That was sure easy.
The Eagles tried just about every way imaginable to give this game away, but somehow, some way – and honestly I have no idea how – they held on and finally beat Dak Prescott, finally beat the Cowboys, finally escaped with a win.
This game ended with the Cowboys six yards from the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds, but it ended Eagles 28, Cowboys 23, and you guys can all exhale now.
Here’s our 10 Observations from a win the Eagles had to have.
1. The site of Jalen Hurts jogging out of the tunnel onto the field after halftime was about the best thing any Eagles fan could have hoped for. After the blow he took to his knee at the end of the second quarter? When you see Hurts hobble off the field, you just see the entire season just crumble to pieces. Then when you see him come out for the second half and operate at such a high level, it just shows you how tough Huts is, how resilient he is, how clutch he is and really how focused he is to be able to function like that when physically there’s no way he was close to 100 percent. Hurts put together another fantastic passing game – 17-for-23 (74 percent) for 207 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. He’s been over 74 percent with multiple TD passes in three straight games. None of us know how much he’s hurting, but Hurts is playing at an extremely high level right now. And the Eagles sure need every bit of it.
2. After losing 14 of their last 22 games against the Cowboys, after losing nine of their last 14 vs. Dallas at the Linc, after losing seven of their last eight to Dak Prescott, this is one the Eagles had to have. Had to have. If you want to consider yourself a legit Super Bowl contender, you have to hold serve against the one other quality team in your division, your biggest rival by far and a team you’ve struggled against for most of the last decade. That’s why this was so huge. This wasn’t Ben DiNucci or Cooper Rush the Eagles beat. This wasn’t some lousy Cowboys team coached by Jason Garrett going nowhere. This was Dak Prescott and a 5-2 Dallas team and a game the Eagles had to win with the teeth of the schedule coming up after the bye. Nick Sirianni has done a ton of positive things since he got here, but beating a good Cowboys team with its regular quarterback at the Linc – something the Eagles hadn’t done since 2006, believe it or not – is right up there when it comes to regular-season wins. The Eagles go into the bye in command of the No. 1 seed in the NFC and with a 2 ½-game lead over the Cowboys as they try to become the first team to repeat in the NFC East since the Eagles from 2001 through 2004. There will be other challenges, other big games. Chiefs, Bills, 49ers, Cowboys again, Seahawks. But there’s not much better than a win over Dak and the Cowboys. The Eagles are the best team in the NFL and they proved it Sunday at the Linc.
3. Love the bounce-back second half for the Eagles’ offensive line, which was really shaky in the first half but got its act together after halftime and played much better the rest of the way. First half, Hurts was sacked three times, hit four times and pressured eight times on 16 drop-backs. Second half no sacks, one hit and two pressures. Rookie Tyler Steen deserves a ton of credit for playing at a high level at right guard in his first NFL start against a formidable defensive front. That’s not an easy NFL debut right there. But really this was just typical Jeff Stoutland. He knows exactly what adjustments to make, what changes to make, what buttons to push, and the o-line dialed up a nearly perfect second half. And Steen’s heads-up play recovering that D’Andre Swift fumble with a minute left – that could have been a major disaster – probably saved the game.
4. The Eagles have been juggling secondary lineups all year, navigating through injuries, calling up practice squad guys, signing dudes off the street, and I have no idea how they’re making it work, but when the smoke had cleared Sunday the Eagles had done enough to get a win. Dak had his usual outstanding game against the Eagles, with 375 passing yards and three TDs – he’s still never thrown an interception at the Linc – and CeeDee Lamb got his 192 yards, but this defense just comes up huge in big moments. B.G.’s sacks. Sweaty’s sack. Reed Blankenship at the goal-line keeping Luke Schoonmaker out of the end zone. Slay, Nicholas Morrow and Sydney Brown on the final play, somehow finding a way to keep Lamb out of the end zone after a 23-yard catch down to the 4-yard-line and then Blankenship actually securing the loose ball. The Eagles gave up a ton of yards, a ton of big plays, left a lot of guys wide open, committed a bunch of stupid penalties. But 28-23 is 28-23. And 8-1 is 8-1. And that’s really all that matters.
5. Once again, the Eagles didn’t run the ball well, but I liked that this time Brian Johnson didn’t abandon the run after a slow start. And as the game went along, they finally picked up some steam and started picking up yards on the ground. I’ve been saying all along that even when the running game isn’t generating huge numbers, there’s value in mixing it up and being multiple and unpredictable and keeping defenses guessing. And that’s exactly what the Eagles did. The running game still isn’t where it needs to be or where it was the first month of the season. The Eagles finished 33-for-109 rushing for 3.3 yards a pop but with two TDs. They’ve now been at 3.6 yards per-carry or worse in four straight games for the first time since 2007. That’s hard to believe the way they were running earlier in the year. I think getting Cam Jurgens back will help, and certainly a healthy – or at least healthier Jalen Hurts – will obviously help. But sometimes just sticking with it is critical.
6. Whenever a player goes through some adversity – whether it’s a fumble, a bad game, something embarrassing off the field – Nick Sirianni always seems to give that guy extra opportunities the next week on the field to give him the chance to atone for whatever screw-up he had. We all know what kind of week Kenny Gainwell had. All three of the above – a fumble, a bad game and something embarrassing off the field. Gainwell responded big-time. Got the ball in the red zone on the Eagles’ first drive and scored from 12 yards out. Then he had a huge block on D’Andre Swift’s 20-yard catch-and-run that set up the Eagles’ second touchdown and a couple big tackles on special teams and although he finished with just 22 yards on three carries and one short catch, he played a significant role in a massive win for this team. I like that Sirianni showed that kind of trust in him and I like how he responded. Gainwell is a good kid who had a bad week, and he deserved a chance to show what he’s really about, and he helped this team win a game.
7. The Eagles escaped with a win, but, man, the penalties could have easily derailed this team Sunday. They were called for 10 infractions for 98 yards and a couple in particular in the fourth quarter were just pointless and could have cost the Eagles dearly. Early in the fourth quarter, Kevin Byard was called for a stupid unnecessary roughness penalty inside the 20 and that was the drive where Luke Schoonmaker’s knee was down at the one-foot line on 4th down. And then Haason Reddick getting that roughing the passer with 40 seconds left to give the Cowboys the ball down at the 25. And maybe it was ticky-tacky but the refs are going to call anything late on the quarterback. Byard and Reddick are both veterans who should know better. The Eagles dodged a lot of bullets Sunday, but they were fortunate to overcome those penalties.