The Monday morning links.
‘Good football’, indeed.
The Cowboys put up their guttiest performance of the season, with a strong defensive showing in the first half followed by the offense finding real life and putting two pressure-packed long touchdown drives together. The defense would make one last statement when Leighton Vander Esch blew up a screen play as the Eagles were driving for a score. On third and two, he fought off two blockers to drop Corey Clement for a five yard loss. On the ensuing play, Carson Wentz completed the pass, but it was ruled a yard short of the sticks, turning the ball over to the Cowboys with just over a minute to play. They were unable to do anything with the ball as they were wisely very careful to not put it at risk of a turnover, and the Eagles got the ball back with 40 ticks left, but no timeouts. They got close, but the game would end on a pass completed inside the ten to Zach Ertz, who then lateraled to Golden Tate, and the clock ran out as he was surrounded and tackled.
As was mentioned at the beginning, the Cowboys certainly played like they were desperate, and it looked like Scott Linehan was going deep into the playbook, with plays that certainly didn’t look like the same old same old. Dak was spreading it around as well, connecting with eight different receivers. The first impression is that Prescott quieted some, but not all, of the worries about him with a strong passing performance, going 26 of 36 for 270 yards, one touchdown, and most importantly, no interceptions, and threw in the touchdown on the ground as well. The fact the Zeke was running with such authority certainly didn’t hurt, nor did the injuries in the Eagles’ secondary. But while Linehan showed far more creativity in play-calling, the question remains as to whether he did enough to affect his fate with Dallas. The thing that really begs an answer is why the team had to get to 3-5 to see this kind of a game from him? While he certainly gets props for what he did with his back to the wall, it should not have taken such a dire situation for him to try something different. This doesn’t eliminate the debate over him at all. It just makes it a bit more confusing.
Sunday wasn’t perfect for Dak, but he did what was needed.
2. Dak Prescott didn’t get off to a great start. He struggled with his accuracy and decision-making. But he bounced back and improved as the game went along. He finished with 270 yards on 26-of-36 passing with one touchdown and no interceptions. Prescott also had a rushing TD. He takes the heat when they lose, but he deserves praise for how he played against the Eagles. He seems to have built a nice rapport with Amari Cooper, but he was also very good at getting others involved. Allen Hurns had 2 for 40, Cole Beasley 4 for 37 and Michael Gallup 2 for 34. The Cowboys won’t go on a run without Prescott continuing to play like he did Sunday night.
But the story was all-Zeke.
4. Ezekiel Elliott called Sunday night’s game a must-win. It wasn’t a startling statement. It was a must-win. But Elliott backed it up. He had his best game and best highlight of the season. He’s had several successful leaping attempts, but Sunday night’s was his best on a 32-yard run. He then continued to carry the ball at a 10-yard-per-touch pace well into the final quarter. And then there was the TD catch to put the Cowboys up 20-13 early in the fourth and the go-ahead score. He finished with 151 yards on 19 carries.
The season is saved — for now.
The Dallas Cowboys’ storylines entering Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles didn’t elicit many positive outlooks.
They included: A coach’s job security called into question; a quarterback struggling to make any kind of plays; an offensive coordinator perhaps on his last chance and a defense left wobbly after its last game. All in all it added up to a season on the line.
But the Cowboys left Lincoln Financial Field with a 27-20 victory that seemed improbable after losing their first four road games of the season, and they find themselves alive and breathing if not entirely well just yet.
They left Philly after Jason Garrett rallied a young team that had been rattled and a coaching staff that had been questioned.
But to be a playoff contender, the Cowboys must prove that they can be consistent.
The defense, while it was a tad porous late, made plays to win a game. Rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch came up with an interception in the first quarter, and his third-down stop for a loss on the Eagles’ second-to-last possession was just as big.
The Cowboys’ fourth win of the year was their most impressive, and entertaining.
They are also 4-5 overall, but for us to have real hope they are going to need to do this again and again and again and again.
* Editor’s Note: And again.
Don’t count out the Dallas Cowboys just yet.
Riding the back of Ezekiel Elliott and a clutch defense, the Cowboys pulled off a shocker and stunned the Philadelphia Eagles 27-20 in a thriller on Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
Elliott rushed for 151 yards, caught six passes for 36 yards and scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 1-yard plunge with 3:19 remaining that held up as the game-winner.
Dallas’ defense sealed the deal by stopping two last-gasp Eagles drives in the final three minutes.
It was a resilient performance that may have saved the season for Dallas (4-5) and at least temporarily quieted the noise about the job status of coach Jason Garrett.
Have yourself a day, LVE.
Rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch fought through two blockers to tackle Corey Clement for a five-yard loss. The Eagles went for it on 4th and 7 and after a review a pass to Zach Ertz for a gain of six yards was ruled shot of the first down. Vander Esch led the Cowboys with 13 tackles and picked off Wentz in the first quarter to set up Dallas’ first score of the game. It’s Vander Esch’s first interception.
“Jaylon [Smith] and I love playing with each other and we take pride in being around the ball,” Vander Esch said.
The Cowboys’ took over with 1:09 remaining but failed to sustain a drive and were forced to punt back to Philly with 40 seconds left. The Eagles took over again at their 32. DeMarcus Lawrence hit Wentz to force and errant, incomplete pass. Wentz, however, moved to the Eagles to the Dallas’ 32 with 11 seconds remaining. Wentz’s 23-yard pass to Ertz was completed inside the Cowboys’ 10 and as Ertz was being tackled he pitched it to Golden Tate, but Jeff Heath was there for the tackle as time expired.
Doug Pederson made some curious decisions in the first half. For starters, he opted to use 11 personnel (1RB, 1TE) for all but three plays in the first half, even though the Eagles were missing their starting right tackle and had used multiple-tight-end sets more than 50 percent of the time in the first eight games. He finally went to 12 personnel (1RB, 2TEs) in the second half, and the Eagles were able to move the football and find the end zone. He also decided to go with a four-wide-receiver set for the first time all season on a third-and-1 play in the second quarter at the Dallas 20-yard line. Carson Wentz threw an incompletion to Golden Tate on the play. Then, rather than kick a field goal or have Wentz try a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1, he called a run play for rookie Josh Adams, who was stopped for no gain.
The defense’s top priority Sunday night was neutralizing Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, and they couldn’t do it. Elliott rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown. He also had six catches for 36 yards and another touchdown.
The Philadelphia Eagles fans brought a casket to the game to celebrate the death of the Dallas Cowboys season.
But this feisty bunch of Cowboys, who had seemingly been written off by everyone outside of their own locker room, channeled their anger and frustration into a season-saving and job-saving victory at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday night.
The Cowboys, who found themselves in a brief skirmish before the game, showed plenty of fight in a 27-20 victory that has them very much still alive and kicking in the NFC East playoff chase.