DALLAS — The Dallas Cowboys were handed the script to act out in Week 18, and Mike McCarthy directed a perfect performance as his team blew out the Philadelphia Eagles 51-26 on Saturday night. The victory concluded the Cowboys’ year of perfection in the NFC East, going 6-0 on their way to a 12-5 season.
During the year, the Cowboys scored at least 44 points against each of their divisional rivals and put up at least 50 on two of them. No matter who played for the Eagles, the Cowboys surely had fun embarrassing them in Philadelphia.
The strategy of McCarthy heading into the game was simple, regardless of how the Eagles were going to play it, the Cowboys were going to try to establish an offensive rhythm in preparation for the playoffs. The second half of the season hasn’t been a smooth ride and the goal was to try to recapture some of what had gotten the Cowboys to the No. 1 ranked offense in the league.
By putting up 51 points, and with quarterback Dak Prescott throwing for a career-high five touchdowns, the starting offense did its thing for three and a half quarters and the goal was accomplished.
For those wondering if it mattered whether the Cowboys went up against backups for the Eagles, the answer is a resounding no. This wasn’t about the Eagles, this was about Dallas leaving the season finale feeling good about themselves, especially on offense.
The night belonged to the offense. Prescott helped guide his unit to numerous franchise records. By throwing for five scores, Prescott broke the franchise record for touchdown passes in a season at 37.
The numbers were great for Prescott, but the game plan was better. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore called for more throws going down the field and Prescott responded by going 7-7 on throws over 10 yards and had an average of 10.9 yards per attempt, his highest on the season. Dallas came out attacking on offense, scored on all five of their first half possessions, and on all but one possession in the game.
Wide receiver Cedrick Wilson led the way in the passing game with five receptions for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson worked deep down the field and averaged 23.8 yards per catch. If Wilson can take attention away from the underneath receivers in the postseason, it would benefit the offense.
Tight end Dalton Schultz also pitched in with two touchdowns to finish the regular season tied with Amari Cooper for the most TD receptions on the team.
On the way to scoring 51 points, the Cowboys got touchdowns from five different players to set an NFL record. Backup running backs Corey Clement, Ito Smith, and JaQuan Hardy all scored in the fourth quarter to run the overall total to 22 different players to score a touchdown for Dallas this season.
The Cowboys also wanted to see the running game be more effective and they ran all over the Eagles for 171 yards. It was the first time since Week 5 that the Cowboys surpassed the 150 yards rushing mark, something they were doing regularly early in the season.
On his way to his fourth 1,000 yard rushing season, running back Ezekiel Elliott led the team with 87 yards on 18 carries. Both of those numbers were also the highest for Elliott since playing the New York Giants in Week 5.
With a 17th game and 51 points, the Cowboys also set a franchise record for points in a season with 530.
Regardless of if the Eagles put out their best or not, there wasn’t anything the Cowboys could do against Philadelphia to dispel questions about their performances in the second half of the season or if they’re ready to make a run in a stacked NFC. That can only come from what the team does in the playoffs.
However, the Cowboys had an opportunity to prove to themselves that they could turn it back on as the postseason arrives. The offense needed a get-right game and boy did they get exactly what they needed.
No matter how it happens, or who it’s against, scoring 50 points isn’t easy and it’s even more difficult when you’re playing within the division on the road. In fact, the 51 points for Dallas is the most that they have scored away from North Texas in team history.
The Dallas Cowboys did what they were supposed to do in their final regular season game, they dominated an inferior opponent that laid down to save face. The beatdown leaves the Cowboys feeling good as they prepare for a Wild Card weekend matchup against the San Francisco 49ers with improved confidence.
Dallas completed a remarkable turnaround in a season where they went 12-5, collected the conference’s No. 3 seed, and conquered all of their NFC East rivals along the way. Next up for the Cowboys is the postseason where they have as good a chance as any team if they play like they did in Philadelphia.
Confidence is king, and the Cowboys have plenty of that after Week 18.
Do you think the Cowboys proved a point with their Week 18 win in Philly? Discuss the victory with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.