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5 plays that shaped the Cowboys’ disappointing loss to the Eagles

RIP Cowboys QB controversy, September 2022-October 2022.

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

We knew the Cowboys’ magic had to run out at some point, right? Cooper Rush had a horrible, awful, no good day in Philadelphia and the Cowboys dropped their first divisional game of the year to the Eagles by a final score of 26-17.

The Cowboys should be commended for how they rallied in the second half, where they outscored the Eagles 14-6, but they dug themselves too deep a hole in the first half. These five plays, four of which came before the halftime break, were absolute back-breakers in what otherwise could’ve been a very different outcome.

CeeDee Lamb’s block in the back erases first down

Both offenses started the game out with little going for them, and both ended up punting the ball away. So when the Cowboys got their second possession, they still had a chance to draw first blood.

Two quick plays to Tony Pollard moved the chains, and then Cooper Rush found Jake Ferguson for a 13-yard pickup to gain another first down and move the ball to midfield. The Eagles had already been flagged for being offsides, but CeeDee Lamb got called for a block in the back at the end of the play.

That led to offsetting penalties, and the Cowboys punted the ball three plays later. But the Cowboys looked to be getting in a rhythm before Lamb’s penalty threw things off. As we quickly found out, it was a precursor to an avalanche of misfortune for Dallas.

Cooper Rush’s first interception of the year comes at a terrible time

Cooper Rush played admirably this season, with his biggest plus being how well he took care of the ball. Well, that came to a screeching halt Sunday night, and it happened at the worst moment.

After a long Eagles drive resulted in a touchdown, Rush had an opportunity to respond and tie things up. But on the first play of the ensuing drive, Rush fired an ill-advised pass over the middle to Michael Gallup and it was picked off.

That set the Eagles up in prime field position, and a defense that had barely had a chance to catch their breath had to go back onto the field. Seven plays later, the Eagles were up 14-0.

Mike McCarthy doesn’t challenge ruling, Cowboys fail on fourth down

The Cowboys weren’t even halfway through the second quarter and they were finding themselves in a hole that would be pretty hard to climb out of. The opportunity was seemingly now or never, but Rush was quickly facing a third and nine at the Cowboys’ own 26.

Rush hit Lamb on a quick throw and Lamb navigated through traffic, extending the ball past the first-down marker as he went down. The officials spotted the ball a yard short and Dallas ran up to the line of scrimmage to go for it in a hurry. The play didn’t work and it resulted in a turnover on downs.

In looking at the replay, it appeared that Lamb clearly made the first down, and a challenge likely would’ve been successful. To be clear, it was the right call to go for it on that fourth down, but Mike McCarthy first should have challenged the call. Instead, Dallas rushed into a play they wouldn’t have needed, and their failure led directly to the Eagles extending the lead to three scores with a field goal.

Cooper Rush’s second pick of the night digs the hole deeper

With the Cowboys now staring at a 17-0 deficit, they desperately needed to get something going. A big run from Tony Pollard moved the chains early, and it felt like a spark for the offense.

It didn’t last long, as Dallas drew another third and nine in their own territory. Rush once again targeted Gallup, and once again the ball was picked off, this time by Darius Slay. For the third time in as many drives, the Eagles offense took the field in Dallas territory.

Eight plays later, the Eagles kicked another field goal to extend the lead to 20-0. The Cowboys would get a field goal before halftime to trim the lead ever so slightly, but the damage had been done. Rush’s two picks, as well as the failed fourth down that shouldn’t have been, spotted the Eagles 13 easy points. In a game that was ultimately decided by less than that, this sequence of events proved cataclysmic for the Cowboys.

Cooper Rush’s third interception proves most costly

Rush still deserves a ton of credit for how he played when called upon this season, and he also deserves credit for playing much better in the second half after a truly miserable start to the game. But his third pick of the night was the final nail in the Cowboys’ coffin, and it wasn’t even entirely on him.

Down 26-17 with five minutes left in the game, Rush dropped back on second down and saw he cad CeeDee Lamb wide open streaking towards the endzone. He stepped up to throw a sure touchdown, but found Brandon Graham bearing down on him after the edge rusher worked over rookie Tyler Smith.

As a result, Rush didn’t get enough on his throw and the ball was easily picked off again. That was more or less the end of the game, but it was especially critical because Rush very nearly cut the Eagles’ lead to just two points. Half a second longer in the pocket could’ve changed it all, but that just further underscores how critical those costly mistakes in the first half were.

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