This was as close to an intentional loss to a visiting opponent as you can scheme without forfeiting entirely. To be fair, the Eagles’ skeleton crews on offense and defense put up a decent effort to keep the game close in the first half. But as usual, when you are deliberately understaffed, you are giving competitive advantage to your opponent. And let’s face it, Dallas wasn’t exactly playing all their best guys either, but the Cowboys put executive priority on getting the win.
Dak Prescott threw a career-high five touchdown passes against Philadelphia Eagles backups, Cedrick Wilson and Dalton Schultz each had two scoring catches and the Cowboys kept their slim hopes for a No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs alive with a 51-26 victory Saturday night. To put the Cowboys’ big scoring totals in perspective, the Eagles’ defensive starters: Zech McPhearson, Kary Vincent Jr., Andre Chachere, K’Von Wallace, Patrick Johnson, JaCoby Stevens, Shaun Bradley, Ryan Kerrigan, Milton Williams, Hassan Ridgeway, and Raequan Williams. Plus there was exactly zero blitz or stunt pressure put against him by Eagles’ DC Jonathan Gannon.
The Cowboys still had seeding to play for against an Eagles team that rested Jalen Hurts and many other key starters ahead of an NFC wild-card game next week.
The NFC East champion Cowboys (12-5) need losses Sunday by reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay against last-place Carolina and also for the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals to lose to earn the No. 2 seed. There also is a path to the No. 3 seed for Dallas.
The Cowboys can’t finish worse than the fourth seed. The Eagles (9-8) could still be the sixth seed.
Prescott stayed in the game until the fourth quarter, the lead increasing seemingly with each throw and so, perhaps, the risk of injury for a QB nearly 15 months removed from the gruesome compound fracture of his right ankle that ended his 2020 season.
Prescott did his best to get an offense that routinely produced at least 400 yards during a 6-1 start back on track headed into the playoffs following a two-year absence. He was 21 of 27 for 295 yards and no interceptions. He came out unscathed — and with the Cowboys’ record for touchdown passes in a season with 37. Tony Romo threw 36 in 2007. Prescott threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Corey Clement early in the fourth quarter to make it 37-20 and set the mark and, mercifully for the Eagles, get him out of the game.
But, like the team records on both sides that kept falling, the win comes with a bit of a shrug. With nothing to play for, the Eagles treated the game like a preseason finale. Hurts, with 3,144 yards passing and a team-high 784 yards rushing, got the night off. So did tackle Lane Johnson, cornerback Darius Slay and 11 more players on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Gardner Minshew started for Hurts and — for a drive, at least — it was Minshew Mania again when he threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Tyree Jackson on the opening drive. It was the first catch of Jackson’s career.
The score sparked an “E-A-G-L-E-S!” chant from fans across the street at the Flyers game after a replay was shown on the big screen.
Philadelphia didn’t give anyone in green much reason to chant and cheer the rest of the game. Eagles coach Nick Sirianni defended his decision to rest Hurts, who missed a game this year with a sprained left ankle, ahead of the playoffs. “We thought it was an opportunity to get him back to 100%. We need to be able to have our full arsenal of offense going into the playoffs,” Sirianni said.
Prescott sucked the energy out of the stadium early. He hit Wilson for TD receptions of 14 and 24 yards in the first half and then connected with Schultz twice over the final 1:45 of the half for a 30-17 lead. Schultz became only the fifth player since 2000 to catch two touchdown passes inside the final 2 minutes of the first half.
Already a sparse crowd because of the flexed schedule, low stakes and lower temperatures, Eagles fans fled for the exits at the half.
Eagles center Jason Kelce played one snap to extend his streak to 122 games played, the longest active streak among centers.
The Eagles also started wide receiver DeVonta Smith as he chased DeSean Jackson for most yards receiving by a rookie in team history. He entered 38 yards shy and the Eagles tried to get him the record in a hurry. His first two receptions were for 25 and 12 yards — that’s just 37. He had a 4-yard reception late in the first quarter to set the record with 916 yards and he then hit the bench.
The Eagles set a franchise record for rushing yards in a single season. The Cowboys set a franchise record for most points in a season. Ezekiel Elliott reached 1,000 yards rushing for the Cowboys for the fourth time.
Ito Smith and JaQuan Hardy scored in the fourth quarter to help the Cowboys set an NFL record for the most players to score a touchdown in a single season at 22. The milestones were reached with the benefit of the extra game.
As for avoiding injuries to key players? That objective was met by the Eagles’ brain trust… but consider these casualties anyway:
- Brett Toth, who was playing at center, got hurt later in the second quarter. Jack Anderson moved from right guard to center with Kayode Awosika coming in. Toth was ruled questionable to return with a knee injury.
- Shaun Bradley looked frustrated as he headed to the Eagles’ locker room late in the second quarter. He was later ruled out with a shoulder injury.
- Kary Vincent Jr. suffered a foot injury and was ruled questionable to return.
- Marvin Wilson (Big Marv) got hurt early in the fourth quarter. He was ruled questionable to return with an eye injury.
- Tyree Jackson was down on the field for a long time after a special teams play. He required help to get to the sideline and slammed his helmet down when he got there. Jackson eventually limped to the locker room and was promptly ruled out with a knee injury. Not good.
- Andre Dillard got hurt midway through the fourth quarter. He spent some time on the ground before gingerly walking off on his own power.
|Passing 1st downs||13||11|
|Rushing 1st downs||9||9|
|1st downs from penalties||0||2|
|3rd down efficiency||8-13||10-18|
|4th down efficiency||2-2||3-3|
|Yards per Play||7.8||4.5|
|Yards per pass||10.5||4.5|
|Yards per rush||5.3||4.5|
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||5-5||2-3|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||0|