Sure, but can they win a big game?
You bet they can.
After beating up on lesser teams over the last four weeks, media and fans alike were wondering if the Dallas Cowboys could shake off their shortcomings of the past and actually defeat a good team. Well, in a prime-time Sunday night showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas not only earned the needed victory but did so in impressive fashion over its division rivals, 33-13.
With the win, the Cowboys have battled back to equal Philadelphia's 10-3 record, and at least for now, sit atop the NFC East because of tiebreakers. This also marks the first time since 1994-96 that Dallas has reached double-digit wins in three consecutive seasons. The Cowboys also extended their home winning streak to 15 games, which includes a 7-0 mark this year at AT&T Stadium.
In a game between MVP-candidate quarterbacks, Dak Prescott continued his masterful play, finishing with 271 yards passing, two touchdown throws and no interceptions for a 99.4 passe rating. Tight end Jake Ferguson would top club pass-catchers with 72 receiving yards, just edging out CeeDee Lamb, who had 71.
Dallas also rushed for 138 yards overall as Tony Pollard picked up 59 yards on the ground with Rico Dowdle adding 46. In all, the Cowboys totaled 394 yards of offense, most importantly going 3-for-3 in the red zone.
Of course, the Dallas defense certainly did its job as it kept the Philadelphia offense out of the end zone. The Cowboys recorded three fumble recoveries while also holding quarterback Jalen Hurts to just 197 yards passing and an 88.0 rating. The Eagles totaled 324 yards of offense in all, but were able to convert only 44 percent of their third-down tries.
Things couldn't have started much better for the Cowboys as they took the game's opening possession 75 yards in 10 plays to pay dirt. Five handoffs provided 45 rushing yards with Prescott completing 4-of-5 passes for 30 more. The last of those saw the quarterback roll to his left to avoid the rush, then dump off a toss to Lamb, who scampered to the left pylon for a 13-yard score and early 7-0 lead.
And a good beginning then got even better when safety Donovan Wilson stripped the ball from Hurts and pounced on the prize himself to give Dallas possession. The Eagles had been driving on their first series with the Philadelphia quarterback rushing for 11 yards early on and then later connecting with wideout DeVonta Smith for a big 30-yard gain. But when Hurts then tried to run up the middle on first down at the Dallas 31, the result was Wilson bringing an end to the threat.
It took some doing, but Dallas used that turnover to tack on another three points. Though helped by an Eagles pass interference call on third down, the Cowboys could get no closer than Philly's 32 before Brandon Aubrey came on and split the uprights on a 60-yard field goal, the longest of his young career.
Those three points were soon enough matched by the visitors, as Philadelphia got on the board early in the second frame with a 52-yard field goal. This came after the Cowboys defense appeared to have a gotten off the field when the Eagles lined up to punt on fourth-and-2 at their own 33-yard line. Instead, punter Braden Mann threw a pass out to gunner Olamide Zaccheaus to keep the drive alive.
Prescott and company, though, showed they were ready to trade punches, bouncing back with another 75-yard drive to the goal line, this one taking 12 plays and eating 6:20 off the clock. Eight of those plays came on the ground, totaling 32 yards. Dowdle got the scoring honors, his plunge into the pile from the 1-yard line only ruled a touchdown after head coach Mike McCarthy threw the challenge flag.
After the Eagles got another field goal, Jake Elliott good from 44 yards, the Cowboys had one more chance to pick up points before the end of the half. Taking over with 1:48 remaining, Dallas quickly went on the move, getting 25 yards of help from pass interference and facemask penalties on the same play from cornerback Kelee Ringo.
That was soon followed by Prescott throwing a dart to receiver Brandin Cooks for 30 yards to the Philly 1-yard line. Two snaps later, the quarterback threaded a pass to Michael Gallup in the end zone with just 20 seconds left to give the Cowboys an impressive 24-6 advantage at the break.
Getting the ball first to start the second half, Philadelphia was on the move when Dallas came up with another big turnover. This time cornerback Stephon Gilmore stripped the ball out of wideout A.J. Brown's hands with linebacker Damone Clark recovering the fumble. But while the opponent's drive was stopped, the Cowboys were unable to add to their point total, eventually punting.
And then the night's only disaster struck. Dallas started its next possession with good field position at its own 45-yard line, but on third-and-10, Prescott was strip-sacked by Philadelphia defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. That left it to fellow defensive tackle Jalen Carter to scoop up the ball and rumble 42 yards to the end zone. With the extra point, the Cowboys lead was narrowed to just 11 points.
But that would be as close as they would get. Dallas responded with a nine-play drive that picked up just 34 yards, but that was enough for Aubrey. The rookie kicker was good from distance again, this time from 59 yards.
Late in the third quarter, the Dallas defense came up big with a fourth-and-8 stop at the Cowboys' 30-yard line, Gilmore showcasing another standout play. In turn, Prescott then got his troops marching as the clock ticked over into the final frame, setting up Aubrey for a 45-yard field goal to give the home side a three-score lead.
Still, playing against what has been the NFL's top team throughout most of the season, nothing felt safe. And Philadelphia found themselves in Cowboys territory once more, reaching the Dallas 35-yard line. But again, the defense did what it needed to do and got the stop. This time Smith hauled in a 22-yard pass from Hurts, but at the end of the play, linebacker Markquese Bell shook the ball loose and safety Malik Hooker recovered the fumble.
With that, the outcome was decided, but there was no taking the foot off the gas as Prescott immediately hit a diving Gallup on a 38-yard bomb down the left sideline. Aubrey would go on to round out the scoring with a 50-yard field goal, his 30th straight field goal to start a career, extending his NFL record.
After three straight games at home, the Cowboys will now hit the road for two matchups, beginning in Buffalo when they take on the Bills next Sunday.