PHILADELPHIA — The Dallas Cowboys did what they wanted to. They came into Philadelphia, played their starters, found some offensive rhythm, got a victory and got prepared for the postseason.
That's a bonus.
The win probably won't wind up being terribly necessary, unless Dallas gets lucky on Sunday with some unexpected losses. They need losses by the Buccaneers, Cardinals, and Rams to make any headway in the NFC playoff seeding.
But the rhythm matters.
The Cowboys faced an Eagles defense that had just one starter active, TJ Edwards, and he never played. One.
Philadelphia lists twelve starting positions on their defense. Eleven of those players were out on Saturday night, due to either COVID-19 or being designated as inactive. And the Cowboys offense made sure it looked that way.
Dak Prescott threw for 295 yards and five touchdowns, completing 21 of 27 passes and chilling in cruise control all night long. He rekindled an early season rapport with Cedrick Wilson, as the two connected for a pair of first half touchdowns. And with his five TDs, Prescott set the all-time record for touchdown passes in a season for a Cowboys quarterback, with 37, breaking Tony Romo's record.
And if you're hunting for an asterisk in this 17-game season, you won't find it here. Prescott didn't play against the Vikings. So, he broke the record in the same 16 games that Romo had.
The Cowboys left their starters on the field far longer than most would have preferred. Certainly longer than I felt was necessary. Clearly they wanted to get running back Ezekiel Elliott to 1,000 yards on the season, and allow Prescott to break the touchdown record.
Immediately after the drive that featured both those milestones, the Cowboys big-name players came off the field.
How much will the mojo of a Week 18 shellacking in a glorified preseason game help?
Ezekiel Elliott told ESPN before the game that he wanted to play on Saturday because he didn't play against the Eagles back in 2016, and then Dallas came out flat against the Packers in that year's Divisional Round. In a week-to-week league, it figures to matter little. But good vibes are better than bad ones. And there weren't many good ones to find, after that loss to the Cardinals.
Ultimately, all that matters is what happens in the coming weeks. Dallas has all the talent in the world to play with, and beat, any team in the league. They have that much talent on the roster.
But can they stack multiple high-quality performances on top of one another? They're going to have to, in order to deal with a likely playoff schedule that looks like Cardinals-Packers-Bucs.
There's plenty of good vibes to work with, coming out of Week 18. And fortunately for Dallas, it appears they're coming out of this game without any substantial injuries to key players. All of that is a win.
Now they need four more.