DALLAS — After starting the 2021 campaign with two games on the road, the Dallas Cowboys enjoyed their first home game of the season as they went out and dominated the Philadelphia Eagles 41-21 on national television. With the win, the Cowboys are now 2-1 and in sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
It’s early in the season, but this was the most complete game that the Cowboys have played yet in the Mike McCarthy era. There was balance on offense, a defense that harassed Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts for most of the night, and even the special teams units provided a boost, as well.
This wasn’t just another Monday Night Football game for the Cowboys or their leader Dak Prescott. It had been 11 months since Prescott last took the field at AT&T Stadium, and the rival Eagles coming to town for the first divisional matchup of the season only upped the ante.
The Cowboys responded with a resounding win as Prescott led an efficient attack on offense, which included throwing for three scores compared to just five incompletions. For the second time in as many games, the Cowboys scored on their opening possession to set the tone.
The Cowboys deployed a smart game plan from offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who called for runs when the safeties played deep, and utilized screens or bootlegs to combat an aggressive Eagles defensive front. TE Dalton Schultz led the team with six catches, 80 yards and two scores.
On the ground, the Cowboys pounded out 160 rushing yards as Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard combined to bully their opponents for a second consecutive game. Both members of the duo ran for over five yards per carry and Elliott showed why he is still one the game’s best. Elliott – who had a game-high 95 yards on the ground and two scores – ran with patience, burst, and the physical running style that makes him tough to stop.
Head coach McCarthy showed once again that he is willing to be aggressive, going for it twice on fourth-and-goal, going 1-for-2. The Cowboys likely scored touchdowns on both fourth down tries, but an odd review call held up a Prescott QB sneak to take points off the board.
However, undeterred, one of the biggest plays in the game was McCarthy’s decision to go for it up 13 points in the fourth quarter. Instead of kicking the short field goal and going up 16, McCarthy made the choice to attempt to put the game out of reach with a touchdown. It worked, as Prescott found Cedrick Wilson in the back of the end zone for the two-yard score for the dagger.
That fearlessness was in direct contrast to McCarthy’s disconcerting decision-making near the end of the first half. Not calling timeouts late in the second quarter when the Cowboys had a chance to extend their lead and have all the momentum going into halftime was a puzzling sequence.
If there’s one thing to gripe about after last night’s performance, it’s McCarthy’s continued baffling clock mismanagement, which might come back to bite Dallas eventually but, luckily, it was ultimately not a factor on Monday night.
The Dallas defense had their coach’s back. On Philadelphia’s first possession in the second half, second-year CB Trevon Diggs jumped a route, picked off former college teammate Hurts and returned it for the score. Diggs now has four interceptions against the Eagles in three games and an interception in every game this season.
Diggs had a monster night that also included three passes defended.
Monday was also a night for the young members of the Cowboys’ defense. Rookie DE/LB Micah Parsons was all over the field and fellow rookie DT Osa Odighizuwa had 1.5 sacks in the game, the first QB takedowns of his career.
The defense for the Cowboys played with an energy that wasn’t seen last season. For most of the game, they contained Hurts and allowed just 64 total rushing yards to the Eagles.
Where the Dallas defense did struggle was covering the Eagles’ tight ends. Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz were running free for much of the night, which is something the Cowboys need to fix as the season goes on.
On special teams, punter Bryan Anger pinned the Eagles deep twice and forced the opposing offense to traverse the length of the field to score points. The punt coverage was also stellar as Dallas stymied Jalen Reagor for minus two yards on three attempts. Once set up by the special teams, the Cowboys’ defense made it hard for the Eagles to sustain long drives as Philadelphia found it difficult to move the ball consistently.
Even as a blowout, the score wasn’t indicative of just how well the Cowboys played. There were a few mental lapses, a review that should’ve led to another six points, and Dallas allowed some garbage time points after grabbing a decisive lead, but overall the Cowboys had their strongest performance in many moons.
Winning games is always nice, but handing out a beatdown to one of your divisional rivals is much sweeter. The Cowboys put the rest of the NFC East on notice that they’re the team to beat.
What are you gloating about today after the Cowboys’ big win on Monday Night Football? Share your best bragging with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.