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Cowboys ground the Eagles 33-13, tie up the NFC East

The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night and it was delicious

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
The MVP case continued to grow.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys scored early and often in the first half, then used field goals and three fumble recoveries to cruise to a 33-13 win over the Philadelphia to tie them at 10-3 and claim a momentary lead in the NFC East. It was a game where the Cowboys seemed in control from start to finish and proved conclusively that they can indeed beat a good team, while a certain quarterback continued to burnish his MVP résumé.

The game couldn’t have started better for the Cowboys. After taking the opening kickoff, they moved with ease down the field, mixing up short passes, some effective running from both Tony Pollard and Rico Dowdle, and an end around by KaVontae Turpin that was the longest play of the drive. Dak Prescott capped it all off by moving to his left to escape pressure and finding a wide open CeeDee Lamb who strolled untouched into the end zone for the early 7-0 lead on a drive that took exactly five minutes.

It looked like the Eagles would come right back and put their own points on the board as they overcame multiple penalties to get as far as the Cowboys 21, including a 30-yard pass from Jalen Hurts on third and 16. But Donovan Wilson would rip the ball out from Hurts as he ran the ball and recover it to give the ball to the offense at their own 21. Facing a third and nine, Prescott would find Lamb again for 25 yards. They would face a fourth and two at the Philadelphia 44, and Mike McCarthy, now sans his appendix after surgery on Wednesday, didn’t hesitate, with Dallas picking up the first down on a Pollard run as the Eagles were defending the pass. Pollard would unfortunately have a 17-yard gain wiped out by a Terence Steele holding call, but Darius Slay would get called for pass interference on Michael Gallup to keep the drive alive. But the flags were now raining down on the Cowboys as Tyler Smith got caught holding. That would finally stall the drive, and Brandon Aubrey came out and calmly nailed a 60-yard field goal to give Dallas a 10-0 lead with just 50 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Dallas defense would force a fourth and two, but the Eagles would use a pass from the punter to get a first down all the way to the Cowboys’ 39. The defense would stiffen and force Philadelphia to settle for a 52-yard field goal to move things to 10-3.

The Cowboys would move quickly into Eagles territory with a now expected pass to Jake Ferguson for 27 yards down the middle. Dowdle would get the next three touches, and gain 19 yards. A little shovel pass to Lamb would get them into the red zone again; Pollard and Prescott would combine to get them to first and goal at the 4-yard line, then Pollard would set up second and inches. A pass to Ferguson would get broken up, and Dowdle would be ruled just short. McCarthy challenged the call, as replay seemed to show the ball breaking the plane. The call was overturned, and the Cowboys had a 17-3 lead, scoring on all three of their possessions so far. Incidentally, Bryan Anger was still waiting to make his first punt since Thanksgiving.

Philly came right back at Dallas, with Hurts using both his arm and his legs to get them into the red zone at the two-minute warning of the first half. But Parsons would get the first sack of the game despite battling flu symptoms. It would tie him with Reggie White as the only two players in the league with 12+ sacks in their first two seasons. It led to another Jake Elliott field goal. McCarthy had used a time out to get the ball back with 1:48 on the clock to try and increase the 11-point lead.

Helped by both a pass interference call and a facemask infraction on Kelee Ringo, Prescott was able to find Brandin Cooks, who also was the player Ringo fouled even though Cooks still caught the ball, inside the 1-yard line. With just 27 seconds left, McCarthy dialed up passes, and on the second, Prescott found Gallup for the TD and a 24-6 lead at halftime. Fun fact, on the kickoff just before the half ended, Aubrey hit the crossbar for the second time in the game.

Prescott had a strong first half, throwing for 157 yards and two touchdowns, but the running game was just as strong, accounting for 96 yards and Dowdle’s score. That was a balance that has been missing in the offense, and it showed up at a great time with Dallas starting the hardest four-game stretch of their season. McCarthy was using both his backs effectively as Pollard had 32 yards on six carries in the first half and Dowdle totaled 31 on eight. Pollard also had 20 yards on four catches.

Down by 18, the Eagles needed to get points on the board in a hurry in the second half to get back in the game. Early in the opening drive after intermission, Johnathan Hankins was injured and left the field not to return, the first significant injury for Dallas in several games. But two plays later, Stephon Gilmore would rip the ball away from A.J. Brown and Damone Clark would recover it at the Dallas 37. But they would be unable to get a first down after just missing on a long pass to Lamb, and Anger would finally get to do his primary job.

The defense would get a three and out thanks to strong pressure on Hurts, forcing Branden Mann to make his first punt of the game. It did not go well, as Josh Jobe would interfere with Turpin on his attempt to fair catch, setting the Cowboys up at their own 45. But disaster would ensue as Fletcher Cox would get a strip sack and Jalen Carter would scoop and score to make it 24-13 with 10:41 left in the third.

The Cowboys got quickly into Eagles territory after the ensuing kickoff thanks to a big catch and run from Ferguson for 32 yards on a ball that Prescott threaded in. But injuries were starting to pile up as Dowdle and Zack Martin both got nicked up, although both would continue in the game. A clipping call that the booth announcers didn’t think was legit caused a 2nd and 19. A holding call on third down would make it 3rd and 25. A short gain would set Aubrey up for a 59-yard attempt, and if you’ve been paying attention, you know the result. The lead was back to 14 for Dallas.

One thing the Cowboys had been very successful was not letting the Eagles get in a situation to use their Brotherly Shove, but it finally showed up on the next drive and was as successful as usual. Later in the drive, Nick Sirianni decided to go for it on 4th and 8, and Gilmore stopped the receiver well short of the sticks.

One notable thing through three quarters was that Hurts had only completed passes to three receivers, Brown, Goedert, and DeVonta Smith, while Prescott was spreading the ball around as usual.

With a two-touchdown lead, the Cowboys worked the ball more methodically with runs and short passes. Aided by a couple of penalties on Philadelphia, and another Ferguson hurdle, they did take one shot to the end zone, but were content to trot Aubrey out again for a relative chip shot from 45 to make it a three score lead at 30-13.

Jayron Kearse would also require medical attention on the next Eagles possession as the law of averages finally seemed to be catching up to Dallas. But the clock was now working against Philadelphia. And the Tush Push failed them as they were flagged for lining up offsides, something that should probably happen more often. They still converted the third down, but on the next play, the Cowboys would force yet another fumble, this one by Markquese Bell, with Malik Hooker recovering it at the Dallas 12.

While they could have stuck to conservative play to get the win, Prescott had one more deep shot to take, completing a 38-yard pass to Gallup that was all air, and one he just barely had time to get off. That pretty much sealed the win. Aubrey would close out the scoring with a 50-yarder with 1:08 to go in the game, and it is going to be hard for the critics to move the goalposts after this one.

They still will, of course.

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