Soak this one in Cowboys fans. There isn’t a better feeling than soundly beating a divisional foe on a national stage with the most boisterous supporters, primarily the Philadelphia Eagles. The Dallas Cowboys handled their business and destroyed the Eagles by a score of 33-13, handing Philadelphia another decisive defeat for a second consecutive week. The Cowboys controlled the contest from the opening whistle, and except for a blip on the radar, it was smooth sailing to a needed victory.
Dallas dominated in all three phases and stayed a few steps ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles when things appeared to be going in the Eagles’ favor. The win brings the Cowboys possession of first place in the NFC East, if only for the time being since the Cowboys will need to finish with a better record than the Eagles to win the division based on a tiebreaker. However, this win stated that the Cowboys are improving at the right time of the season and may be serious contenders for a deep playoff run. Let’s look back at Sunday’s emotional win and recap your stars of the game.
Micah Parsons/DeMarcus Lawrence
These two deserve to be mentioned conjointly because of how well they’re playing off one another. Parsons was a late addition to the injury report with flu-like symptoms, and he was giving the Eagles all that he had in the tank. Parsons is such an explosive defensive phenom that hardly anything can stop him, not the flu, and certainly not the Eagles, at least not legally. Parsons would have had a much more significant impact on the game had he not been held on so many unflagged occasions. Deterred but not defeated, Parsons got in the defensive line’s business meeting in the Eagles backfield field and took Jalen Hurts down to reach 12.5 sacks on the season. The sack was impressive because of the sheer strength it took Parsons to lift Lane Johnson out of his stance and then drive him backward into Hurts before collecting the sack.
DeMarcus Lawrence also deserves his due for contributing to the pressure on Hurts. Lawrence was also impacting throws by Hurts to cause misfires and throws that were off platform. Lawrence, playing alongside Parsons, looks rejuvenated in his ninth season with the Cowboys, and the two are opening things up for the interior pass rushers to flourish alongside them. What Parsons and Lawrence did didn’t always show up in the stat sheet, but it made things much easier for the back seven of their defense.
Cris Collinsworth was likely correct in assertion during the broadcast. We may have another star in Dallas with Jake Ferguson. Ferguson is exceptional after the catch and has equally outstanding hands. Ferguson has demonstrated in his short career that he can be a thorn in the Eagles’ side. In four games against the Eagles, Ferguson has found the end zone twice against the division foe, and Sunday was another big game for Ferguson.
Ferguson provided the Cowboys with a threat down the seams of the field that the Eagles were not prepared for. First, Ferguson got off to a fast start by connecting with Prescott for a significant gain over the middle of the field before being tripped up by Reed Blankenship. Then Ferguson broke tackles from several Eagles after making a fingertip catch while being defended by Sydney Brown. Then, of course, Ferguson showcases his leaping ability by hurdling an Eagles defender as he has done so routinely. Ferguson finished his night with five catches for 72 yards, and 51 were after the catch.
It’s fitting that Cowboys’ head coach Mike McCarthy was as surgical as he was in his play-calling and managing of the game, coming off the operating table just days prior. McCarthy was absent for a portion of this week’s preparation for Philadelphia due to an emergency appendectomy, but he did not miss a beat. He was in tune with the game’s flow, coaches, and quarterback.
Under McCarthy’s direction, the offense began the game with four drives that resulted in three touchdowns and one field goal. The Cowboys knew that the Eagles were vulnerable in their secondary, and McCarthy emphasized the attack of the Eagles’ weakness. The Cowboys’ offense was in a zone, and they have McCarthy to thank for that.
Apart from his offensive management, we must spotlight decision-making as head coach. No pun intended, but McCarthy had the guts to entrust his kicker at the most critical junctures. The Cowboys took an early 7-0 lead after forcing a Jalen Hurts fumble, but their ensuing drive stalled and McCarthy was faced with a difficult choice: Punt the ball and play for field position or try a 60-yard field goal? McCarthy trusted Brandon Aubrey, who nailed the long try to give Dallas a 10-0 lead.
Later in the contest, McCarthy made the wise choice to challenge a run by Rico Dowdle in the red zone. On 3rd and goal, Dowdle was ruled short of the line to gain by the officials, but McCarthy challenged the ruling on the field. If not for McCarthy’s challenge, Dallas is considering settling for a field goal or risking possible points on 4th and goal. Plus, McCarthy deserves a lot of credit for managing the Cowboys’ two-minute offense that led to a touchdown right before the half. His aggressive mindset to counter the Philadelphia Eagles made a big difference in delivering the win.
As stated before, Sunday was an emotional game. The players’ chatter on the field indicated how badly each team wanted to win and how much passion was behind every skirmish between the teams. Dallas cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Eagles’ receiver A.J. Brown were central to the numerous verbal exchanges. Frequently, both players jawed back and forth. Brown, when asked about the energy of the Eagles this game versus their performance last week against the San Francisco 49ers, was grinning ear to ear. Yet, it’s Gilmore who got the last laugh.
Several times, Gilmore was in the proper position to disrupt passes to Brown and limit his production after the catch. Gilmore got the better of Brown when he forced a fumble after a catch to rip the momentum from the Eagles when they marched deep into the Cowboys’ territory.
The former defensive player of the year has proven his worth in so many facets since arriving with the Cowboys. His intelligence and understanding of route concepts more than make up for the steps he’s lost over the years with his terrific knowledge and instincts. The Cowboys look wiser with each passing week for acquiring Gilmore for a fifth-round pick this past offseason.
The investment was minimal regarding draft capital, but his presence in the wake of Trevon Diggs’ injury and DaRon Bland’s emergence has been priceless. While the forced fumble on Brown was crucial, Gilmore’s tackle to stop Devonta Smith on a fourth down attempt by Philadelphia and the Cowboys ahead of the Eagles by 14 points might have been the game-winner.
There’s a case to be made that Brandon Aubrey is arguably the best kicker in the NFL. The 28-year-old rookie kicker is unrattled by the big moments and is as cool as can be under the bright lights of the national stage. Aubrey did take a unique odyssey to land with the Cowboys. Aubrey was first a soccer player drafted to MLS to Toronto FC, then a kicker in the USFL with the Birmingham Stallions. The former USFL champion has found a home with the Cowboys and his groove.
Aubrey has started his NFL career with a perfect 30 for 30 in field goal attempts. The Cowboys put their faith in the USFL champion, and he delivered. Aubrey made two significant kicks to capture the momentum for the Cowboys’. First, the aforementioned 60-yard field goal and then made a 59-yard kick to give the Cowboys a critical 14-point lead just before the beginning of the fourth quarter. Aubrey’s consistency and big leg are a luxury that the Cowboys are reaping the rewards of.
The final star of the game is Dak Prescott. Although Prescott made a mistake, giving up a costly fumble that allowed the Eagles to score their only touchdown, he was again excellent. There’s a level of command and understanding of how Dak Prescott plays that needs to be appreciated for how rare it is, especially for a Dallas Cowboys quarterback. Prescott has shown glimpses of this version of himself in the past but has yet to see this level of consistency over the last seven games.
Prescott has thrown 22 touchdown passes in that span versus just two interceptions. Much will be made of Prescott’s trademark “Here we go” cadence at the line of scrimmage, but it underlines Prescott’s authority and power in all phases of the offense. The communication stops once Prescott makes his call as the offense readies for the snap. Prescott’s processing before and after the snap is among the best in the business. Prescott sees the field so well that the Cowboys can lean heavily into the passing game. Prescott’s synergy with CeeDee Lamb is one aspect of the offense, but now he is thriving with Brandin Cooks and Jake Ferguson.
His calm demeanor is something to marvel at. He’s very adept at moving the defense with his eyes and manipulating the rush to avoid pressure while keeping his eyes down the field. Every facet of the “Texas Coast” offense runs through Prescott, and against Philadelphia, Prescott demonstrated a masterclass in recognition and refined throwing mechanics. In Prescott’s eyes, the offense didn’t play to its standard, but 271 yards, two touchdowns, and a passer rating of 99.4 is nothing to scoff at. Dallas’ win and Prescott’s performance move Prescott into the front-runner for NFL MVP and if he can keep delivering big wins like this, the gap will only widen.