Now, that’s what we’ve been waiting for.
In front of a sold-out crowd and a prime-time television audience, the Dallas Cowboys took advantage of the playoff atmosphere to overpower the rival Philadelphia Eagles, 37-10. And in doing so, they snapped the ugliness of a three-game losing streak to take over sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
The victory was a complete and total team effort, led by a dominating Cowboys defense that produced four takeaways, three sacks, five quarterback hits and five tackles for loss. The unit limited the Eagles to 283 total yards with Carson Wentz, the second overall pick in the 2016 draft, throwing for just 191 yards on his way to an 80.3 passer rating.
That effort, though, was matched by the Dallas offense, which featured a balanced attack that produced points on seven of its 11 possessions on the night. Dak Prescott, the 135th overall pick in that same 2016 draft, was masterful, completing 77.8 percent of his passes for 239 yards to earn a 100.5 passer rating. He also ran five times for 30 yards and earned touchdowns on the ground and through the air.
Helping the cause, both Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper topped the century mark with the running back picking up 111 rushing yards and the wideout adding 106 receiving yards. In all, the Cowboys totaled 402 yards of offense with a 57 percent success rate on third downs and a time of possession advantage of 32:22 to 27:38.
In fact, the dominance came right from the start. You simply couldn’t have asked for a better beginning from the Cowboys as the team put up 14 points within the first six minutes of the game. And both scores came courtesy of the Dallas defense forcing turnovers.
Coming into this contest, the Cowboys were the only team in the NFL who had yet to start a drive inside enemy territory. But Dallas flipped the switch on that stat in quick order, forcing fumbles on each of Philadelphia’s first two drives to set themselves up with a short field.
The first came when linebacker Jaylon Smith jarred the ball loose from tight end Dallas Goedert, the ball recovered by defensive tackle Maliek Collins. Starting at the Eagles’ 45-yard line, the Cowboys then needed just six plays to reach the end zone, doing so on a nifty option play that saw Prescott flip the ball to Tavon Austin, who scrambled 20 yards to the right pylon for the score.
Philadelphia’s second fumble came shortly thereafter, on the second play of its next series, when DeMarcus Lawrence got around the corner and dove to strip the ball out of the hands of Wentz. This time it was defensive tackle Antwaun Woods scooping up the fumble to give Dallas possession at the Eagles’ 14-yard line.
Elliott did the heavy lifting this time, rushing 13 yards and then the final 1 to give the Cowboys a 14-0 lead with the first quarter not even half over.
As impressive as the defense was on the first two Philly possessions, however, the third was anything but. Dallas had seemingly forced a quick three-and-out only to have Smith called for roughing the passer. Two snaps later, Xavier Woods was called for unnecessary roughness which moved the chains another 15 yards.
Given the gifts, the Eagles took advantage with Wentz eventually lofting a pass just over Leighton Vander Esch and into the arms of Goedert for a 28-yard completion and Philadelphia’s first touchdown of the night.
But it would be the only hiccup for the team all night as the Cowboys got back on track in the second quarter, tacking on another 13 points before the half. Their third touchdown came when Prescott and company marched 71 yards in 12 plays to pay dirt. The drive was highlighted by a fourth-and-1 call at the Dallas 49-yard line, which saw the quarterback toss a short pass to Elliott for the easy conversion.
It was almost as easy as the ensuing touchdown. Having worked their way to the 1-yard line, the Cowboys sold the play-action perfectly, Prescott faking a handoff and then finding Blake Jarwin for the touchdown, the tight end all alone in the end zone.
Keeping its foot on the gas, Dallas followed that with a pair of field goals from Brett Maher. While the first was a chip-shot 26-yarder, the second was much more impressive, the kicker splitting the uprights from 63 yards away to set a new Cowboys record.
Remember, in the previous three games, all losses, the Cowboys had scored just nine points combined in the first half. In this one, they put points on the board on five of their six first-half possession for a commanding 27-7 lead at the break.
The Cowboys would return for the third quarter with their defense a little shorthanded as both defensive end Robert Quinn (ribs) and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (neck) left the game due to injury.
No matter. The Eagles tacked on a field goal in the third quarter, but as game ticked into the fourth frame, Dallas went on a lengthy 13-play, 64-yard drive that ate up 7:23 of clock and included a honey of a catch by Amari Cooper down the right sideline for 28 yards. Maher then capped the series by answering with a field goal of his own, this one a 29 yarder.
When Xavier Woods then picked off Wentz on Philadelphia’s next possession, which was followed by Kerry Hyder falling on yet another fumble on the Eagles’ following series, there was nothing left to do but run out the clock and begin the celebration.
Dallas added one more touchdown just for good measure after the Hyder takeaway. Prescott got the honors on this one, scrambling around the right end and diving into the end zone for his third rushing touchdown of the season and the 21st of his career, a new team record for the most in history by a Dallas quarterback.
With the win, the Cowboys can no head into their bye week on a high note, owning a 4-3 record. And they’ll now get some well-deserved rest after having reaffirmed that they are indeed a playoff contender and the team to beat in the NFC East.