DALLAS – The Dallas Cowboys say that real football, the one they waited for months, is just about to begin.
The Cowboys defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 51-26 to close their regular season with a 12-5 record and convincingly ratify their dominance over the Eastern Division of the National Conference, in which they finished unbeaten 6-0, just for the third time in his story.
More important to them, the Cowboys returned to Dallas with all the players who traveled healthy, even though they played almost full game every starter that was available.
“It was a very productive year,” coach Mike McCarthy said at the end of the game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. “We feel good about what we have achieved, but our goals are even bigger.”
The Cowboys played because they wanted to improve their offensive rhythm, build confidence and work the week leading up to their first postseason game in two years without pressure. They had 50 points, seven touchdowns and one field goal.
Dak Prescott completed 21 of 27 passes with five touchdowns, including four in the first half, in just over three periods in which he was on the field, in which he managed to establish a touchdown pass mark (37) in a season in the history of the franchise.
“What a year for a boy going through a slump,” McCarthy quipped. “It was a joke. I think Dak is special. He is a special man. What is exciting is that there is still a lot to grow in front of us. He is still a young quarterback who has a lot of excellent football in front of him.”
Prescott is the first to be aware that his stats, 12 wins or scoring more than 50 points in two of the last three games of the season, will be useless, unless they transcend the postseason.
“You’re not going to have many teams like this,” Prescott said. “We have been talking about meeting goals since April. We are already in the tournament. So we have to make sure we don’t take anything for granted, that the most difficult is yet to come.”
The Cowboys also wanted to make sure they got the ball running. They advanced 171 yards per rush; 87 by Zeke Elliott, who surpassed 1,000 yards for the fourth time in his six-year career. But against the Eagles who missed 16 starters, including 10 defenders.
“It’s a great momentum to go to the playoffs,” Elliott said. “The more balanced we are, the better team we are (…) It was definitely a big step today in the game by run, which we are going to need either because of the weather, time of possession, releasing pressure on Dak or even to close games.”
The Cowboys are TALENTED 😳 pic.twitter.com/pJvlxb6Pja
– ESPN (@espn) January 9, 2022
The Cowboys completed one of their brightest regular seasons collectively and individually.
They became the first team in NFL history with a quarterback who exceeds 4,000 passing yards, Dak Prescott (4,449); running back and receiver with over 1,000 yards, Elliott (1,002) and CeeDee Lamb (1,102); cornerback with more than 10 interceptions, Trevon Diggs (11), and defender with more than 10 sacks, Micah Parsons (12).
Now the Cowboys will have to worry about getting their star players back on the Covid reserve: linebacker Parsons, cornerback Anthony Brown, safety Jayron Kearse and offensive tackle Tyron Smith.
Also make sure cornerback Trevon Diggs is healthy, as he did not play on Saturday due to illness, which the team has not linked to Covid.
Perhaps the biggest concern on the field has to be kicker Greg Zuerlein, who missed his sixth extra point of the season against the Eagles.
“We have to make sure we come prepared in every way,” Prescott acknowledged. “Whether it’s in meetings, training or whatever, we need to put ourselves in the best position and control what we can handle into the weekend.”
The Cowboys were waiting for the Sunday session with the end of the regular season to know their final classification in the National Conference and the rival they will receive next weekend at their AT&T Stadium in the wild card round.
“You guys have been playing soccer a long time,” McCarthy told his players in the locker room; a message that was recorded and broadcast by the team. “It’s hard to get to this point. Great job. But as we know, this is just beginning.”