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Spagnola: Cowboys Wish Merry Christmas To All

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ARLINGTON, TX — Hark the herald direct from AT&T Stadium.

Merriest of Christmases.

Cowboys 40, Eagles 34.

This team got them some grit.

This would have been easy to chalk this one up to, well, it's just not meant to be, especially after losing 40-34 this past Sunday on that gut-wrenching, tipped pick-6 at Jacksonville in overtime.

Could have just folded their tents after falling behind 3-0 on the Eagles first possession of the game, the field goal fueled by giving up a 48-yard completion on the third play of the game.

Might have thought the Ghost of Christmas Past was paying a visit here on Christmas Eve when Dak Prescott on his third pass, just the Cowboys fifth play of the game, threw woefully low to tight end Dalton Schultz, allowing Eagles defensive end Josh Sweat to not only intercept the first pass of his career, but also turn the pick into his first NFL six, taking a 10-0 lead on Dak's second Pick-6 in his last six snaps (four passes), knowing that's how the Jaguars beat them on his final play in overtime.

Certainly had every right to tuck tail after giving up a half-ending field goal, then going three-and-out on their first possession of the second half and the Eagles turning a fourth-and-three at the Cowboys 14 into a junior-high lob of a touchdown pass, once again falling behind by 10, 27-17, with nine minutes left in the third quarter and having allowed the Eagles, without All-Everything quarterback Jalen Hurts and relying backup Gardner Minshew making only his fourth NFL start since Oct. 25, of COVID-ravaged 2020, to start pulling away.

Heaven have mercy.

And you want more?

Try these: The Cowboys gave up 442 yards to the Eagles, and this after giving up 503 to Jacksonville.

The Cowboys allowed Minshew, who previously this season had played in only three games and completing just two of four attempts for 11 yards, to throw for 355 yards.

And this trend certainly is troubling: The one-time NFL sack leaders shut out again, this being the second time in three games with no sacks and just one in all three.

If all that were not a mountain of adversity high enough, after climbing back into a 27-27 tie, the Cowboys allowed the Eagles to convert four third downs in a 13-play drive to take a 34-27 lead with 9:59 left in the game and in the fourth play after that were facing a third-and-30 from their own 29.

Come on now, third-and-30, causing me to stay aloud, "Now how would you like to be the offensive coordinator having to call this play?"

Easy Kellen Moore: Just tell T.Y. Hilton to run as fast as you can toward the Red Kettle at the far end of the field and jump high, as if scripted in the dirt on the playground, and you Dak, just heave the ball up as far as you can.

Money.

The "Ghost," as we learned the other day, was here one second and gone the next, winning the 50-yard dash versus Eagles corner Darius Slay for a 52-yard catch, his first as a Dallas Cowboy since arriving two weeks ago, leading to Dak's seven-yard touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb to tie the score at 34.

Ah-ha, as I mentioned on Friday, Hilton now "The Ghost of Christmas Present," because that play lit an eternal flame under this highly talented team making a frustrating habit of continually testing its football mortality and driving instant reactors crazy.

"Once T.Y. got even with him, I was going to give him a shot," Dak said. "He just went and made an incredible grab, big time play that obviously just continued to propel this thing for us to move forward."

You bet, because after that the defense then arose from depths of despair. To that point, the Eagles had scored on five of seven possessions. But on the next three, it went interception by rookie DaRon Bland – his team-leading fifth of the season – having moved from never having played the slot to outside in place of the injured Anthony Brown after Kelvin Joseph struggled the previous two games, to fumble recovery by Anthony Barr caused by Carlos Watkins, playing his best game as a Cowboys linebacker, to finally, at long last, stopping the Eagles on downs once they reached the Cowboys 19 with 33 seconds remaining in a 40-34 game, getting off the field with 14 seconds to spare.

Cowboys 11-4, two games to play, at Tennessee and Washington, with a 4-1 record in the NFC East, thanks to a total of four takeaways, three Dak touchdown passes, two of those to CeeDee Lamb, another Ezekiel Elliott rushing touchdown and Brett Maher four of four field goals.

Eagles 13-2, Saints and Giants at home, but 3-2 in the division.

Go ahead, thanks to _The Temptations_, "Just my imagination runnin' away with me," but two Cowboys win and two Eagles losses, and remember, who knows when the sprained right shoulder of Jalen Hurts heals enough for him to play again, and the Cowboys win the NFC East.

Granted the odds are long. But the Cowboys did delay the Eagles from clinching the NFC East on Christmas Eve and the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs that comes with a first-round bye, at least by one week, and at least giving the Eagles something to think about if they should meet again in the playoffs.

But these are your 2022 Cowboys with two games to go, the past two weeks scoring 34 and 40 points, while also giving up 40 and 34 points in consecutive 40-34 games. See, since one game into Dak's return, the Cowboys have put up 49 points, 40, 54, 34 and 40 points in the last eight games, going 6-2, with the two losses in overtime, when giving up 31 and 40 points but managing to win Saturday afternoon giving up 34 more.

Like, anyone want to take their chances playing them in the playoffs? Bet not.

And look, I know, the Eagles didn't have Hurts and this reeling defensed allowing Minshew to throw for the 355 yards, most since the 374 his rookie season with Jacksonville 25 games ago and his first two touchdown passes of the season.

But hey, the Cowboys won, somehow, someway.

And as DeMarcus Lawrence said, "When you on a fight with adversity and you can overcome," his point being the achievement is meaningful.

So, my point being, don't keep trying to come to some analytical conclusion about this team after every game. Just go with it. There is no team out there smacking their lips wanting to play these Cowboys. They are dangerous, while being dangerous to themselves with two games to go before embarking in the playoffs for a second consecutive season.

Each game is not a book, it's a chapter. Maybe just a passage.

And this story is not over with just yet. Just ask the 93,754, the far majority giving them a glorious standing ovation with 14 seconds remaining in this nailbiter.

As the newcomer Hilton says of this team, seeing the Cowboys up close and personally these past 12 days, "Lot of grit, lot of grit, no matter what the score is."

Mighty insightful during his 12 Days of Christmas.

Because the drummers were sure drumming 6:28 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

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