Style points don’t matter in the NFL, especially in the NFC East. So when the Philadelphia Eagles held on to beat the Dallas Cowboys in a Week 9 classic showdown, there’s only one emotion that any Birds fan or analyst should be feeling.
Philadelphia is 8-1 on the season for the second straight year – the first time in team history that has ever happened – thanks to a 28-23 victory over the arch-rival Cowboys Sunday evening. The hometown Philly crowd saw Darius Slay tackle CeeDee Lamb as time expired to highlight a gutsy effort from Jalen Hurts and the offense.
As with any big game like this, there are plenty of major takeaways from a contest like that. Let’s go through it here.
Jalen Hurts is the best QB in the NFC…duh
Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense racked up over 400 yards of offense and ran more plays offensively (70-59) than Philadelphia’s high-powered offense. When the game needed to be had though, it was Hurts that made the winning plays while Prescott did not.
That’s where we are at in the NFC. Hurts is clear and away the best quarterback in the conference. His improvements as a passer have been absurd. He dropped several dimes en route to a 250-yard, three-total touchdown day.
All this came with him dealing with a bone bruise in his left knee that was re-aggravated during the contest. Philadelphia knows they have a gutsy quarterback now, but the fact that he’s so good even on one leg is a tremendous confidence boost the rest of the way.
The numbers may say Prescott outplayed Hurts but it was the Eagles QB that made the plays to win.
That’s what separates Hurts and Prescott.
The Bye Week couldn’t come soon enough
As good as Hurts was, the bye week could not come at a more perfect time this week. Philadelphia needs their top-five quarterback as healthy as possible in the stretch run. With upcoming games against the Chiefs, Bills, and Niners, along with a rematch with the Cowboys, having Hurts 100% is extremely important.
You can also throw in the several players that have been banged up in recent weeks. Cam Jurgens is expected back from a foot injury. Darius Slay and James Bradberry both were dealing with injuries. The interior of the defense also has some issues in front of them.
The bye week is also important because it gives a secondary that has been getting shelled a chance to regroup and find out what works for them before they meet with Patrick Mahomes. Plain and simple, this is a perfect win for the bye week.
Changes need to be made in the secondary
You will take any win over the Cowboys you can get. That being said, Sean Desai wasn’t very good at setting up his secondary with chances to succeed. CeeDee Lamb torched the Eagles for 11 catches and 191 yards. The lack of adjustments, especially over the middle of the field, was also a troubling sign.
While the Eagles do expect to have Bradley Roby back after the bye week, they need to have better play over the middle of the field and a better plan for a player like Lamb. Upcoming games against Travis Kelce or George Kittle will be a major issue to watch over the next couple of years.
Trenches need to be a lot better
Desai’s defensive line certainly made some insanely clutch plays down the stretch, but the lack of consistency from the pass rush was a reason why the Cowboys were able to mount a comeback down 11 in the final quarterback.
Five sacks can be misleading when the secondary was getting burnt overall throughout the night.
The defensive line wasn’t the only issue either, though.
Philadelphia’s offensive line gave up three sacks and under four yards a carry. Dallas’ front seven completely overwhelmed a strong group up front, and it’s reason to feel a little less confident about the group going forward if they sustain another key injury. The Eagles’ strength is in the trenches for their team but they certainly did not play that way on Sunday.
Dallas is Philadelphia’s biggest threat to conference crown
A lot of people will look at the improved play of the Detroit Lions or the talent of the San Francisco 49ers, but it’s the Dallas Cowboys that pose the biggest threat to the Eagles repeating as conference champs this season.
It’s unclear exactly how, but the Cowboys always play Philadelphia extremely tough and have key matchup advantages that always have the Birds struggling late in contests. That’s what makes a game like Sunday so important. A 2.5-game lead for the division gives the Eagles a nice cushion in front of their gauntlet of a schedule. They also have a 2.5-game lead for the top seed in the NFC.
A couple more wins and some help from other teams could give the Eagles the top seed well before the season even concludes.
AP Photo/Chris Szagola