3 Takeaways from Cowboys' Week 3 Win
For the first time in nearly a year, Dak Prescott played in a game at AT&T Stadium on Monday night. And the Dallas Cowboys quarterback wasted no time having success on his home field.
The signal-caller and his team dominated their Week 3 matchup against the NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles, taking control early and cruising to a 41-21 win in their home opener.
Prescott last played at Dallas' home stadium in Week 5 of the 2020 season, when he suffered an ankle injury that ended his year.
This time, the 28-year-old passed for 238 yards and three touchdowns while leading a Cowboys offense that amassed 380 total yards and 27 first downs. His first touchdown pass was a 19-yard strike to tight end Dalton Schultz that gave Dallas a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter, and it led the rest of the way.
Here are three takeaways from the Cowboys' Week 3 win.
Elliott Is Still the No. 1 RB in This Offense
There were quite a few people (particularly fantasy football managers) who were concerned through the first two weeks regarding Ezekiel Elliott's usage out of the Cowboys' backfield. He was still the starter, but Tony Pollard was getting a lot of work and splitting touches with his teammate.
Make no mistake about it, though: Elliott is still the top running back in this timeshare. And when he has a favorable matchup, he's going to put up impressive stats like he did Monday night, when he had 17 carries for 95 yards and two touchdowns, all of which were season highs.
The 26-year-old had no trouble bullying his way through the Eagles' defense, with both of his touchdowns coming in the first half. His second score gave Dallas a 20-7 lead with seven minutes, 10 seconds to go before halftime.
"You can tell with the O-line pushing them all back five yards, you can tell when we're going hurry-up and they're still on the ground, cramping up," Elliott said, per David Helman of the team's official site. "They definitely felt us."
So, even though Pollard has emerged as a solid player for the Cowboys' offense, Elliott is still a tough, bruising runner who may get on a roll here over the next few weeks.
Diggs, Defense Continue Turnaround with Big Plays
The Cowboys' defense is performing much better this season than it did in 2020, when it was among the worst units in the NFL, particularly against the run. And that's because of the big plays the team is making on that side of the ball.
Through three weeks, the Cowboys already have six interceptions despite going up against a trio of strong quarterbacks: Tom Brady, Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts. On Monday night, Trevon Diggs and Anthony Brown each notched a pick, with the former returning his 59 yards for a touchdown that pushed Dallas' lead to 27-7 less than a minute into the second half.
Diggs already has three interceptions this season, matching his total from his 2020 rookie season. He's taking his game to another level and was a big reason why the Cowboys held the Eagles to seven points through the first two-and-a-half quarters.
"I'm a new corner, so I have to put in that work," the 24-year-old said, per Rob Phillips of the team's official site. "A lot of these other corners have a lot of years on me. I have to put in that work just to be good or even better than them. I've got to put in those hours. I've got to put in that time. It's just something that my family comes from, just working hard and grinding."
It's an encouraging sign for Dallas that Diggs and the rest of its defense are showing improved play. The offense was already strong, so if the defense continues to make such an impact, it should bode well for the Cowboys down the line.
Cowboys Are Clear Favorite to Win NFC East
We're only three weeks into the 2021 regular season, which is going to be the longest in NFL history with each team playing 17 games over 18 weeks. A lot can change between now and early January, but it's already clear the 2-1 Cowboys are the best team in the NFC East this year.
The Eagles likely won't finish last in the division for the second straight season, but they're still too young and inexperienced to contend. The Washington Football Team's defense isn't living up to the hype and its offense isn't talented enough to push it to success. Both teams are 1-2, while the New York Giants are 0-3 and seem to be heading toward a last-place finish.
Dallas' only loss thus far came in its season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the defending Super Bowl champions, and it was defeated by just two points. The Cowboys also own a win over the Los Angeles Chargers, who appear to be a much stronger team in 2021 after beating the Kansas City Chiefs.
Now, Dallas will be playing at home again each of the next two weeks, hosting the Carolina Panthers and the New York Giants. So, it could further extend its lead in the NFC East and continue to prove early on that it's the strongest team in the division this season.