PHILADELPHIA — It was clear from the outset in the matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles that Dak Prescott was hellbent on leaving with a victory for the Dallas Cowboys, and he very nearly made sure the mission was accomplished, if not for several bad breaks that went into the opposition's favor.
On both sides of the ball, the battle became a game of inches, and one the Cowboys ultimately wound up losing time again. One example of this was the fourth-down conversion that wasn't, because the reception by tight end Luke Schoonmaker was ruled down after his knee touched just short of the end zone in the third quarter with the Eagles nursing a 28-17 lead.
Another being an illegal formation penalty against Chuma Edoga that incensed Prescott and head coach Mike McCarthy, largely because it wiped a touchdown by Tony Pollard off of the board.
"It's a game of inches," said Prescott after the 28-23 loss. "That's why you've gotta love this game: it's tough to win. We fought our asses off. Great NFC East matchup, and they came out with it tonight. An inch or two on one of those few plays and we'd be talking about a different outcome. They got this one. It sucks, and we'll take it and move forward and use the fight, a lot of the success — a lot of good things came out of this despite the loss.
"… It sucks at the moment but a lot of good we can take from this and use going forward."
There is a laundry list of things to add to this list of bad breaks, e.g., forced fumbles that bounced back to the Eagles, on a night that saw the Cowboys still only six yards away from mounting a harrowing comeback at Lincoln Financial Field.
It was a day in which Prescott, Lamb and the offense as a whole was surgical versus one of the best defenses in the league — the tandem finishing with 191 yards receiving (a career-high for Lamb only one week after having already set one) and Prescott threw for 374 passing yards (92 percent of the total offense) with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
One week after dismantling the Rams, the offense has clearly found its groove.
But with the game on the line and standing on the six-yard line with four downs to punch it in, they were flagged for false start that started a cascade of events that ended in a loss.
"Sh-t, [I was thinking] we're gonna win," said Prescott of his mindset with first-and-goal to go from the six-yard line with only seconds remaining in the game. "At no point in my mind during that game did I think anything different. Obviously, it sucked not converting on that second-to-last possession, on that fourth down. We trust our defense and they go out there and get us the ball back with under a minute left, and I still had trust and faith in our guys that, given the work we've put in, we were gonna get it done.
"We got close. We've just gotta get an inch here and an inch there, and we'll find ways to get [those]."
Prescott understands just how close the Cowboys were to being tied with the Eagles atop the NFC East this week.
"To get down there and stall out, we've got to be better in these situations," he said. "Obviously, we don't practice getting into those situations and then backing up, but we still had a chance and we felt good about it. Moving back five yards obviously hurt that play … makes that play a little bit tougher. It was a great game on both ends and tough to be on the losing end of it — especially when you've had so much [offensive] success and being down there in the red zone."
The Cowboys now fall to 5-3 on the season, 2.5 back from the Eagles, and needing to reload against the visiting New York Giants in Week 10. It was their second major test of the season, and though they're not left with nearly as many questions as when they suffered a blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 5, there are still some that will remain until further notice.
Most of them will fall in the category of self-inflicted wounds.
"We didn't pass [the test], and that sucks," said the two-time Pro Bowler. " We came into this game and everybody believed, and we still do. We were only inches away on three different plays from this being a different game and a different outcome. But we're getting better, I promise you that, and we'll continue getting better.
" … There [are] no moral victories in this league, not by any means, but by being inches away — we know we're doing the right thing. … We're gonna keep working, period."