Cowboys vs. Eagles score: Philly defense overpowers Ben DiNucci, keeps Eagles atop NFC East
Boy, was this an ugly one, but the Eagles took care of business
It wasn't pretty, so it was befitting of an NFC East matchup in 2020. In fact, that's probably a big understatement. Still, for the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday night was a major victory. Carson Wentz continued to struggle with untimely turnovers. A few more notable starters suffered injuries. But thanks to a strong defensive performance and an equally unspectacular showing from the rival Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles left prime time with a 23-9 win and, more importantly, a safe first-place spot atop the NFC East.
Here are some immediate takeaways from Sunday night's ugly divisional showdown:
Why the Eagles won
The Cowboys were worse. In a game where both sides did their best to let the other team win, Philly honestly benefited more from Dallas' offensive ineptitude than anything else.
Still, there were a couple of Eagles positives in an otherwise slopfest of a victory: Travis Fulgham, for one, is a legit wide receiver, as evidenced by the fact that Carson Wentz pretty much only looked good when throwing his way. Fulgham's big plays, one of which actually accompanied a perfect red-zone TD from Wentz, gave occasional life to a unit bogged down by turnovers and poor strategy. Boston Scott, meanwhile, did as much as he could on relatively limited touches filling in for Miles Sanders.
And Jim Schwartz's defense? The best of the bunch. Limited by injuries to several starters, the D was never fazed by Mike McCarthy's creative attempts to lessen Ben DiNucci's burden, instead coming up big in key spots with sacks, takeaways and, ultimately, the game-sealing touchdown.
Why the Cowboys lost
They couldn't do anything on offense. Whereas defense has been Dallas' issue pretty much all year (and that's an understatement), the Cowboys actually held firm in that regard for much of Sunday night, feasting on Carson Wentz's forced throws and poor decisions to the tune of three takeaways.
And yet the offense, which protected Ben DiNucci fairly well up front, never clicked. Amari Cooper was shut out until late in the contest. Ezekiel Elliott never looked explosive. And while DiNucci showed grit and put the team in position to get on the board several times, he also looked a notch below the competition, throwing a handful of near-picks and fumbling twice. The talent disparity at the game's most important position simply did the Cowboys no favors in this very winnable matchup.
The Cowboys threatened to completely upend the Eagles' night when Trevon Diggs picked off Wentz for the second time in the contest, wiping away a chance at more points for Philly's offense early in the third quarter. But then on the subsequent drive, Greg Zuerlein's magical leg couldn't deliver a 52-yard field goal, and the Eagles' offense responded by putting together one of its best series of the night, a nine-play, 58-yard TD drive capped by Wentz's scoring toss to Fulgham. The Eagles only went up 15-9 with that touchdown, but it felt like a secure lead thanks to Dallas' own offensive failures.
Play of the game
Wentz's TD to Fulgham was pretty (unlike most of his other throws Sunday night), and Diggs made a heck of a play picking off the Eagles' QB in the end zone, but you know what? Let's give this one to Zuerlein, who shined in a dismal first half by somehow line-driving a 59-yard field goal in windy conditions:
The Eagles (3-4-1) will rest up on their Week 9 bye before hitting the road for a Nov. 15 rematch with the New York Giants (1-6), their third straight NFC East game. The Cowboys (2-6), meanwhile, will face arguably their tallest task yet in Week 9, hosting the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers (7-0).
And that'll do it! Thanks for "enjoying" this NFC East battle with us this evening, folks.
Barring a DiNucci touchdown pass here, the Cowboys will also drop to 0-8 against the spread this year.
At the moment, the Eagles would be hosting the Cardinals in a playoff game. Of course, there is a long way to go.
The also-terrible Giants play the Bucs tomorrow night, and will either win and improve to 2-6 or lose and drop to 1-7. Even if they win, they'll remain behind Dallas in the standings.
OK so unless Ben DiNucci is about to turn into Tom Brady, here's what's resulting from this game: The Eagles will move to 3-4-1 and maintain (I swear) control of first place in the NFC East. Yes, this division is that sad. The Cowboys will drop to 2-6 and at least for now will remain in third in the division.
The Eagles apparently recovered that dropkick. They never really made an announcement. It was kind of fun and weird, I guess.
DiNucci has missed a few open guys quickly after the snap, electing to hold onto the ball to try to find someone who is wide-open. It has not worked out well. Not particularly surprising considering he is a seventh-round rookie out of James Madison, I suppose.
Replay definitely seemed to show Vinny Curry pinning the ball to his leg on the ground, then being touched. Tough to know exactly how long he was actually "in possession" of the ball in slow motion. But yeah, refs could've -- and probably should've -- overturned the score. Either way, we've got a 21-9 score with just over five to play.
The fine folks of Twitter.com seem to be in agreement that Curry was down on that play, too. Basically, everyone except the refs agrees on this. Still, I say anything that helps this game end sooner is a good thing.
I guess the touchdown stands? Not entirely sure how or why, but I think it's good to get these two teams off TV sooner so I'll take it.
I think Vinny Curry is probably going to be ruled down with possession of the ball at around the 35-yard line. It also looked like Duke Riley may have gotten away with jumping offside.
I have no idea what just happened but the Eagles scored at the end of it.
And somehow the Cowboys offense, which is completely decimated and obviously digging into the depths of the playbook with a third-string QB who's thrown a handful of near-picks, is within striking distance in a one-score game with just five minutes to go.
Michael Gallup has more catches tonight (7) than in the last three games combined (6), somehow.
Tony Pollard has looked shiftier and had more burst than Ezekiel Elliott all night. Wonder if the Cowboys will keep him out there for a few more snaps on this drive.
That's Amari Cooper's first catch and target tonight. It was a very dangerous throw.
If you thought the previous drive gave the Eagles a big of a rhythm on offense and they'd be able to move the ball against the league's worst non-Jets defense, you thought wrong. It's a quick three-and-out and now The Nooch has another shot at it.
Surprising that the Cowboys went empty on that fourth down. At least having the threat of the run on fourth-and-2 may have made the Eagles hesitate in bringing pressure. As it is, they flushed DiNucci out of the pocket and he had nowhere to go with the ball.
The Cowboys went with the quarterback sneak on fourth-and-less-than-a-foot, and your guess is as good as mine when it comes to whether or not DiNucci picked it up. It didn't look like it, but the way they have the ball spotted, looks like he's across the line.