Having played nearly flawless football to this point, Cooper Rush had yet to lose a game for the Dallas Cowboys. In this Sunday night showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles, he couldn't win one for them, the Cowboys falling to their rivals, 26-17.
The backup quarterback had enjoyed the luxury of predominantly playing with a lead during the team's four-game winning streak, never facing a two-score deficit. Let the defense do the heavy lifting, rely on a steady running game and just don't make any mistakes.
So the question yet to be answered was could Rush rally the offense when the team faced a larger deficit. In this one, they certainly did.
But despite being behind by 20 points in the second quarter, Rush and the Dallas offense remained calm and collected. Continuing to stay balanced, the Cowboys managed to respond with 17 unanswered points of their own to make this a game.
However, in the end, the home team prevailed, the Cowboys unable to come up with one more rally.
Rush largely struggled throughout the night in this one, completing just 47.4 percent of his passes for 181 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions for a paltry 37.3 passer rating, the worst statistical performance of his career. Eight different targets caught a pass with CeeDee Lamb earning five catches for 68 yards.
Contrary to the aerial effort, Dallas did see some success on the ground. Ezekiel Elliott ran for 81 yards on 13 attempts, a 6.2 yards per carry average while Tony Pollard added another 44 yards on 11 tries. In all, the Cowboys rushed for 134 yards and finished with 315 yards of total offense.
On the other side of the ball, for the first time this season, the Cowboys defense allowed more than 19 points in a game. Quarterback Jalen Hurts again showed why he's a leading MVP candidate so far in this young season. He only threw for 155 yards, but also had 27 rushing yards, tossed two touchdowns and didn't have a turnover for a 104.6 passer rating.
The Eagles chipped in 136 yards rushing overall and totaled 268 yards of offense. They also dominated the time of possession, 34:30 to 25:30.
While the Cowboys offense struggled to get out of the gate, picking up only 26 yards and one first down in the opening 15 minutes, the Eagles found their form on their second possession of the game. Philadelphia got the ball with 7:31 left in the quarter and took off on a lengthy 15-play, 80-yard drive. Twice they converted on fourth down, the second coming on fourth-and-4 at the Dallas 10-yard line when defensive end Dante Fowler was flagged for a neutral zone infraction, gifting the Eagles a fresh set of downs.
On the next play, which also happened to be the first play of the second quarter, running back Miles Sanders darted up the middle for the score, giving the home team a lead they would never relinquish.
Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse when the Eagles added 13 more points before the second frame was over.
On the Cowboys' first snap of the quarter, Rush tried a pass down the middle of the field to wideout Michael Gallup. Instead, the ball was tipped into the air and corralled by Philadelphia safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, giving the Eagles possession at the Cowboys' 44-yard line.
It took seven snaps to get there, but Philly eventually found the end zone. The Eagles kept the ball on the ground for the first six plays, totaling 29 yards, before Hurts threw a short pass to A.J. Brown, the receiver sprinting the final 15 yards to give Philadelphia the 14-0 lead.
And then, apparently needing to find some kind of spark, the Cowboys took a chance and went for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 34-yard line. Lamb appeared to have gained the needed yardage on third down, a video replay indeed showing he had reached the ball past the markers. But instead of challenging the spot, Dallas quickly tried to just go for it. The ploy didn't work, as a Rush pass attempt to tight end Peyton Hendershot fell incomplete.
The Dallas defense held, but Philadelphia's 51-yard field goal attempt was good. The Eagles then followed that with another 34-yarder with just under two minutes remaining, the mountain to climb growing that much higher,
KaVontae Turpin brought a jolt of electricity to the Cowboys side by returning the ensuing kickoff 62 yards to the Eagles' 41-yard line. Dallas went on to reach the Philadelphia 12 before Noah Brown made an absolutely stunning catch in the back left corner of the end zone. But while the highlight-reel grab was originally ruled a touchdown, the call was overturned following video review as Brown landed out of bounds.
After that, the Cowboys had to settle for a 30-yard Brett Maher field goal, Dallas at least getting on the board before the break, down 20-3.
The Cowboys came out of the locker room and kept the momentum going, as on their first possession of the second half, they marched 79 yards on nine plays for the touchdown. Using a hurry-up offense, Rush completed three passes for 41 yards with Elliott and Pollard combing for 38 yards on six carries, the last of which saw Elliott outrace the defense to the left pylon on a 14-yard scoring run.
With the defense adjusting to keep Philadelphia in check, the Cowboys got possession again with 6:46 remaining in the quarter and started their march. The Dallas attack stayed balanced with Elliott running five times for 33 yards and Rush completing four of six pass attempts for 48 more to set Dallas up at the Eagles' 12-yard line at the end of the quarter.
Picking up where they left off, the Cowboys crossed the goal line just two snaps later. Rush found Jake Ferguson in the right flat, the rookie tight end making a slick move to get past the defender and into the end zone. With that, Dallas had closed the deficit to just three, 20-17.
But Philadelphia was finally able to stop the bleeding and come right back with a 13-play, 75-yard drive that also ate up 7:37 of clock. The Eagles primarily relied on the run during the series, but Hurts connected with A.J. Brown for a 22-yard gain, then found DeVonta Smith alone in the end zone for the final seven yards to complete the drive. Philly came up short on a two-point conversion try, but still had a two-possession lead.
Desperately needing to generate another rally, the Cowboys could never quite get the momentum back. On his next series, Rush had Lamb wide open down the left sideline, but under pressure, he threw the ball short, which allowed Gardner-Johnson a chance to make a diving interception.
That was then followed by Dallas getting close enough to at least give Maher a chance at a 59-yard field goal. But his lengthy try sailed just wide right, game over, the Eagles able to run out the clock.
The Cowboys will, of course, get another shot at Philadelphia, the two meeting again on Dec. 24, a tasty holiday treat for fans. But as for what's next, given the loss, combined with the New York Giants' win earlier in the day, Dallas will enter its home matchup next week against the Detroit Lions resting in third place in the suddenly tough NFC East.