The Dallas Cowboys expected Dak Prescott to be in "top form" in Week 16, despite nursing a sprained AC joint in his shoulder that left him limited in practice all week, but that prediction didn't come to pass in their 17-9 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys offense had trouble getting things fired up to start the first quarter, which wasn't an issue for Carson Wentz and a Philly unit depleted of starters in the wide receiver corps -- driving down the field on their first offensive position with relative ease.
The Eagles would stall and be forced into a field goal on the back end of it, but the defense would then push Prescott and Co. into a three-and-out before mounting yet another impressive drive, and never really looked back from there. This was despite not having Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz for much of the second quarter, with Ertz initially questionable to return after heading to the locker room with a.
Even without Ertz on the field, Wentz and the Eagles offense didn't miss a step, and that's much more than can be said for Prescott and the out-of-sorts Cowboys. In a game that could've given the Cowboys the division crown in back-to-back seasons, they performed like it was a preseason game in August.
Why the Eagles won
No Alshon Jeffery? No DeSean Jackson? No Nelson Agholor?
No problem for the Eagles against a Cowboys defense that allowed Wentz to have a field day -- throwing for 319 yards and a touchdown on 31 for 40 passing -- with others who saw fit to step up when it mattered most. Dallas Goedert made sure to impact the game with Ertz nursing a rib injury, and Miles Sanders contributed both on the ground and in the air, which kept the Cowboys off-balance for much of the contest. When Dallas was able to get off of the field on third down, inaccurate throws by Dak Prescott combined with untimely drops and questionable play-calling combined to give the Eagles the win, and give them a shot at stealing the division in Week 17.
Why the Cowboys lost
It didn't look like Prescott lacked strength in his throws due to his shoulder injury, as evidenced by several overthrown passes to wide open receivers. The fourth-year quarterback simply didn't look crisp against the Eagles, and targeting Amari Cooper didn't pay off in any way whatsoever. Cooper was targeted a team-high 12 times but reeled in only four catches for 24 yards. It was all Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb -- along with a resurgent Ezekiel Elliott in the second half -- could do to save the day for the Cowboys, but there was too much to overcome. Heck, even Gallup had a key drop, as did Cobb, in a game that simply refused to go the Cowboys' way.
The final score won't tell the whole story, but it felt like the Cowboys lost the moment the coin was tossed. The team was nothing like the version of themselves that routed the Los Angeles Rams a week prior, instead playing like they had more pressing matters on their mind, as opposed to finally guaranteeing themselves a playoff spot.
Although the Eagles had control over the course of the game, they could never truly pull away from the Cowboys until this drive -- with Miles Sanders punching it in to make it a 17-6 affair. It was just enough to keep Dallas from climbing back to force an upset.
Play of the Game
In a game that lacked the luster of a hundred highlights, it was this initial touchdown by Dallas Goedert that stole the limelight, with the tight end stepping up for a temporarily absent Ertz to pluck this touchdown out of the air like an MLB outfielder.
An accurate assessment
"[I] feel for Cowboys fans. Their team should be so much better than this." - Andrew Brandt of MMQB
The Cowboys will now take on the Washington Redskins, while the Eagles ready for their rematch with the New York Giants -- with the race for the division title now going down to the final game of the regular season.