The Dallas Cowboys came away with the victory on Christmas Eve as they beat their divisional rivals 40-34. The offense was humming against a very good Philadelphia Eagles defense, but the defense looked very beatable most of the night. In the end, the Cowboys did enough to get the win, but how do we feel about the way they played? Let’s see what we can uncover after taking another look at the game film.
CAN’T RUN ON FIRST DOWN
The Eagles have a great defense, but their pass defense is a lot better than their run defense. So, it shouldn’t surprise us that the Cowboys were going to go out and try to get the ground game going. This task turned out to be a lot harder than expected as the Eagles were dominating the line of scrimmage and had linebackers and safeties firing through the gaps.
Despite churning out many inefficient runs, the Cowboys stayed committed to the running game and it never seemed to get any better. The Cowboys just weren’t able to get enough blockers in the right places for these runs to have a chance. Call it poor design, call it poor execution, call it whatever you want, but these early-down runs did them no favors.
The Cowboys were really bad at running the ball on first down. Whether it was poor blocking or bad play design, they were just not getting enough hats on hats and regularly gave an Eagles defender a free shot at the running back. pic.twitter.com/G6h9BAb5sB— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 26, 2022
DAK WAS IN RARE FORM
Dak Prescott is a great quarterback, but his performance this year has been repeatedly scrutinized. Some of it is fair, and some of it is not. Interceptions have cast a dark cloud over Dak’s collection of work even though many of them aren’t necessarily his fault. And even though he hasn’t played as badly as it may have looked on the surface, there are times when his game has been a little off at times. Saturday afternoon, however, was not one of those times.
Despite starting off his first drive with an interception returned for a touchdown, Prescott showed no sign of being affected. And as we mentioned earlier, failed early downs constantly put the offense in unfavorable third-down situations, but most of the day Prescott was up for the task.
Can we take a moment to appreciate how clutch Dak Prescott was on third down in this game? The guy had ice water in his veins. pic.twitter.com/vmSXLjBHJR— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 25, 2022
Against the Jaguars, Prescott was constantly breaking the pocket as the pass protection just hasn’t been holding up that long. Whenever Dak felt the pressure, he’d bolt. This game wasn’t a whole lot different as Prescott wasn’t going to wait around to be sacked over and over. Dak rolled out of pocket, but this time he was able to find open receivers and fired bullets their way.
Dak Prescott rolling and firing was a sight to see in this one. This is one way to mitigate the pocket breaking down on you. pic.twitter.com/EVRNd442nl— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 25, 2022
And when Prescott escaped the pocket sometimes he didn’t like what he saw and just decided to run with it. He made things really difficult on the Eagles' pass defense as he always had an answer for them. Whether he was throwing strikes in the pocket, throwing them out of the pocket, or just beating them with his legs Dak was very effective.
One of the things I loved about Dak Prescott in this game was his decision to not force it. If teams are going to clutter the secondary with extra defenders, then use your legs and take the yards. pic.twitter.com/Qz7JGNiEGC— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 26, 2022
A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING
The wide receiver position has been under fire for most of the season as many haven’t felt the group is strong enough. Trade talks about Brandin Cooks and Odell Beckham Jr. pipe dreams have garnered our attention, but the reality of it is, the front office likes their guys.
The team did add veteran T.Y. Hilton to the group and he made an impression right away with an improbable 3rd-and-30 conversion on a deep pass down the sideline. CeeDee Lamb had a 10-catch, 120-yard, two-touchdown game as he looks more and more like a star in this league. Michael Gallup was relatively quiet with just four catches for 36 yards, but he did have a nice touchdown catch on a scramble play. And even the forgotten one, Noah Brown, made several key blocks to spring the ball carriers. That is what Noah Brown does.
I always hear people talking about Noah Brown's underwhelming stats, but this guy does so much that doesn't show up in the stat book. He's an important part of this offense. pic.twitter.com/2a7LENd4gH— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 26, 2022
Ultimately, the tools at wide receiver were used very well and the Cowboys passing attack brought the fight to a very good pass defense.
NOT A SINGLE PUNT
The Eagles' punter never had to kick in this one. The Cowboys' defense forced four turnovers so that played a part in it, but they also couldn’t make stops for a large part of the day. They would come up with nice plays on first or second down, but then get caught in a bad spot on third down.
Trevon Diggs played off too much at times allowing the Eagles' receivers to beat him to the first-down marker. The Eagles' offense constantly looked for matchups they could exploit like putting Anthony Barr on running back Kenneth Gainwell. And once again, the Cowboys' pass rush just wasn’t getting to the quarterback fast enough as Garnder Minshew had enough time to roll out and find an open receiver.
The Cowboys defense couldn't get off the field. Even when they made stops on early downs, they would cave on third down. Insufficient pressure, too soft of coverage, and getting in unfavorable matchups made them ill-equipped to handle the Eagles' offense most of the time. pic.twitter.com/iEBIF14C8p— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 26, 2022
YOUNG CORNERS COMING UP BIG
One thing we should be happy about is how well the Cowboys' young reserve corners played in this one. The team continues to look for solutions at the position after enduring the following circumstances...
- Jourdan Lewis - injured
- Anthony Brown - injured
- Kelvin Joseph - benched
DaRon Bland is one of the best Day 3 steals in April’s draft as he came up with his fifth interception of the season. He’s now tied for second-best in the league this year. He’s having a great year.
We are starting to get used to this type of performance by the young corner, but we got a pleasant surprise from another youngster in Nahshon Wright. The second-year corner from Oregon State made his first-ever start replacing Joseph on the outside, and he did a nice job. With great length and good closing ability, Wright was making all sorts of plays. He was effective against the pass and he was wrapped up extremely well against the run. This was quite promising. Maybe Dan Quinn and company know a little something about what this guy can do after all.
As one of his harshest critics, I've been waiting for the day to start spoon-feeding myself some Nahshon Wright crow, and let's just say I got a little taste in this game. He didn't let anything get behind him and was tackling everything. The former Beaver was making plays! pic.twitter.com/2usOkuouEn— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 26, 2022
DEFENSIVE BACKS WITH SPLASH PLAYS
Jayron Kearse came away with two turnovers as he made a great interception over the body of his receiver and then scooped up a fumble on a poor QB/RB exchange. These Cowboys defensive backs just keep making plays.
Eagles' fans may try to say that Minshew's "sloppiness" cost them and that wouldn't happen with Hurts. Maybe, but the four turnovers weren't gifts. The Cowboys just wanted the ball more and were doing some Matrix-like shit to come away with those interceptions. pic.twitter.com/1J2AhTUGT1— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 25, 2022