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After the Dallas Cowboys beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday evening the midfield handshake between the two coaches was televised to the national television audience, with Nick Sirianni telling Mike McCarthy, “We’ll be seeing you guys again.”
And if you wish to concentrate on what this 40-34 victory by the Cowboys means in the standings and playoff seeding, then all you need to know is Sirianni is right. These two teams could go at it again in the postseason.
The Cowboys (11-4) can catch the Eagles (13-2) with two games to play. And then the playoffs might eventually offer a rematch either in Philly or Big D.
But this was a benchmark game for reasons beyond the playoff implications.
Dak Prescott, Gardner Minshew And Jalen Hurts Win
This was a game that weighed not one, not two, but three quarterbacks. And, amazingly, all three emerged looking better than when the game began.
All three came out winners this night. Even though only Prescott and Minshew played while Hurts was inactive and recovering from an AC joint sprain in his throwing shoulder, all three were tested by this game.
And we learned the narratives on all three might need adjustment.
The narrative on Prescott is that he hasn’t been a franchise quarterback despite having a big-time franchise quarterback contract. He’s been under scrutiny for not winning big in Dallas. And, lately, he’s been judged harshly in a loss to the Jaguars and even in a victory over the Texans.
So Dak is not special has been a thing in Dallas.
Except he was special in the playoff atmosphere of this game.
Prescott completed 27 of 35 passes for 347 yards with 3 TDs and 1 interception against the division-leading Eagles. In what is the Cowboys’ biggest game so far this season, Prescott delivered a 124.3 quarterback rating.
It did not, of course, start out so well. Prescott threw a pass that defensive lineman Josh Sweat plucked out of the air and returned 42 yards for a touchdown. The pick-six gave the Eagles a 10-0 lead and suggested both the Cowboys and their quarterback were in for a long afternoon.
“Guess I just misjudged his reach and he made a great catch,” Prescott said. “I don’t know if he’s had an easier interception return than that one.”
Cowboys Get Winning Performance From Dak Prescott
And that’s where the quarterback, who has been ripped for giving up too many turnovers and never recovering from bad fortune, rewrote the script.
After that interception, Prescott didn’t turn the ball over again. And he led scoring drives on the next two possessions to give his team a 14-10 lead. And even when the Eagles answered with an offensive touchdown of their own, Prescott immediately drove the Cowboys to another score to tie the score at 17-17.
“I was thinking getting back on the field and get this thing back rolling,” Prescott said, sharing his thoughts after the interception. “I mean, it comes I guess as a kid. You’re the younger brother and you get beat up and you take a lot of losses and the only way to keep going is by responding.
“By showing that whatever happened last play, it doesn’t matter. It’s about what happens the next play.”
Wonder how the Dak-is-soft critics will address that one.
The narrative with Minshew is he’s a backup. Not too bad. But also not too good.
Well, with only a couple of days of practice with starters and the death of former college coach and friend Mike Leach weighing on his mind, Minshew played … let Sirianni tell you:
“I thought Gardner played a really good game,” the coach said. “Really good game.”
Minshew threw for 355 yards with 2 TDs and 2 interceptions. It was his first start of the season but he played like he belonged.
Minshew Might Be More Than A Backup
“Ton of confidence,” Minshew said of the way he felt late in the game when the outcome still hung in the balance. “We have some really good guys who can go get the ball. We have a really great offensive line that can protect us. It’s just a matter of getting a couple of chunks and giving ourselves a chance.”
Minshew almost authored a potential game-winning drive. The fairy tale ended at the Dallas 19-yard line with a fourth-down incompletion.
But what that says about Minshew is he might get a long look from a team searching for players to pit in a starting quarterback competition next offseason.
And then we have Hurts. The criticism on him has been that he’s a product of all the talent around him. That all his success is easily attained by anyone that merely stands behind the awesome offensive line and pitches passes to A.J Brown and Devonta Smith.
Except all those elements were present in this game. And, without Hurts, the Eagles lost.
And even though Minshew threw the ball well, a secondary element that Hurts brings to the Eagles offense was missing.
“Some of the QB running game is the biggest difference,” Minshew said of what was missing. “Outside of that running, it’s the same plays, same concepts.”
Minshew also accounted for three turnovers. Hurts has thrown just 5 interceptions all season.
“He’s doing some really incredible stuff out there and I’ve been luck to be able to watch him, not only in practice but games,” Minshew said of his absent teammate. “I’ve learned a ton from him.”