The Dallas Cowboys (8-5) beat the Philadelphia Eagles (6-7) 29-23 in a thrilling Week 14 battle for first place in the division. Although the Cowboys seemingly dominated the Eagles offensively, winning this game was not as easy as it looked on paper. Here is what the Cowboys did well, what needs improvement, and what was downright horrible.
Throughout their current five game win streak, the Dallas Cowboys game plan has been to get Ezekiel Elliott the ball as much as possible and to possess the ball for as long as they can. Against the Eagles, the Cowboys perfectly executed this formula. Elliott finished the game with 28 carries for 113 yards and 12 receptions for 79 yards. Elliott’s success opened up the passing game for the Dallas receivers, which contributed to Amari Cooper and Blake Jarwin having the best performances of their careers. With their collective offensive success, the Cowboys finished the game with 45 and a half minutes time of possession of the 68 total minutes of game time. Additionally, on defense the Cowboys limited the Eagles to 34 rushing yards and only allowed them to convert on one third down out of nine opportunities.
Although Dallas was able to move the ball down the field better than the Eagles (the Cowboys finished with 576 total yards compared to the Eagles’ 256), Dallas was still at risk of losing this game, which is mostly due to their inability to capitalize in the red zone. The Cowboys only scored one touchdown on four trips to the red zone, and the lone touchdown was a walk-off tip drill reception by Amari Cooper on third down in overtime. To compete against the playoff teams with great defenses (the Rams, Bears, and Seahawks), the Cowboys cannot afford to leave points on the board.
The Cowboys defense played great for most of the game, keeping the Eagles scoreless in the first half. However, the second half was a different story, as Dallas was unable to stop Philadelphia in the red zone, allowing them to score touchdowns on three of their four trips inside the 20 yard line. It should be noted that the Eagles were able to get good field position on two scoring drives due to turnovers, but the Cowboys need to be tighter defensively than they were against the Eagles when they uncharacteristically missed goal line tackles.
Undeniably, the Cowboys’ achilles this season is their frequent turnovers. With three games left in the regular season, Dak Prescott has a total 19 turnovers (seven interceptions and a league leading 12 fumbles) which is the highest single season total in his career. Against the Eagles, Prescott threw two costly interceptions (one spoiled a Cowboys red zone opportunity and the other set the Eagles up with first and goal on the Cowboys two yard line) and also fumbled, giving the Eagles the ball on Dallas’ side of the field (they ultimately got a field goal on this drive). The Cowboys could have put the Eagles away early, but instead these turnovers kept the Eagles lingering around.
The other atrocious aspect of the Cowboys’ performance against the Eagles were the penalties. Dallas was flagged 11 times for a total of 110 yards. Three of these penalties were on Tyron Smith for holding calls, one of which would have killed the Cowboys’ chances of getting points before halftime but for Brett Maher connecting on a Cowboys record setting 62-yard field goal. It is one thing if the Cowboys are simply outplayed by their opponents, but they cannot expect to win games when they are beating themselves.
With their overtime win over the Eagles, the Cowboys’ magic number to clinch the NFC East for the second time in three years is now at one game.