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Cowboys Try Some Tricks To Jumpstart Offense


Down to their third-string rookie quarterback making his first career start with just a week of extensive practice reps, the Cowboys didn't employ a traditional game plan against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Far from it, at least in the early stages of Sunday's 23-9 loss at Lincoln Financial Field.

It was a strategy fit for Halloween weekend: a few tricks in offensive coordinator Kellen Moore's bag as the undermanned Cowboys tried to compensate for their injuries at quarterback and across the offensive line.

On the second play from scrimmage, Moore called a double-reverse that produced a 19-yard run for CeeDee Lamb as DiNucci blocked downfield for the rookie receiver, leading to a field goal on the opening drive.

Running back Ezekiel Elliott took three snaps from the "wildcat" formation in the first half, making DiNucci a decoy receiver out wide. Wide receiver Cedrick Wilson also took a direct snap and later took a pitch for a potential throw downfield, though coverage forced him into a one-yard loss.

"I think like anything, that's why you game plan," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "The opportunity also to have some deception. But it's really the focus too of trying to get clean blocks. You're always trying to improve your angles. You're always challenging the defense as far as playing with good vision and trusting their eyes. Whether it's formation utilization, the wildcat, the direct snaps, just changing some things up and just trying to give ourselves some good clean run looks."

For the most part, DiNucci handled a normal workload of snaps from shotgun and under center. And the Cowboys (2-6) were able to establish some rare balance with the running game thanks to a strong, four-takeaway effort on defense.

Leading 9-7 midway through the third quarter, the offense kept the pressure off DiNucci with a steady diet of runs: seven straight from Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard totaling 43 yards. But on second-and-8 from the Eagles' 46-yard line, the Cowboys went back to their bag of misdirection plays, this time a reverse pitch from Elliott to Wilson that resulted in a tackle for a 10-yard loss by defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.

Greg Zuerlein missed the ensuing 52-yard field goal, and nine plays later, the Eagles regained a 15-9 lead and kept it for good.

"The key to that play is that we didn't block it," McCarthy said. "It was a three-technique, so we had a mistake there in the interior. When you have a drive, you're running that good and you do try to hit a play like that, obviously when it doesn't work it can be frustrating.

"We have some deception in our game plan. We frankly have it in every week. We probably called more of them obviously today. Those are plays you try to set up and at the end of the day, timing and execution is part of it."

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