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Eatman: After Gift-Giving Stopped, It Was Too Late


PHILADELPHIA – This is the month to be giving out candy – not fully-wrapped presents.

But it definitely felt like the Cowboys were in a gift-giving mood, especially early in the game when they kept handing the Eagles opportunities to score, and they took advantage, showing to the whole country how ready they were for this epic showdown.

And then all of a sudden, everything changed.

For a few minutes early in the fourth quarter, the thought of this fairytale continuing for another week became a real possibility.

Just two hours earlier, it looked as if the Cowboys were gonna be knocked out cold in this heavyweight fight – barely putting their hands up as the Eagles kept taking swing after swing.

But not only did the Cowboys start avoiding punches, but landed a few of their own.

And here we were, the Cowboys clawing back to a 20-17 deficit and needed that defense – you know the best part of this team – to make another stop and give the ball back to Cooper Rush and the offense again.

Didn't happen.

Not only did the Cowboys' defense get humanized a bit, but we finally saw that Cooper Rush can actually start a game – and not win.

That's what we learned here Sunday night in Philadelphia. We learned the Cowboys defense can be vulnerable- and that other teams can find a way to neutralize Micah Parsons. We also learned that Cooper Rush – while gritty as hell and someone that earned a ton of respect in the last month – is indeed the backup for a reason, even though he's a pretty damn good one at that.

But he is the backup. And despite what people might think about my personal stance on this matter, let's rehash the only thing I've said about this so-called controversy.

All I've said for the last month is that I would not bench an undefeated quarterback. That's it. Not that Rush is better than Dak or that he gives the Cowboys a better chance to win.

It all came down to MOJO for me and with Cooper Rush winning four straight games as a starter, I definitely wondered just what might happen if the Cowboys found a way to win this showdown game on the road Sunday night.

But it didn't happen. And it didn't happen because Rush finally showed another thing he's capable of – throwing interceptions. Of course, he actually threw three of them. All of them were costly in their own way, especially the first one, which occurred right after the Eagles had grabbed a 7-0 lead.

But Rush tried to force a pass into double coverage and it looked like a volleyball game, with the ball tipped up in the air and into the hands of the Eagles, who quickly turned that into points.

Just like that, it's 14-0. The Cowboys hadn't allowed two touchdowns in a game since Week 2 against the Bengals and before we can even get settled, the Eagles had a couple.

But it wasn't just Rush and the defense that had some issues. Let's not forget the coaching staff made a huge mistake in the second quarter when they didn't challenge the spot on a third-down play. Instead, hurried to the line of scrimmage to snap the ball, but didn't give it to Zeke, who only averaged over 6 yards per carry. Nope, they rolled out Cooper Rush to throw it to rookie Peyton Hendershot, which fell incomplete. 

Hmm, the Eagles had a field goal a few minutes later and it was 17-0.

But as bad as it was early on, I definitely applaud the Cowboys for the way they fought back in this because I just never saw that one coming.

Sure, you can say that NFL players making in the millions should always keep fighting until the end, and that's what they did. But it looked rather hopeless to even score a point for a while and then all of a sudden, the Cowboys had climbed back in the game.

More than just keeping it close, the positive takeaways here is that it's rather easy to see what happened.

Just look at the stats. The Eagles had 22 first downs, the Cowboys had 21. The Eagles rushed for 136 yards and the Cowboys had 134. Dallas had 181 passing yards to 155 for the Eagles.

But the stat that counted the most was 3-0 Eagles. Three huge turnovers to none for the Cowboys.

And honestly, it was more like five turnovers because the Cowboys should've had a first down in the second quarter but instead turned it over on downs. And Dante Fowler's silly offside penalty definitely led to four more points by the Eagles.

Turnovers, penalties and mistakes. The Cowboys made several of them and the Eagles really didn't. And it was still a one-score game late in the fourth quarter.

This definitely doesn't go into the "moral victory" category because the Cowboys had a chance to take control in a huge NFC East game. And now, shockingly they're in third place behind the Eagles and Giants.

That's the glass-half-empty look at this situation, knowing what was in front of the Cowboys and how it ended.

But if you want to keep it positive, focus on the fact the Cowboys more or less beat themselves and still hand chances to win.

They're also getting their starting quarterback back next week – and if pregame was any indication – he looks ready to go.
This is a 4-2 team that plays the Lions and Bears at home, followed by a bye week and then trips to Green Bay and Minnesota, which don't look at daunting as they've looked in the past.

Without a doubt, Sunday's game in Philly was a missed opportunity. But looking at all the factors involved from the quarterback to the schedule and other players returning from injury, there might not be a lot more "misses" on the horizon.

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