And then there is the case of playing teams with winning records... Given that team's records can change during the season, I won't be counting Carolina as while they were 3-0 when they played us, they are 5-11 at this moment. But there are other teams that we've played.

As the records stand now, the teams we've played that have winning records are the LA Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles (x2), New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders, and Arizona Cardinals. In this we stand at 4-4 with two wins against NFC playoff teams from this year and two AFC playoff teams from this year. Assuming that the Saits beat Atlanta on Sunday, that would mean we've gone 5-4 in the regular season against teams with a winning record and 6-1 against teams with a losing record. And if 49ers lose to the Rams, the Saints would potentially make the playoffs with a win. Depending on what happens with the Sunday games, we could finish with an at worst 3-4 record against teams in the playoffs this year or at best 5-3. This is where both the LA Rams/San Francisco and New Orleans/Atlanta games play in in the NFC and the LA Chargers/Las Vegas game plays in in the AFC. At worst, some things could be worrying regarding all that and at best, the case could be made that we did fairly well against these teams in the regular season.

Regardless, we've still closed the regular season out strong and have a shot at the 2 seed. On to the Wild Card... and go 49ers, Seahawks, and Panthers!

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.