EAGLES OUTLAST COWBOYS IN CLASSIC NFC EAST BATTLE
It was noted before Sunday’s marquee matchup between two of the top NFC powers, that this was only the second time Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts and Dallas Cowboys QB1 Dak Prescott had squared off head-to-head in the same game.
The last time that happened was in 2021. So it’s been a while.
Many observers thought this was going to be a classic, with many twists and turns…and it did not disappoint.
The Eagles (8-1) not only held off the Cowboys but also themselves in winning 28-23 at Lincoln Financial Field in front of a raucous partisan crowd of 69,879. The Eagles defense forced a three-and-out on the Cowboys first possession.
There were some frantic moments in the fourth quarter that no doubt had fans for both teams on the edge of their seats.
Trailing 28-17, Prescott led the Cowboys to Eagles 15 yard line. Unfortunately, the eight-year veteran ran out of downs and went for it on fourth and one.
The Eagles had the play stopped, at least is seemed that way, but safety Kevin Byard was called for unnecessary roughness.
Dallas had a fresh set of downs at the Eagles seven.
But it people want to say the NFL is a game of inches, this was a good an example as you’ll find.
On fourth and one once again with 10:10 left in the fourth, Prescott took the snap and fired a pass to tight end Luke Schoonmaker, who caught the pass right at the goal line with Eagles safety Reed Blankenship draped all over him.
At first, it was called a touchdown. But replays showed the rookie from Michigan’s knee went down just short of the goal line.
The Eagles did not move the ball on a drive the started about 12 inched in front of the goal line, and had to punt.
Prescott this time marched his team 52 yards on a drive that ended with a seven-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jalen Tolbert to make the score 28-23.
Prescott stepped out of bounds on the two-point conversion attempt.
The Birds still led by five points.
The Eagles offense was not productive at all over the last 6:23 of the game.
A three-and out was followed by another failed fourth-down conversion by Prescott.
Surly, with just 1:17 left in the fourth the Birds could run out the clock even with Dallas still holding three timeouts, right?
The Eagles drive consisted of a two-yard run by D’Andre Swift, followed by another two-yard gain by Swift, followed by a run by Swift that had the entire stadium groaning as the four-year veteran out of Georgia ran into back of wide receiver A.J. Brown, the lead blacker on the play, causing a two-yard loss and a fumble, Swift’s second of the game.
Somehow Eagles rookie guard Tyler Steen recovered the fumble and possibly the game, a lead in the NFC East and a chance to get a real leg up on their most bitter rival.
Birds punter Braden Mann nailed a 55-yarder to pin the Cowboys at their own 14-yard line with 46 ticks left on the clock.
Prescott, with the aid of a 36-yard pass interference call on James Bradberry and a 15-yard roughing the pass penalty on Haason Reddick, had a first and ten on the Eagles eleven-yard line with 27 seconds left.
There were likely no finger nails to bite off for Eagles Nation at this point.
The Cowboys then snatched defeat from victory, committing three five-yard penalties while letting defensive end Josh Sweat get through for an eleven-yard sack.
With just five seconds left and the ball now back at the Eagles 27, the Birds - it seemed - planted their entire practice squad in front the goal line to prevent a touchdown pass.
Prescott completed the pass to CeeDee Lamb at the four-yard line…but was immediately brought to the ground by a host Eagles defenders (Darius Slay and Sydney Brown were credited with the tackle). Brown was credited with causing Lamb to fumble. Blankenship recovered the fumble.
Prescott, after the game talked about how it is game of inches. He also said he love the big-time environment of the game.
“Yeah, you said it. It’s a game of inches, that’s why you’ve got to love this game. It’s tough,” Prescott said. “It’s tough to win. We fought our asses off. Obviously, they did.
“Great NFC East matchup. They came out with it tonight, but as you just said, an inch or two on one of those three plays and we could be talking about a different outcome.
“But, you know, they got this one. Sucks. We’re going to take it, and we’re going to move forward and use the fight, use a lot of the success. A lot of good things came out of this game despite the loss.
“On the road, division game, great opponent they are, success that they’ve had in their environment. As I said, it sucks in the moment, but a lot of good we can take from this and use as we keep going.”
PLAYERS TALK ABOUT COWBOYS FINAL DRIVE
Blankenship, who finished with seven total tackles, said that final drive by Dallas was too hectic to think about anything but the next play.
“It’s just one of those in-the-game situations where you just got to keep them out the end zone,” Blankenship said. “It's their last desperate play and obviously you know, you keep an eye on the end zone and you win. We did that; we executed and got off the field.”
The second-year safety out of Middle Tennessee State said everyone on defense is working on instincts at that point.
“You can't really think…it's like…you’ve got to read your keys and go,” Blankenship said. “You don't have time to think about ‘Oh my gosh; there’s one second left. It's just…we’re in-the-game situation…keep them out of the end zone and we win.”
Dallas All Pro guard Zack Martin said the Cowboys didn’t freeze up at all on the final drive, they knew they’d get one more chance to steal the win.
"We all have confidence in the world and what we have on offense," Martin said. "It was really no surprise we were down there and gave ourselves a chance (to win). Obviously up front we have to do our job and give Dak the time to get the ball to our playmakers. But I am going to have to watch the film on this one.”
Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni was asked about how the final play unfolded.
“Football is such an unbelievable game,” he said at his post game press conference. “There are highs. There are lows. Sometimes it brings you to tears of joy. Sometimes it brings you to tears. It was obviously the plays before that that led to them being in that desperation at the end. Great job by our defensive line to get pressure there at the end of the game.”
EAGLES FIRST DRIVE WAS A DARE TO BE GREAT
The Cowboys (5-3) went three-and-out on their first drive, that opened the game.
Jalen Hurts led the Eagles on a daring first drive that featured a “tush push” first down play on fourth and one from their own 32-yard-line.
The Birds converted another fourth down from the Cowboys yard line when Hurts hit Dallas Goedert with a 15-yard completion on the sideline.
Then Kenneth Gainwell, who was in the fans dog house after fumbling inside the Commanders five-yard line last week, then making it worse by answering a fan’s angry tweet about the turnover from the Eagles locker room at the half, scored on a 12-yard run that ended with a flip into the end zone.
The fans' anger was quickly switched to another part of the team when Eagles special teams went on three-play tear of self-inflicted mistakes.
Two five-yard penalties made the extra-point try by Jake Elliott much more dramatic than it needed to be.
But Elliott hit the 43-yard one-pointer and led 7-0.
The kick return unit allowed Dallas’ KaVontae Turpin to rip through their scheme for 48 yards and give the visitors a first and ten at Dallas 47-yard line.
Dak Prescott led the Cowboys on a 53–yard drive that finished in the end zone when Prescott passed to Jake Ferguson to the left for a four-yard touchdown that tied the score 7-7.
The Eagles offense went cold as the visitors warmed up.
Prescott led the Cowboys nine-play, 82-yard scoring drive that resulted in a five-yard touchdown pass to KaVontae Turpin. The Cowboys led 14-7 with 11:16 left in the first half.
The Eagles next drive started at their 40-yard line after Dallas kicker Brandon Aubrey booted the ball out of bounds.
Hurts then drove the Eagles 60 yards on eleven plays to tie the score 14-14.
Hurts scored on a one-yard “Philly Shove” from the one.
The touchdown almost didn’t happen after and earlier play when D’Andre Swift appeared at first fumble the ball at the Cowboys ten-yard line.
Replays showed he recovered his own fumble.
The Cowboys added a 51-yard Brandon Aubrey field goal with 1:15 left in the half.
The Birds tried to reprise their 32-second touchdown in Los Angeles, but ended up with a scare when Micah Parsons sacked Hurts for a ten-yard loss that produced a gasp from the 68,000-plus Eagles Nation loyalists when Hurts came out of the scum limping badly.
But the franchise QB1 did not leave the game.
In fact, Hurts took the first possession of the third quarter and drove the Birds 75-yards for a touchdown.
Hurts passed to DeVonta Smith to the left for 29 yard touchdown to give the Birds a 21-17 lead on their first drive of the second half.
Dallas’ next drive fizzled at the Eagles 43 and were forced to punt.
The 11-play, 88-yard drive ended with a four-yard touchdown from Hurts to A.J. Brown.
Eagles sure-handed tight end was injured on an 18-yard gain during the drive. The Eagles have not revealed the severity of the forearm injury to Goedert.
The Eagles stopped Dallas twice on fourth down…the second stop was literally inches from the goal line. The Birds could not move the ball on the ensuing drive and were forced to put from their end zone.
Prescott finished 29 of 44 for 374 yards, three touchdown passes and no interceptions. He was sacked five times.
Reddick had one sack as did Sweat. Brandon Graham finished with 1.5 sacks. The Eagles registered ten quarterback hits.
Hurts finished 17 of 23 for 207 yards, two touchdown passes and no interceptions or lost fumbles. He was sacked three times.
Swift finished with 43 yards on 18 carries. He caught two passes for 31 yards.
Brown caught seven passes for 66 yards and a touchdown.
DeVonta Smith caught three passes for 51 yards and a TD.
Goedert caught three passes for 50 yards before he left the game with the forearm injury.
Micah Parsons led the Dallas defense with nine total tackles (five solo), 1.5 sacks, a tackle for loss, three QB hits.
Blankenship also knocked down two passes.
Zach Cunningham led the Eagles with ten total tackle (eight solo).
HURTS STILL MUMS ON HIS KNEE ISSUE
Hurts is still uncomfortable talking about his obvious knee injury. He was clearly hurt during the last minute of the first half, after a sack by Micah Parsons.
When asked about the hit on the knee and how he scrambled and then the touchdown he threw at the start of the third quarter, and whether he is feeling anything on the knee:
“I don’t really know what to say. It was a gritty win, it was a gritty win. It was a tough win,” Hurts said. “Much respect to that team. Always very competitive and have great players. But I don’t think the bye week could come at a better time.”
He was asked what happened on the play where he was stumbling and almost fell over as he was running to the sideline:
“I don’t remember, I don’t remember.” He said.
Hurts was finally asked if he sensed the energy he gives his team while playing through injuries:
“I don’t like it being that way,” Hurts said. “I love to be all good but, as I said I’d do anything for this city and for my teammates. It takes what it takes and that’s simply put. Whatever it takes and I’m just happy that we were able to gut out this win and we showed so much resilience.”
MARTIN STILL THINKS HIS COWBOYS CAN GETBACK IN THE RACE
At 5-3, what is the big picture for the Cowboys to look at? They are two games in the loss column behind the Eagles.
Is Martin concerned?
"Not really," the 6-foot-4, 315 pounder said at his locker after the game. "We're what, at the halfway point? There is still a ton of football to play. We have all the confidence in the locker room to get on a run, rattle off some wins. We'll watch the tape, make corrections and get back to work." *
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