Growing Pains: Cowboys vs. Eagles Week 8 Recap
Sunday night’s divisional contest against the Philadelphia Eagles was pegged as the strongest test to date for the Dallas Cowboys and the game certainly lived up to its billing. Even without Bennie Logan manning the nose tackle spot for the Eagles, Philadelphia still boasts one of the deepest and most fearsome front sevens in football. The game would be a clash between behemoths with Fletcher Cox and the rest of the Eagles’ defensive line going against Tyron Smith and the rest of the big uglies on the Cowboys’ offensive line.
From the very start, the Eagles were looking to set the tone for the match, forcing a fumble from Lucky Whitehead at kickoff. Thankfully for the Cowboys’ kick returner, the ball was recovered without ceding good field position to the Eagles. As would be the case for the majority of the game, Dallas played lethargic and mistake-prone football. Fortunately for them, Philadelphia kept them in the game by adopting a hyper conservative game plan that saw rookie Carson Wentz throw the ball for only an average of 4 yards. After Dak Prescott connected with Dez Bryant for a 50-yard toss, the first quarter would end with a score line of 7-3 in favor of Dallas thanks to a Prescott designed run for a touchdown.
The tide would turn for the Cowboys in the second quarter as Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz opted to turn up the heat on Prescott, calling more blitzes than he had up until this point in the season. The Cowboys’ rookie quarterback would struggle mightily against the added pressure dialed up by Schwartz. He overthrew receivers on surefire long gains and touchdowns didn’t see wide-open pass catchers and displayed the worst footwork of his young career. On his second quarter interception, Prescott forced a terrible pass into quadruple coverage in the middle of the field. This throw was especially egregious considering that Cole Beasley was wide open for a touchdown on the backside of the play and Dez Bryant was in single coverage against an overmatched cornerback. On the whole, it was a poor outing for Prescott who would have had three interceptions on the night were it not for good fortune. The Eagles took advantage of the Cowboys’ overall lowly play and entered the second half nursing a 3-point lead.
In the third quarter, the Eagles showed signs of life with Wentz connecting with Jordan Matthews for a 5-yard touchdown that gave Philadelphia a 10-point lead. It was shortly after this that momentum would swing back in Dallas’s favor. With only 4:55 left in the third quarter, down by two possessions and facing 4th down and 8, Jason Garrett would put all his chips on the table and call a fake punt. This caught the defense completely asleep and punter Chris Jones would go on to convert a 30-yard scamper that led to a Dan Bailey field goal.
In the fourth quarter, Philadelphia went on to bring the lead back up to 10. Staring a two possession deficit down the barrel, the Cowboys needed a big play to help turn the night around, something defensive tackle Terrell McClain would be more than happy to provide as he stripped the ball from running back Wendell Smallwood. Another Bailey field goal would once again bring the lead down to 7 and the Cowboys defense forced a punt on the next drive. After throwing what would have been a backbreaking – and likely game ending – pass that was thankfully dropped by the defensive back, Prescott would atone. The neophyte saved his best football of the evening for the closing minutes of the game. With 3:11 left in the contest, Prescott linked with Dez Bryant in the end zone to knot the game up at 23-23.
Thus the game went to overtime where the Cowboys’ dynamic rookie duo took over. At this point it must be said that on a night where seemingly nothing went right, Ezekiel Elliott was a game-changer. The crop-topped assassin was the single biggest reason that Dallas was even within striking distance for much of the game. Keeping the game close was all that Prescott would need as he connected with Jason Witten for the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime on a rollout reminiscent of Tony Romo.
With that win the Cowboys moved to 6-1 on the year and look well on their way to a first round playoff bye. With a date against the hapless Browns on the docket next, there’s no reason to think that Dallas can’t push their record to 7-1, further reinforcing their standing as the class of the NFC in the process.