The Dallas Cowboys just beat the best team in the NFL. Even with Jalen Hurts being out of the lineup with a shoulder injury, Gardner Minshew is a quality backup who has been in the offense for two seasons.
It was a back-and-forth game, with the Cowboys being down ten points twice. When it came time for Dak Prescott to make a play and be at his best, he answered the call. Prescott’s name is on the Week 16 top ten roster power ranking list, along with nine others.
10. Nahshon Wright, CB
As for figuring out what cornerback would be playing opposite Trevon Diggs, Nahshon Wright seems to be the guy moving forward. There is still a lot left to improve, but he has shown to have football intelligence.
When the Eagles needed a touchdown on their final drive, Wright tackled a receiver moving him backwards out of bounds to keep the clock running. That was probably emphasized this week after Jayron Kearse couldn’t keep Evan Engram in bounds. He also pushed a receiver out of the endzone while they were trying to make the catch. Those moments show growth at the NFL level.
For what it’s worth, Wright had the highest Pro Football Focus grade in coverage among all Dallas defenders and was the highest-graded defender, with a minimum of ten snaps.
9. Micah Parsons, DE/LB
Even though Micah Parsons has registered just one sack in three weeks, he, once again, played on a week where he was sick and had limited practice reps. Parsons was going up against Jordan Mailata, one of the best left tackles in the league.
Brian Baldinger had another “Baldy’s Breakdown” where he highlighted the moves Parsons was putting on the Eagles’ offensive line with success. Minshew was just quick to get rid of the ball.
.@dallascowboys @MicahhParsons11 working on this new “Bubba Baker Freeze/Hesitation” move. Trying moves that worked for Big Bubba back in the 70’s & 80’s. This is going to present some problems #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/IJ2PlQwT8B— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) December 26, 2022
Parsons won a few times and put the heat on Minshew when it mattered. He had eight total pressures, which ties his third-highest total of the season.
8. Tony Pollard, RB
After being nominated for his first-ever Pro Bowl, Tony Pollard had a rough day running the ball. However, like against the Vikings, he was a dual-threat back as a wide receiver.
A five-yard swing pass could be explosive when it goes to Pollard. He gave the Eagles’ linebackers problems all game and presented a total mismatch. Whenever Dak Prescott needed to throw a quick pass to avoid pressure or check it down, he was looking for Pollard.
Credit to Kellen Moore for finding ways to keep his playmakers involved when something isn’t working. Pollard finished with six catches for 61 yards.
7. Michael Gallup, WR
In last week’s BTB Mailbag, a question was asked about why Michael Gallup wasn’t involved more in the offense. I spoke about how it’s not about Gallup’s talent as a receiver, he just needs to get involved early and build up confidence during a game.
Moore was true to his word about getting Gallup more touches because Prescott was targeting him early in the game. On the third down play that should have been a sack against the Cowboys, Gallup returned towards Prescott, giving his quarterback an easy throw in a tough situation.
Besides the end zone throw on third down that was in the sun, Gallup had a few signature sideline catches to go along with his great touchdown catch, which tied the game at 27.
6. T.Y. Hilton, WR
T.Y. Hilton might not be the receiver Cowboys fans were expecting to be brought in, but he made his debut memorable. Hilton was on the field for 12 offensive snaps but probably had the two biggest moments in the game.
The first one was when the Cowboys decided to go for it on 4th and 8, and Prescott’s pass was intended for Hilton, but Darius Slay got called for illegal contact that extended the drive. The offense continued down the field and scored to make it 14-10 Dallas.
On 3rd & 30, Dak Prescott found T.Y. Hilton for his first reception as a Cowboy for a 49-yard gain.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 25, 2022
Prescott's pass traveled 62.1 yards in the air, the longest completion of his career.
Completion Probability: 22.5%#PHIvsDAL | #DallasCowboys pic.twitter.com/rKEynfP0fv
With only ten days of working together, it looks like Prescott completely trusts Hilton. The play of the game has to be his third-down catch for 52 yards. That was precisely the reason why he was brought to Dallas. His speed and experience made him the perfect player in that situation. According to Next Gen Stats, the pass had a completion probability of 22.5 percent.
5. DaRon Bland, CB
As a backhanded compliment to DaRon Bland, it’s easy to forget he is still a rookie with how he’s been playing. That’s a credit to the work Bland put in the offseason to come through when the Cowboys have needed him most.
On Saturday, Bland showed the ability to play inside cornerback and outside, which is big moving forward. He has helped stabilize the position after the injuries to Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown. While Dan Quinn continues to tinker with the rotation, at least he knows Bland can bring versatility.
Jayron Kearse reminded the media on Monday that Bland has five interceptions in just six starts this season, one away from the NFL lead. He would also be Kearse’s choice for Defensive Rookie of the Year, and it’s getting harder to argue against his point.
4. Brett Maher, K
After being relatively silent for a few weeks, Brett Maher was Mr. Automatic going 8-for-8 in total field goal attempts and adding 16 points to the board. We live in a world now where Maher lines up for a 44-yard attempt, and you can focus on something else because you can trust him to deliver.
Maher snubbed from the Pro Bowl as he leads the NFL with 128 points after his performance on Saturday. He is tied for eighth in league with a field goal percentage of 90%, the best of his career.
3. Jayron Kearse, S
After the loss to the Jaguars, Jayron Kearse stood at his locker and spoke about how 34 points in the NFL should be a win all day. Kearse just had to look in the mirror because he stepped up and answered many questions. He took every question and was left with finding answers for a struggling defense.
Kearse finished the game with three tackles, one interception, one pass deflection, and one fumble recovery. Both turnovers from Kearse led to 14 points for the Cowboys. The definition of a leader is knowing that things can always be better. On Monday, Kearse talked about how his performance on Saturday could be cleaned up and improved upon. He also mentioned there was an interception left on the field.
Kearse is a little hard on himself because, without his takeaways, Dallas loses the game. He continues to be the leader the defense needs to rally around.
2. CeeDee Lamb, WR
It feels good putting the No.1 wide receiver debate to rest. CeeDee Lamb has turned himself into one of the top ten players at his position. He currently has 1,207 yards receiving, eight touchdowns, and averaging 13.3 yards per catch.
A crazy stat line compares Lamb’s production in the past five games to the five games before that. Lamb’s had 33 receptions, 456 yards, and three touchdowns in the previous five matchups. Five games before that, he had 30 receptions, 410 yards, and three touchdowns. Lamb has a new nickname—Mr. Consistent.
Both he and Prescott now have a clear connection that needed to be worked out during the season. All of their communication issues seem to be solved, and the offense will need to keep creating opportunities for Lamb if they want to go deep into the playoffs.
1. Dak Prescott, QB
When the Cowboys needed to do the impossible, Dak Prescott played his best game of the season. He is turning into his old self, when his play put him in the MVP conversation. Prescott’s not at that point now, but his play has vastly improved compared to his first game back against the Detroit Lions.
Prescott has put together back-to-back starts where he looks like a top-five quarterback, carrying all the momentum he needs heading into the playoffs. No. 4 completed 27 of 35 passes for 347 yards, three touchdowns, one interception, and 41 yards rushing.
This angle and throw is actually nuts. Can’t get over it.— Tony Catalina (@Tony_Catalina) December 27, 2022
Next Gen Stats gave Prescott a season-high 91 passing score in Week 16. He also completed all 24 of his passes against zone coverage for 300 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the only player to earn a perfect 99 NGS passing score vs zone in a game since 2018.