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Eatman: What A Difference Striking First Makes


ARLINGTON, Texas – Midway through the first quarter of Sunday's night game, all I could think of is a quote from one of my all-time favorite movies from the 1980s.

If you're not familiar with "The Karate Kid," well, I just feel sorry for you. But the ones that have seen it should remember the catchy war chant from the villain Cobra Kai dojo. Because that's exactly what the Cowboys did to the Eagles on Sunday night.

"Strike first ... strike hard … no mercy!"

The Cowboys definitely struck first. And struck hard. And showed no mercy on their NFC East rivals, kicking the Eagles' butt all night to a 27-point victory.

Don't look now, but that's four straight wins over Philly. That seems important only in the fact that the Eagles are probably the only legitimate team standing in the Cowboys' way of winning another NFC East title and they've got to face them again in Philly later in the season.

Who knows what will happen in this crazy rollercoaster of a season, but one thing is for sure, the Cowboys know they can not only beat the Eagles, but straight up whip them all over the field.

That's exactly what they did and really left no doubt from the start.

And for the record, you can mark me right in the front of the line of the ones surprised. I know I went against the grain and picked the Eagles to win this game – and I really don't feel bad about it. The Cowboys hadn't shown me anything in the last three weeks to suggest they would do this.

Maybe that's just what kind of team the Cowboys are going to be.

Or, maybe just maybe, the Cowboys are a better team when their star players are on the field. And then, when throw in the turnovers, yeah that's going to carry a good team over the top.

I spent the fourth quarter trying to over-analyze exactly why the Cowboys were winning this game by nearly four touchdowns. I was making it way too complicated when it just hit me.

The Cowboys are pretty good when they're healthy. And they were healthy on Sunday night.

The Cowboys can be really good when they're healthy and they're creating turnovers.

And maybe this team can be very, very good when the defense is dominating, the offense is taking advantage and the special teams is setting records.

The Cowboys got all of the above on Sunday night and that's why they smashed the Eagles by 27 points.

I find it funny when people want to say that losing key players is an "excuse" for losing games. Yeah, all teams are dealing with injuries of some sort, but what the Cowboys dealt with, especially last week against the Jets, was certainly extreme.

Even if they weren't 100 percent, having both offensive tackles back, Amari Cooper in the lineup and Byron Jones at cornerback was a significant boost. Without them, you're fighting with the Jets and even losing in the final seconds.

With them, you can dominate an Eagles team that dominated the Jets.

Yeah, this can be a crazy league, sometimes. The Cowboys have already experienced their share of ups and downs and we're only seven games into this year. I can promise you that something even crazier will happen before it's all said and done.
But let's focus on what we learned in this game.
We learned how good the Cowboys really can be when they put it all together. And no, I'm not sure if the Eagles are any good right now, sitting at 3-4. This doesn't look like one of the league's elite teams. But then again, they're the second-best team in the division so being that much better than the Eagles could be very significant down the road.

And that's what the Cowboys were in this game – that much better.

We saw what having Cooper on the outside can do to the passing game. He makes great plays on the ball and knows how to stretch the field to open up the running game.

We saw Ezekiel Elliott run with even more determination than before, bulldozing his way to 147 all-purpose yards.

We saw Dak Prescott play a very sound, efficient game where he did just about everything right, except for a "greedy" interception in the fourth quarter when he forced the ball deep to Tavon Austin.

And we saw a defense got after Carson Wentz from the very first whistle until the end. To think the Cowboys would lose both Leighton Vander Esch and Robert Quinn to injuries in the game and still not miss a beat, is rather remarkable. It seemed like the tone had been set by D-Law early on and even the backups that played – such as Kerry Hyder and Joe Thomas – played with the same intensity and fire.

And let's not forget about the coaching staff either. If we're going to criticize them for not having the team ready to play in the first quarters of game, we have to praise them for what happened out of the gate.

It was a fun night for the Cowboys, one that was badly-needed with the bye week coming up.

Yeah, that's what happens when you strike first, strike hard and show no mercy!