3 Takeaways from Cowboys' Week 16 Win vs. EaglesDecember 26, 2022
3 Takeaways from Cowboys' Week 16 Win vs. Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles had an opportunity to clinch the NFC East title and the No. 1 seed in the conference Saturday. And early in the day, that seemed likely to happen. However, the Dallas Cowboys didn't allow it to, as they remained alive in the division race.
The Cowboys quickly fell behind by 10 points and later faced a fourth-quarter deficit, before they rallied for a 40-34 home win over the Eagles at AT&T Stadium. Dak Prescott threw a game-tying seven-yard touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb with five minutes and 49 seconds to go, then Brett Maher booted a pair of field goals in the final 2:19 to lift Dallas to victory.
It was a statement win by the Cowboys, who had already clinched a playoff berth heading into the matchup. But they became only the second team this season to beat the Eagles, moving two games back of Philadelphia in the NFC East with two weeks to go in the regular season.
Here are three takeaways from Dallas' Week 16 victory.
The Defense Made More Big Plays, and at Crucial Times
The Cowboys defense is capable of making big plays at any time, even if they're amid a below-average performance. They weren't having their best showing for much of Saturday, when the Eagles racked up 442 total yards with backup quarterback Gardner Minshew leading the offense.
But Dallas still forced four Philadelphia turnovers, including two that decided the game. Minshew was intercepted by cornerback DaRon Bland with the game tied and 4:24 to go, and Maher booted a go-ahead field goal on the Cowboys' ensuing possession. Then, the Eagles lost the ball via a Miles Sanders fumble on their following drive, which allowed Dallas to stretch its lead to six and put the game away.
"They're a top-three offense. It's a tough spot to be in because of how explosive they are and guys being banged up," Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons said, per The Athletic's Jon Machota. "Everyone gave relentless effort, nonstop, even when things didn't go our way."
Through 15 games, Dallas leads the NFL with 30 takeaways (14 interceptions and 16 fumble recoveries) and a plus-12 turnover differential. That's because the Cowboys defense is loaded with big-time playmakers who can come up clutch, like they did this week.
It's one of Dallas' biggest strengths and a primary reason why the team is heading to the playoffs for the second straight season.
Prescott Bounced Back in Impressive Way, Fueled Comeback
On Prescott's third pass of the game, the 29-year-old quarterback was intercepted by Philadelphia defensive end Josh Sweat, who returned it 42 yards for a touchdown. That gave the Eagles a 10-0 lead only 5:42 into the contest.
It could have been the start of a bad day for Prescott. Instead, the Dallas QB responded with one of his best showings of the year, as he passed for a season-high 347 yards and three touchdowns. With his first 300-yard game of the year, Prescott showed incredible bounce-back ability and how he can lead the Cowboys offense to success.
"Adversity is something he eats for lunch," Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy said, per Schuyler Dixon of the Associated Press. "Dak's the same person every day, in the fire, at practice, in the class. I just think it speaks volumes of his approach."
Two of Prescott's TD passes came in the final 17:12, and each tied the game. He showed resiliency throughout the contest, serving as one of the main catalysts in the Cowboys' successful comeback effort.
The Cowboys Proved They Could Be a Threat in the Playoffs
It's still highly unlikely the Cowboys will win a second consecutive NFC East title. The only way that can happen is if they win their final two games of the regular season (road matchups against the Tennessee Titans and Washington Commanders) and the Eagles lose their last two (home contests against the New Orleans Saints and New York Giants).
But Dallas should be the top NFC wild-card team, which will make it the No. 5 seed. It will then have a favorable matchup to open the postseason, as it will then play the NFC South champion (likely the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are 7-8).
Even though the Eagles were without star quarterback Jalen Hurts in Week 16, the Cowboys still proved they're capable of beating the conference's top teams. Dallas also owns a victory over the Minnesota Vikings, who are the current No. 2 seed in the NFC.
Although the Cowboys have had some ups and downs this year, they're a strong team, as they showed Saturday. If they can build momentum and continue to play like that, they may even make a deep run through the playoffs.
Dallas hasn't advanced past the divisional round since it won the Super Bowl at the end of the 1995 season, so it's overdue to make it deeper into the postseason.