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Sunday, January 23, 2022
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Cowboys Crush Eagles in Season Finale, Prescott Sets TD Record


Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (4) celebrating a touchdown. | Image by Associated Press

During the week leading up to the Cowboys’ final game of the regular season, it remained to be seen whether head coach Mike McCarthy would stay true to his word and work the regular starters.

With Saturday’s game came the answer. McCarthy kept most of the available starters in the game well into the fourth quarter until victory was already in hand.

The result of his decision was an overwhelming 51-26 defeat of the Philadelphia Eagles that saw quarterback Dak Prescott set a new franchise season touchdown record and running back Ezekiel Elliott surpass 1,000 yards rushing for the fourth time in his career.

Prescott threw five touchdowns in the game. Place kicker Greg Zuerlein added a field goal but missed his sixth extra-point attempt. Prescott ended the regular season with 37 touchdowns, passing Tony Romo for the most touchdowns in a single season. Prescott threw for 295 yards against the Eagles to bring his season total to 4,449, giving the star QB the second and third-most passing yards in Cowboys single-season history.

Elliott ended the day with 87 yards on 18 carries, bringing his season total to 1,002 yards. It is the highest total the running back has amassed since Week 5. Elliott has fallen short of the benchmark twice in his six years, missing 1,000 yards by only 17 yards in 2017 and 21 yards in 2020, both seasons in which he missed time.

Throughout the season, the Cowboys defense has carried the team to victory, but the unit entered the game missing some of the key players that have made Dallas one of the most feared teams to face this season. Still, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch recorded his first career interception when he picked off Eagles backup QB Gardner Minshew in the fourth quarter. Defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Tarell Basham both recorded sacks in the game, while defensive ends Trysten Hill and Dorance Armstrong each had half-sacks.

The defensive effort was enough to keep the Eagles, who chose to sit most of their starters ahead of the start of Super Wild Card Weekend next week, from mounting any serious effort, particularly in the second half when the score quickly spiraled out of control. 

The first half was largely a back-and-forth contest between the two teams, with each trading touchdowns on their first possessions and each team hitting a field goal in the first quarter. The Cowboys scored twice in the second quarter, and it seemed that the contest would go into the half with a competitive, 23-17 score, but a shanked punt by the Eagles gave Prescott and the offense ample opportunity to go 43 yards in only 19 seconds, capping off with a touchdown. 

Dallas punted only once in the game, which came on the first drive of the second half. The Eagles managed to kick a field goal on the ensuing possession, but those would be the last points they would score until well into garbage time. With most of the first-string offense still on the field, the Cowboys put the game away with three consecutive touchdown drives. Some of the Cowboys’ practice team players were able to get on the field for the game, including running back Ito Smith, who scored his first touchdown as a Cowboy after three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.

Though the game had little bearing on the Cowboys playoff standings, the team will now have to wait until the outcome of Sunday’s games to learn where they will end up in playoff seeding and who their opponent is likely to be. The Eagles loss almost certainly puts the team in the seventh seed, while the Cowboys could end up with the second, third, or — the most likely outcome — fourth seed in the NFC.

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