After a devastating home loss in week nine, the Dallas Cowboys (4-5) had a chance to redeem themselves in week 10 on Sunday Night Football against the defending super bowl champions: the Philadelphia Eagles (4-5). Dallas’ relatively stagnant offense came alive, scoring the second most points of the season, as they beat Philadelphia 27-20 for their first road victory of the season. Here are some takeaways for this vital Cowboys win:
- Success passing the ball opens up offense
For a change, the Cowboys started a game with a focus on passing the ball. Dak Prescott had a tremendous amount of success when releasing the ball in two and a half seconds, at one point completing 14 of 18 passes, according to NBC sports broadcaster Cris Collinsworth. Prescott finished the game going 26-36 passing (72 completion percentage, his highest of the season) with two total touchdowns and recorded a 102.8 quarterback rating. The early success in the passing game opening up facets of their offense which were shut down for the past month of the season. Dallas tends to follow the same routine on each sequence of downs: run on first down, throw on second and long, check down on third down, and punt. Instead, with Prescott dropping back to pass in what were previously “running situations” for Dallas, Philadelphia had to commit to defending the passing game early on. In turn, the Eagles had fewer defenders in the box, allowing Ezekiel Elliott to run wild against the league’s second best run defense, showcasing his athleticism by hurdling defenders and breaking through tackles. Due to the Cowboys’ quick start and passing efficiency, Elliott was able to record 151 yards on 19 carries, averaging about eight yards per carry in one of his best performances of the season.
- Defense bends but does not break
Although the Cowboys front seven kept the Eagles’ running backs in check, Carson Wentz was able to move the ball up and down the field with ease, racking up 360 passing yards. However, unlike last week against the Titans, the Dallas defense was able to step up on third and fourth down, only allowing the Eagles to convert on four third downs all game and stopping them on both fourth down attempts. The biggest stops came when the Eagles were down seven on their second to last drive of the game. On third down, rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who also had his first interception in this game, eluded two blockers and tackled Corey Clement for a huge loss of five yards. The next play on fourth and seven, safety Jeff Heath whacked Zach Ertz as soon as he caught Wentz’ pass to keep him just short of the first down marker and allow Dallas to wind the clock down in the waning minutes of the game.
- The Amari Cooper effect
Since acquiring Amari Cooper, Dak Prescott is averaging over 50 more passing yards per game and his completion percentage average has improved as well, increasing seven percent from a decent 62.3 percent in his first seven games to a much better 70 percent in his past two games. Additionally, the presence of having Cooper as a true number one receiver has enabled Dallas’ other athletic receivers to have more favorable matchups and get open. The clear beneficiary from this should be Michael Gallup. Despite only having two receptions against the Eagles, Gallup was getting open frequently in the secondary and looks poised to have a big game for the Cowboys soon.
With this victory, Dallas is now in second place in the NFC East and back in the wild card mix. The Cowboys will hope to get back to a .500 win percentage with a win against the Atlanta Falcons next Sunday at one o’clock in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.