By Yusuf Nakhooda
It's getting pretty steamy in Dallas, as the Cowboys battle injuries and try to keep a hold of the NFC east, as they face the Philadelphia Eagles in a much needed win before the bye week.
The Cowboys' 3-0 start that came at the expense of lightweights Miami, the New York Giants, and Washington was mostly eroded in losses to higher-caliber opponents New Orleans and Washington. But a 24-22 loss to the previously winless New York Jets dropped Dallas to .500 and has brought Garrett under scrutiny once again.
While Dallas is at the .500 mark by cooling off after a quick start, division co-leader Philadelphia has been all over the map in splitting its first six games. The Eagles have given Atlanta its only win while dealing Green Bay its only loss.
The Cowboys could only have wished they played the Jets without Darnold after the second-year quarterback returned from a three-game absence due to mononucleosis and carved up their secondary for 338 yards and a pair of touchdowns. One of them was a 92-yard hookup that put Dallas in a 14-3 hole after Dak Prescott was stopped on a 4th-and-2 run inside the Jets' 10-yard line.
Dallas did play much better on the offensive side in the second half, moving the ball almost at will as Prescott finished with 277 passing yards and Ezekiel Elliott earned his 105 rushing yards on 28 carries. But in a game where single plays made the difference, Prescott's fourth down failure and the failed two-point pass to Jason Witten that would likely have forced overtime loomed large.
The Cowboys also have injury issues to address, most notably Amari Cooper's lingering quadriceps problem. It limited the No. 1 wideout to three snaps versus New York and robbed Prescott of a potential offensive game-breaker. Dallas played without both its starting tackles, Tyron Smith and La'El Collins, with Smith sidelined a second straight game with an ankle injury and Collins missing out with a sprained MCL.
Dallas Cowboys Running Game:
Every one knows if the Cowboys running game is clicking it sets the tone for the rest of the game. For a guy who had a contract holdout, Elliott has been no worse for the wear after recording his third 100-yard game of the season. He earned those 105 yards versus the Jets, taking a pounding on his season-high 28 carries.
If it keeps working, don't fix it. That should be Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore's M.O. for this game regarding Elliott. He has been a consistent dual threat versus the Eagles, averaging 167 total yards rushing and receiving.
Dallas Cowboys Offense
The Cowboys do not lack for receiving options when Cooper is unable to play. What Cooper brings is the big-play, game-breaking potential. Much like he did last season in the overtime victory over the Eagles last season.
Cooper, though, did not practice Wednesday because of his thigh bruise/quad injury, and Randall Cobb could miss a second straight game. Everyone stepped up in Cooper's absence last week as receivers Tavon Austin, Michael Gallup, and Cedrick Wilson combined for 14 catches while tight end Jason Witten and Elliott had five catches apiece.
Another week, another dose of drama. The good news for the Cowboys is they can easily tune out the noise regarding Garrett's "tenuous" job status, which comes up on a weekly basis. As opposed to Philadelphia, where there are pieces of the team struggling, Dallas looks to be an issue of putting all three phases of the game together.
Brett Maher has converted just 7 of 11 field goals, but he also hammered a 62-yarder at the end of the first half last weekend. He also made a 50-yarder in that game, and it should be noted two of his four misses on the season have been from 50 yards or longer.
Chris Jones has been serviceable in the punting game, averaging 43 yards while putting eight of his 19 attempts inside the opposing 20 versus one touchback. Dallas' return games have been non-descript, with both Austin and Cobb providing sure hands but not much in the way of breakaway returns.
It is a game that can go either way, but the lean is the Cowboys because their offense can more easily exploit the Eagles defense than the other way around. Philadelphia has yet to find an answer for Elliott, and the hunch is replacing Brown is going to be more of a challenge than has been let on for that defense.
The Cowboys proved they have people who can fill Cooper's spot -- though not his game-breaking ability -- and be able to move the ball against the defense. And if Dallas controls the line of scrimmage, it controls time of possession. That keeps the defense fresh and could lead to a better performance.
Final Score: Dallas Cowboys 28 Philadelphia Eagles 17
The writers here at Cowboys News plan to bring you entertainment, news, and more - all relating to the Dallas Cowboys.