ARLINGTON, Texas – The Cowboys’ NFC East hopes will live another week.
Credit their receivers burning the Eagles more than the Eagles burned theirs, as Philadelphia’s offense started quickly then sputtered spectacularly.
Credit also the Carolina Panthers, whose 20-13 victory prevented the Washington Football Team (6-9) from clinching the division.
Washington still holds the keys to the NFC East, a Week 17 victory over the Eagles away from a playoff berth. But should Washington lose to Philadelphia next week, the winner of the Cowboys at New York Giants matchup will take the division title.
Here are three more things we learned in Dallas’ 37-17 win:
Receivers light up
During training camp, Cowboys receivers were not shy: Why couldn’t each of their three talented wideouts hit 1,000 yards in the same season, they wondered aloud? The lofty goal took a hit when franchise quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 5. But on Sunday, against a flammable Eagles secondary, the Cowboys receivers doled out one burn after the next. Michael Gallup racked up 58 yards after the catch on one tackle-breaking race down the left sideline, CeeDee Lamb took a wheel route 52 yards home and Amari Cooper stutter-stepped his way to a 69-yard reception … and the six-year pro’s fifth 1,000-yard season. The result, unsurprisingly: Andy Dalton’s most productive day as a Cowboy. Dalton completed 22 of 30 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns (one interception), and his short-to-intermediate game sparkled too. Take the Cowboys’ scoring drive just before the half, when Dalton found Gallup on a 19-yard toe-dragger down the left sideline … and then on a back-shoulder fade in the left corner of the end zone to take a 20-17 lead into halftime. The Eagles wouldn’t score again.
Cowboys D holds off again
The Cowboys defense is still historically bad. Sunday, the unit broke the franchise records for most touchdowns and points allowed in a season. The season-long issues that enabled those records – blown coverages in the secondary, an undisciplined run defense – hurt them in the first quarter, quarterback Jalen Hurts’ athleticism on display with back-to-back yards for double-digit gains. Eagles running back Miles Sanders slipped into the end zone up right for the Eagles’ first touchdown, and receiver DeSean Jackson needed just one play to burn Dallas for an 81-yard score the next series. But the Cowboys defense allowed just three points in the second quarter. And they shut out the Eagles in the second half.
That said, the teams did still combine for more than 900 yards in offense.
For the third consecutive week, the Cowboys defense snatched at least three takeaways. All three were in the fourth quarter of the Eagles’ unraveling. Defensive end Randy Gregory forced his third fumble on the day, the first the Cowboys would recover. Cornerbacks Trevon Diggs and Anthony Brown each intercepted Hurts, who had gone consecutive starts without a pick. Pair that with a 1-of-3 red-zone day for Philadelphia, and Gregory adding two hits (1.5 sacks) to the effort? The Eagles are staying home for the postseason. For the 16th consecutive season, the NFC East title will not be defended.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein https://twitter.com/JoriEpsteinx
Need Your Help Today. Your $1 can change life.