On Saturday, the Dallas Cowboys made sure to prove a point that their offense is one of the best in the NFL when it's firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the Philadelphia Eagles didn't take the game as seriously as them with their playoff spot secure.
Dak Prescott finished 21 of 27 for 295 yards with five touchdown passes and zero interceptions, playing into the fourth quarter in a 51-26 rout of the Eagles. While the win is impressive for Dallas, Philadelphia sat quarterback Jalen Hurts and all of its starters outside of Jason Kelce (who lined up for the first snap), DeVonta Smith, and T.J. Edwards in this one.
Prescott passed Tony Romo for the most touchdown passes in a season in Cowboys history with 37. He entered the game with 32 touchdown passes on the night, four behind Romo for the franchise mark (Romo threw 36 touchdown passes for the Cowboys in 2007). Ezekiel Elliott finished with 18 carries for 87 yards to give him 1,000 rushing yards on the year, the fourth time in his career he surpassed that plateau. Saturday was the first time Elliott surpassed 60 yards in a game since Week 6.
Gardner Minshew and the Eagles offense moved the ball well against the Cowboys' first-team defense in the first half, but managed to get just seven points in the second half against Dallas' first-team defense. Minshew finished 19 of 33 for 186 yards for two touchdowns and an interception in the loss, filling in for the inactive Hurts. Kenneth Gainwell had 12 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown as Philadelphia rushed for 149 yards to set a franchise record for most rushing yards in a season. Smith had three catches for 41 yards. He passed DeSean Jackson for the most receiving yards by an Eagles rookie in franchise history (916) before being removed from the game.
The Eagles can still get the No. 6 seed If the 49ers lose and Saints win. The Cowboys already have a home playoff game secure by winning the NFC East and the highest they can elevate in the playoff standings is the No. 2 seed, which they'll need some help Sunday to achieve. If Dallas gets the No. 2 seed, the Cowboys will be guaranteed two home playoff games if they reach the divisional round of the postseason.
Why the Cowboys won
Dallas made a point it wanted to have momentum heading into the playoffs after a brutal loss to Arizona that took the Cowboys out of the running for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Dak Prescott and the first-team offense played well into the fourth quarter and the first-team defense played deep into the second half. The Cowboys got the momentum they wanted against the Eagles' second and third-team defense, as Prescott threw for five touchdowns and Dallas put up 475 yards of offense.
Prescott looked as crisp as ever and Ezekiel Elliott rushed for over 60 yards for the first time since October. Dallas will be playing a much tougher defense next week, so it's hard to grasp how the offense fared against a Philadelphia team that clearly had other intentions in Week 18.
Why the Eagles lost
The Eagles decided to rest all but three starters in this one, already having clinched their playoff spot next week. Their first-team starters may not have beaten the Cowboys either, but they would have put up a better fight. This was a 17-17 game at one point and the Eagles did rush for 149 yards, but the defense allowed Dallas to score touchdowns on seven of nine possessions. Hard to beat any football team that way, whether a coach is playing his starters or not.
The Cowboys were able to score 14 points in the final 3:40 of the first half, as Prescott went 4-for-6 for 42 yards on the go-ahead drive to put Dallas up 23-17 with 1:48 left in the second quarter. Prescott threw a 26-yard pass to Amari Cooper on second-and-3 to set up his 2-yard touchdown pass to Dalton Schultz on the drive -- one which Dallas made look easy down the field.
After the Eagles went just six plays while trying to score before the half, Arryn Siposs had a poor punt that went for 21 yards and set Dallas up to score again by starting at Philadelphia's 43-yard line. Prescott went 3 of 4 for 43 yards on the drive that resulted in a 9-yard touchdown pass to Schultz that put the Cowboys up 30-17 at the half -- a drive that lasted just 19 seconds. That drive took away any hopes the Eagles had at the upset and Dallas cruised from there.
Play of the game
Dak Prescott passing Tony Romo for the Cowboys' single-season passing touchdown record gets the nod here. Prescott found Corey Clement in the fourth quarter for his fifth touchdown pass of the game -- his 37th of the season to set the record.
Prescott found Clement -- an Eagles Super Bowl hero -- for the 8-yard score which ended up being his final pass of the night. He finished just five yards short of 300 on the night, but ended up with a 151.8 passer rating in the game.
"I really wanted to make sure we got some guys back to full health to get this team ready for the playoffs. The goal is to win playoff games, not just get to the playoffs." -- Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni on resting his starters in the regular season finale.
The Eagles played three games in 13 days and had their playoff spot sealed, so there was no reason to play their starters in a game where the highest seed they could clinch is the No. 6 seed -- which they can get anyway with a Saints win and 49ers loss Sunday. Philadelphia wanted to make sure it had a week's rest headed into the postseason, giving Hurts more time to get his ankle to 100%.
The Cowboys and Eagles will play in the wild card round of the playoffs next week. The date, opponent, and time will be determined Sunday night.