Via David Helman
Writer of FOX Sports Dallas Cowboys
If Cooper Rush wrote a fairy tale last month, he came across a green goblin on a Sunday night.
This is the reality that many people fear when Rush replaces Dak Prescott in the starting lineup a month ago. The Credit Dallas backup quarterback helped the team win four in a row, but this 26-17 loss in Philadelphia was a dose of harsh reality.
“We have to be cleaner,” said Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy. “We have some young boys, and we’re still developing in some criminal areas. We knew it was coming.”
Right from the jump, Eagle was able to exploit that lack of offensive experience in a way that other teams couldn’t. All of the Cowboys’ first five properties span less than 20 yards. Two of them ended in trivia, the other two ended in interception.
At the end of a bad first half, which saw Philadelphia enter the locker room 20-3, Rush’s quarterback rating of 1.0 was tied for the worst in the NFL in the past seven seasons. So it’s a good time that the Cowboys – or Dak Prescott, plan is for the franchise quarterback to end his absence next week against Detroit. When asked about it by reporters after this game, Prescott said a lot. “Yes, sure, that was my plan,” he said of starting against the Lions.
None of this matters to Rush, who should be commended for helping the Cowboys to a four-game winning streak following Prescott’s injury in the opening game of the season. He even recovered in the second half to guide the Cowboys in two touchdowns, going 8/10 in 96 yards and a touchdown on those two properties.
However, what happened next clearly tells the story of this game. The Eagles, after seeing their 20-3 lead slide to 20-17 from halftime, came out with 14:32 left in the fourth inning and got to work. While it took nearly eight minutes, they ran 13 runs – the first 11 of them running – and broke the Cowboys’ will.
It’s not Jalen Hurts‘best night as a passerby, but it doesn’t have to be. Hurts picked up the first two crucial knockdowns with his feet in the driveway, and he ended everything with a 22-yard catch and run to AJ Brownfollowed by a short pass to widen DeVonta Smith in the end region.
The Cowboys’ answer was to possess four plays, which was roughly truncated when Rush was hit Brandon Graham in a poignant attempt, creating a wobbly black spot was picked by Chauncey Gardner-Johnson – his third pick of the night and ending the competitive portion of the game.
As of the end of the night, the Eagles were recorded with 12 passes in addition to three interceptions. “I’ve been in a lot of great second productions. This is definitely one of them,” the Eagles said Darius Slay. “We have people who can really get their hands on football. We will continue to try to develop in that, because obviously the first leg was the difference today.”
It was a contrast to the early part of the winning streak, when Rush drove the 33-yard Cowboys to an off-field goal during a game against Cincinnati. And it’s not even a matter of lack of balance, as Dallas actually went 134 yards after the horse’s attempt to jump from Ezekiel Elliott.
There’s also the fact that the Cowboys’ defense, while solid, hasn’t been quite the nightmare unit of the past three weeks. That’s right, they fired Hurts four times, and they only allowed the Eagles’ impressive run to average 3.5 yards per take. But they have failed to manage a single point after tying seven in their last three games, and Philadelphia has always managed to get an answer in times of crisis, converting 43% down to a third and adding a fourth.
In the end, it wasn’t enough – especially on a night when the Cowboys’ revenue differential was negative three, not to mention sloppiness with 10 bad penalties the night.
“I don’t feel like we should bury our heads in a game like this, knowing we played hard,” DeMarcus Lawrence.
After thoroughly dissecting Rush’s struggles at night, it’s fair to end things with some glaring praise. The Cowboys have now reached the point of the season where Prescott’s return is closer to fact than speculation. Even if he doesn’t finish the game against Detroit, game day is drawing near.
How many people, including those inside the organization, really believe that this will be the reality that Prescott has returned to? Record 4-2, including 2-1 difference in NFC East? This number can’t be very high, and Rush deserves credit for keeping the season on track. It’s just that facing one of the most complete teams in the league has a way of highlighting your flaws – especially in an important position like midfield. Fortunately for the Cowboys, they could just get theirs back.
David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports. Prior to that, he spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website. In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in producing “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion” about the quarterback quartet’s time at Mississippi State. Follow him on Twitter @davidhelman_.
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