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Eatman: Cowboys Opened Their Xmas 'Gifts' Early


ARLINGTON, Texas – The reference has been used before in this space, but never does it seem more appropriate than for this game, on this day.

It's an unwritten rule of life that should be followed at all times:

When someone gives you a present or three, you open them!

You don't let it sit under the tree. You don't give it back, and you're really not supposed to give it to someone else.

If someone – or some team – is kind enough to hand-deliver you a present, open the damn thing and say thank you, which in this case could be shortened to T.Y.

But the Cowboys opened their presents on Christmas Eve against the Eagles in a game that should be marked as one of the NFL's best all season.

And while the Cowboys or the Eagles probably wouldn't mind facing someone else in the playoffs, the NFL league office would salivate in public to get those two teams squaring off in the postseason again, especially if the game can go down like that.

I'll admit, I wasn't sure the Cowboys were simply good enough to beat the Eagles. And while they were without MVP candidate Jalen Hurts, I'm not really sure it would've mattered a ton.

Not to say Gardner Minshew is better than Hurts or anything like that. And I'm sure Philadelphia's game plan would've been a little different. But Minshew threw for 355 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions with a rushing score. He played well enough to win the game, and I think he'll be good enough to win some games moving forward if he has to.

But this was just a battle between two really good teams – easily the two best in the NFC – and maybe two of the better teams in the entire league.

Like I said, I picked the Eagles to win, not only hoping for a little Jedi mind-trick to come into play, but really because I thought the Cowboys defense would have problems covering the Eagles' two great receivers.

And they did have problems. And they had problems stopping the run too.

But I almost laughed out loud when I looked down at my phone after the game and someone who I haven't talked to in three years sent me a random text, bypassing the "Hey, how's it going?" or "Wow, what a game!" or even "Merry Xmas" but straight to "What's wrong with the defense?"

Sure, the defense is struggling right now. But this was the defense that won the game, right? This was the defense that got three turnovers in the second half to not only take the lead but build on it with another field.

And then, with the game on the line and the Eagles all the way to the 19-yard line, it was a heavy pass rush that got after Minshew enough to stave off a score and win the game.

Let me just say this: Covering a team that wins 40-34 on the final play of the game is a lot more fun than covering a team that loses 40-34 on the final play of the game.

Six days apart and the Cowboys finish the game with the exact same score. As tough as that one was last Sunday in Jacksonville, it only made this one just as sweet.

But it happened because the Cowboys were able to open up the "gifts" the Eagles were passing out.

Earlier in the game, Jayron Kearse gets an interception over the middle – somewhat negating the one that Dak Prescott threw that was returned for a score. It was negated because the Cowboys were able to score a TD and capitalize.

In the third quarter, Kearse again recovers a fumble that was just a straight gift by the Eagles, who apparently can't run the ball to Miles Sanders every play. The fumble by Boston Scott led to another touchdown and the Cowboys were able to tie the game.

Then in the fourth, DaRon Bland didn't really receive a present, but rather snatched one away with an interception that led to a go-ahead field goal.

Moments later, the ball was on the ground again – this time by Sanders – and Anthony Barr got the ball and the Cowboys added points again to pad the lead.

Sure, a touchdown there would've made the ending a little less dramatic, but what fun is that?

Hey, the Cowboys and Eagles appear to be on a collision course to meet again in the playoffs. Maybe by then both starting quarterbacks will be on the field for the first time this season.

But it won't be Christmas. There will be no gift-giving. We'll find another theme for that one if and when it happens again.

Something tells me we're headed there again, and it'll probably be in Philadelphia. But that city isn't really known for shelling out a lot gift-giving. It might take a different route next time around.

But after this game, we know the Cowboys have it in them to not only stand with the Eagles, but beat them as well.

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