ARLINGTON, Texas — If ever a group wanted a sport like Sunday’s, it was the Dallas Cowboys.
A 3-game shedding streak ruined what have been good emotions from the Cowboys’ 3-Zero begin. Doubt, no less than from the outside, was beginning to creep in, particularly after final week’s loss to the winless New York Jets, focusing questions on coach Jason Garrett’s future, the offense’s effectiveness and the worthiness of the protection.
Sunday’s 37-10 win in opposition to the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium could possibly be the jump-start the Cowboys wanted.
The defense forced fumbles on the Eagles’ first two drives that the offense turned into two touchdowns. In a span of three plays in the fourth quarter, Dallas intercepted Carson Wentz (Xavier Woods) and recovered a fumble by the Eagles quarterback (Kerry Hyder).
The Cowboys (4-3) were the only team in the NFL not to start a possession inside opposing territory in the first six weeks of the season. They had four such possessions Sunday and scored touchdowns three times, including an 8-yard run by Dak Prescott in which he set the franchise record for touchdown runs by a quarterback with 21. Hall of Famer Roger Staubach had 20.
The offense was efficient. Ezekiel Elliott ran for 111 yards and a touchdown as the Cowboys steamrollered a run defense that was ranked second in the NFL entering the game. Aside from one play on which offensive coordinator Kellen Moore got greedy in the fourth quarter, Prescott was smart with the ball, throwing for 239 yards including a 1-yard touchdown pass to Blake Jarwin.
Oh, and Brett Maher became the first kicker in NFL history with three field goals of at least 60 yards, making a franchise-record 63-yarder on the final play of the first half.
The Cowboys head to their Week 8 bye with a 3-0 NFC East record. Considering the Cowboys’ remaining schedule contains five games against teams with .500 records or better and a return trip to Philadelphia in December, this was as close to a must-win as an October meeting could be.
All of the issues might not be fixed permanently, but the Cowboys needed this.
Promising trend: Elliott did something no other starting running back did against Philadelphia’s stout run defense: rush for more than 43 yards. He actually did that in the first half. Le’Veon Bell of the Jets had the most yards by a starter entering Sunday with 43 yards on 15 carries. Elliott finished with 111 yards, continuing a trend against the Eagles since his rookie season. Elliott has played five games against Philadelphia and has gone for more than 96 yards each time. And the Cowboys are 5-0 against the Eagles with Elliott in the lineup.
Bold prediction for next week: The Cowboys will enjoy the bye week. Six key contributors were questionable entering the game but played: Amari Cooper, Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, Zack Martin, Randall Cobb and Byron Jones. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (neck) and defensive end Robert Quinn (rib) were ruled out for the entire second half. The Cowboys will have two light practices during the week before getting four straight days off as their break.