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Spagnola: Nothing Comes Easy In NFC East


ARLINGTON, Texas – It don't come easy

You know it don't come easy.
It don't come easy
You know it don't come easy.

There were far too many folks out there thinking this Sunday afternoon game against Eagles was going to be a layup here at AT&T Stadium. That just because the Cowboys had a 7-5 record and the Eagles were 6-6, no problem. Right? The Eagles had won two straight to pull to 6-6. The Cowboys had won five straight to take but a one-game lead over Philly and the Redskins.

Lose one, and the Cowboys would be in trouble, tied with the Eagles at 7-6 and having split the head-to-head games for the tiebreaker with three games to go.

But look, this is the NFC East. We know, or should know by now, how difficult is it to beat those division rivals twice in one season, and no matter if you won the first one and the second one is at your place.

Got it. Don't ever make that mistake again. _It don't come easy_, even if Ringo Starr was singing about the blues.

What 93,127 people witnessed was what turned into a slugfest, the Cowboys scoring 20 points over the fourth quarter and overtime. The Eagles also nailed Dallas for 17 points in the fourth quarter alone. And to think for four quarters the previous game this same defense held the Saints to just 10 points over the entire game.

What in the world happened?

Well, the Cowboys started turning the ball over. Dak Prescott suffered no sacks and one interception in the first half. But in the second half, he was intercepted once, suffered one lost fumble and Philadelphia sacked him three times.

That allowed the Eagles to climb back into the game, even though they only gained 256 total yards, rushed for 34 yards and Carson Wentz completed just 22 of 32 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns, ending up with a hefty120.3 QB rating. And a game the Cowboys in which should have been out front easily went into overtime.

"And at no time did our guys blink," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said of the 68-minute, 5-second fight his team put up. "They just kept playing, kept fighting, kept scratching, kept clawing."

Good thing the Eagles lost the overtime toss. Because check this out: The Cowboys, with the first possession in overtime, drove 75 yards in 12 plays with Prescott finishing them off with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Oh, Amari. That's right, Cooper.

And the Cowboys walked out of here with their fifth consecutive win, 29-23, over the Eagles, pushing their record to 8-5. They are now in first place over the Eagles and Redskins by two games with three to play, and those two teams have to play each other in the last game of the season, so ties aside, someone has to lose.

The Cowboys need to win one of their final three games to sew up the NFC East, which they can do Sunday at Indianapolis. Or if they lose, they then need Philly and the 'Skins to lose, too. And that's not out of the question since the Eagles next play at the L.A. Rams and the Redskins, down to Mark Sanchez at quarterback, have to go to Jacksonville after getting wiped out by the Giants on Sunday.

How'd the Cowboys pull this off against Philadelphia?

How did they turn a 9-0 game into 9-9, then into a 16-9 lead, then 16-16, then a 23-16 lead and allow the Eagles to tie the game at 23 with 1:39 left and send a game into overtime for the second time this season?

Darn if the Cowboys didn't get four possessions inside the 20-yard line and score just 13 points. Twice they had goal-to-goal situations from inside the 10. No touchdowns. Two field goals. Again. That makes seven field goals, four TDs and one end of game in 12 goal-to-go possessions during this five-game winning streak. Can't have that.

All a recipe for losing.

But here is why they didn't lose this nail-biter, even if someone asked me leaving the field afterward, how did they win this game with Dak playing so, uh, _poorly,_ to clean up the language?

Well, get this, Dak threw a career-high 54 passes, counting overtime, and ended up completing a career-high 42 passes, 10 more than his previous single-game high. He threw for a robust 455 yards, 123 more than his previous career high. And he matched his single-game career high with three touchdown passes. And his QB rating was 104.9, despite being intercepted twice, his first interceptions during the five-game winning streak.

"He's a tough sonofabitch," Garrett said of his quarterback, whose 455 yards passing ties Troy Aikman for the third single-game most passing yards in franchise history and fifth most by an NFL quarterback this season. "You saw that today."

And get this: Cooper, playing his sixth game with the Cowboys, caught 10 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns, not only a 28-yarder and a 75-yarder in the fourth quarter to give the Cowboys a 16-9 lead and 23-16 lead, but also the game-winning 15-yarder tipped by the Eagles' Rasul Douglas at the 7 with just 1:55 left in overtime.

During this five-game winning streak, Cooper has now caught 35 passes for 583 yards and five touchdowns. Know what that pace is over the course of a season? Why, that's a 16-game pace of 112 catches for 1,865 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Anyone still think the Cowboys paid too much with their 2019 first-round draft choice in the trade for this guy?

"He's just a damn good football play," Garrett said. "We're lucky to have him."

Darn lucky.

And let's not forget about Ezekiel Elliott, the workhorse up front, carrying the ball 28 times for 113 yards, giving him 668 yards rushing over the five-game winning streak. Plus, he caught 12 passes for 79 yards, giving him 40 touches from scrimmage in the game for 192 yards. That moves his yards from scrimmage over the five-game winning streak to 904 yards.

Once again, with three games to go, Zeke has jumped into the NFL rushing lead, his 1,262 yards 59 yards better than Todd Gurley (1,203).

"We like to give the ball to 21, too," Garrett said unnecessarily. "He makes a huge impact every time he goes out there."

That's your three main guys carrying the load the entire game and into overtime.

And someone had to ask how did the Cowboys win this game?

Look, Dak wasn't perfect. Cooper and the rest of the receivers weren't perfect. And neither was Zeke, although the newbie tight ends might have been, catching all 11 passes thrown their way for 92 yards.

But even though the Cowboys had to work overtime, they figured out how to this win this game. That's all that matters at this point the final month of the seasons.

Wins, baby.

No matter if sometimes it just don't come easy.