Who would have ever thought entering the final four weeks of the schedule that the Dallas Cowboys would head into their final game of the regular season with their playoff hopes still alive.
Coming into this game needing both a win and a Washington Football Team defeat, the Cowboys took care of their business with a 37-17 victory over the rival Philadelphia Eagles. In the meantime, they also got some help from the Carolina Panthers, who knocked off Washington, 20-13.
Dallas found success in this one after a difficult start saw them down by double-digits early in the game. But the Cowboys regrouped, found their form and proceeded to dismantle the visiting Eagles as the game wore on.
Quarterback Andy Dalton had his best game as a Cowboy, throwing for 377 yards off of 22 of 30 passing with three touchdowns for a passer rating of 134.7. Three different receivers – Michael Gallup, Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb – each had a catch of at least 50 yards, the first time Dallas has had three wideouts turn the trick in the same game since Dec. 10, 2017 at the New York Giants (Cole Beasley, Dez Bryant and Rod Smith).
Led by Gallup and Cooper each topping 100 receiving yards, with the former also reaching the end zone twice to lead the club, the Cowboys finished with 513 total yards of offensive. On the other side of the ball, rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts threw for 342 yards with the Eagles totaling 477 yards of offense, but led by Randy Gregory, who had 1.5 sacks and three forced fumbles, Dallas got the turnovers they needed to keep Philadelphia off the scoreboard in the second half.
The Eagles made it look easy at the get-go as they scored touchdowns on each of their first two possessions. The first was an extended 11-play, 75-yard drive that chewed up six minutes of clock thanks to 47 of those yards coming off of nine runs. Running back Miles Sanders eventually punched it in from the 4-yard line to start the scoring.
Philadelphia then saw the same result on its next offensive effort, although this time it came with a quick strike. On his very first snap of the possession, Hurts found long-time Cowboys killer DeSean Jackson streaking down the field, connecting on an 81-yard touchdown pass.
In between those two scores, Dallas did manage a 35-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein to avoid being blanked in the opening frame, 14-3.
But the Cowboys were on the move as the clock flipped over into the second quarter. Dalton completed five of his six pass attempts on the drive for 58 yards, the last of which was a slant to Gallup who then broke loose on his way to a 21-yard touchdown, the deficit narrowed to just four.
Those same two connected big later in the quarter as well. The Cowboys started their next series at their own 23-yard line, but three snaps later, a 55-yard strike to Gallup had Dallas deep into enemy territory. But despite a first-and-goal at the 9-yard line, the Cowboys couldn't cross the goal line, settling for chip-shot field goal from Zuerlein.
Before the end of the half, though, Dallas would have the lead. After an Eagles field goal upped their lead to four, the Cowboys took over with 2:09 left in the quarter. That was plenty of time as Dalton orchestrated the two-minute offense to perfection, moving his team 75 yards in 11 plays.
And Gallup would step up once again. With 23 second left, Dalton found Gallup on the left sideline for a 19-yard connection, their 7-yard toss-and-catch on the very next snap reaching the end zone and giving the home side a 20-17 advantage at the break.
That wave of momentum the Cowboys were now riding carried over into the start of the second half, as they added points on each of their first two possessions. And they both came courtesy of big pass plays.
The first occurred on the fifth snap of the third quarter when Dalton found Lamb behind the defense, the rookie then racing 52 yards for the score. That was followed on the team's next series with Dalton hitting Cooper for an even bigger 69-yard completion, a season-best for the wideout, down to the Philadelphia 9-yard line. Despite the first-and-goal, Dallas again were unable to reach the end zone, Zuerlein instead providing another short field goal for a commanding 30-17 lead.
An interception set Philly up with good field position in Dallas territory, but less than a minute into the fourth quarter, the Eagles went for it on fourth-and-15 at the Cowboys' 33-yard line, only to come up short.
After that, the Cowboys and their bend-but-don't-break defense continued its hot streak of takeaways.
Philadelphia first worked its way down to the Dallas 17-yard line, but on third-and-12, Hurts tried to thread a pass to Travis Fulgham in the end zone, only to have Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown step in front of the intended target for his second interception in as many games.
Unfortunately, Dallas couldn't do anything with the gift, and after punting, the Eagles came right back down the field. This time, however, Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory knocked the ball loose from Hurts, Jaylon Smith recovering at the Dallas 13-yard line.
Helped by a big pass interference penalty on the Eagles on a third-and-11, the Cowboys would cap off their offensive day with one final touchdown. This time, Lamb reached the goal line on a 19-yard end around to secure the blowout, 37-17. Philadelphia would never threaten again, rookie cornerback Trevon Diggs making sure of that by hauling in an interception on Philadelphia's final possession.
With the win, the Cowboys will now prepare for their regular-season finale knowing they have a chance to still win the NFC East. They will need a victory at the Giants next weekend and Washington to lose to the Eagles as well in order to reach the playoffs.
An amazing turnaround that few thought possible when this month first began.