Mandatory Credit: Photo by Chris Szagola/AP/Shutterstock (13471029bu) Dallas Cowboys’ Cooper Rush looks to pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, in Philadelphia Cowboys Eagles Football, Philadelphia, United States – 16 Oct 2022
The Dallas Cowboys (4-2), riding high after four straight victories, came crashing back to earth in a tough 26-17 NFC East loss to the Eagles (6-0) on Sunday night in Philadelphia.
Defense stumbles on prime time
The Cowboys needed a near perfect performance from its defense to knock off the last unbeaten team in the NFL.
They got a pretty good one for a half, only it came in the final thirty minutes of the game.
The first half left a lot to be desired, as the Eagles cruised to a 20-0 lead, before a late field goal cut the lead to 17 at the half.
The Cowboys hadn’t given up 20 points to any team in a full 60 minutes this season, but their NFC East rival had it by halftime.
The Eagles did it with an excellent ground attack on Sunday night.
Despite having a dominant defense through five weeks this season, the Cowboys have struggled against the run. They had allowed 117.6 yards per game on the ground, good for just the 17th best run defense in the NFL.
The Eagles came in clearly wanting to exploit this aspect of the Cowboys’ defense. They were committed to running the football on Sunday night, and they were successful from the opening kickoff.
Behind the running of backs Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott, and the scrambling of quarterback Jalen Hurts, the Eagles rushed for 137 yards on 39 carries.
Most of those yards came in the first half, tallying 75 yards on 19 carries, as the Eagles were establishing their dominance.
When the Eagles went to the air, they regularly found mismatches with Cowboys defenders, including linebacker Micah Parsons getting stuck on wide receiver A.J. Brown on several plays that ended in easy completions.
The Cowboys did manage four sacks, one each by Dorance Armstrong, Donovan Wilson, Micah Parsons and Chauncey Golston, but Hurts regularly beat them with his arm and legs.
Third down deficiency
If you want to be successful in the NFL, you have to make plays on third down.
The Cowboys were pedestrian on third down in their loss Sunday night, successful just four times on 10 tries.
The Cowboys came into the game lacking success on third downs. They had successfully converted a third down into a first down just 21 of 68 attempts, or 30-percent of the time in the first five games.
The Cowboys had no successful third down attempts in the first half, as the Cowboys could only muster three points after a monster kick-off return set them up in Eagles territory late in the second quarter.
Trailing 14-0 in the second quarter, the Cowboys completed a third and nine pass to CeeDee Lamb who appeared to reach for the first down at the Dallas 35.
But after the officials spotted the ball a half-yard short of the line to gain, which was the 35, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy chose not to challenge the spot. Instead, the Cowboys hurried the line and ran a quarterback rollout pass that Cooper Rush misfired on.
If challenged, the Cowboys would have clearly gotten the first down, as the ball was across the 35 when Lamb’s elbow touched down. It would have been their first successful third down play of the game.
Instead, the Eagles took over but went three and out. However, they added a 51-yard Jake Elliott field goal to take a 17-0 lead over Dallas.
Rush looks like backup
Cowboys starting quarterback Dak Prescott, nursing a surgically repaired thumb on his throwing hand, was taking snaps and throwing passes on the field tonight at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys and their fans, those snaps and throws all came before the game against the Eagles kicked off on Sunday night.
Cowboys back up, and current starter, Cooper Rush played like he had the injured hand, as he never looked sharp in the Cowboys’ loss.
Rush, who had no turnovers in his previous four starts for the Cowboys, had two costly interceptions in his first nine passes of the game, and another late in the fourth quarter. All three led to Philadelphia points.
When he wasn’t throwing it to the guys in green, Rush completed just 18 of 38 passes for 181 yards, as the Eagles never let the Cowboys QB get on track.
Rush, who began his career as a starting quarterback at 5-0, suffers his first loss.
Prescott should return as the Cowboys’ starter next Sunday afternoon against the Detroit Lions.
Turpin shows explosiveness
With the Cowboys struggling to get anything going on offense, up stepped kick returner KaVontae Turpin to provide the spark.
Trailing 20-0, Turpin took the Philadelphia kickoff and the proceeded to weave through the Eagles kickoff coverage for a 63-yard return.
It set the Cowboys up at the Eagles 41, with 1:38 to play in the first half.
The Cowboys turned it into a 30-yard Brett Maher field goal to get on the scoreboard.
More importantly, it woke up the Cowboys offense, that had just 52 total yards at the time of the return.