What We Learned

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2021 NFL season, Week 3: What we learned from Cowboys' win over Eagles on Monday night

Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys
2021 · 2-1-0
Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles
2021 · 1-2-0

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  1. Well, that's one way for Dak Prescott to return to AT&T Stadium. Three-hundred and fifty-one days after Prescott's season ended in a gruesome ankle injury, the star quarterback took the field in front of a packed house and promptly led a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to kick off the night. With the running game getting going early and often, Prescott was able to find success in between handoffs while not being forced to air it out all night. And when he did take to the air, he was again stellar, posting a final line of 21-of-26 passing, 238 yards, three touchdowns and a passer rating of 143.3. Exactly what you'd like to see out of your $160-million man.
  2. The young Cowboys are making plays. Micah Parsons again wowed viewers with his sideline-to-sideline speed, erasing the edge on multiple plays and preventing a Miles Sanders screen from picking up a much-needed first down late in the first half. Parsons also recorded his highest top speed when he hawked down Jalen Hurts on a scramble, hitting 19.15 mph while limiting the quarterback to a 3-yard gain. Trevon Diggs capitalized on an easily read out route, jumping in front of a Hurts pass as DeVonta Smith fell down, intercepting it and returning it for a touchdown. Diggs' interception was his third of the season, becoming the first Cowboy with a pick in each of his first three games of a season since Everson Walls did so in 1985, per the Cowboys. Osa Odighizuwa won a rookie-on-rookie battle, rushing past Brandon Brooks replacement Landon Dickerson for a sack of Hurts, and teamed up with Parsons for a sack of Hurts in the fourth. Dallas needed defensive reinforcements after a terrible performance in 2020, and the young guys they've accumulated in the last two offseasons are starting to answer the call.
  3. Philadelphia can't get out of its own way. The Eagles reached halftime with seven penalties, including a holding call on Isaac Seumalo that saved Hurts from being sacked a second straight time, but also buried the Eagles in a second-and-31 situation that effectively ended their chances of getting points before the half. The halftime statistical difference was ugly, with the Cowboys outgaining the Eagles, 261-121, running 42 plays to the Eagles' 18, possessing the ball for 20:21 of the first 30 minutes of action, and Philadelphia failing to convert a single third-down attempt. The Eagles offense couldn't get out of neutral for most of the game, forcing Hurts to scramble in vain to no avail. By the time Philadelphia could pause to check the stat sheet, it was in a 20-point hole that meant it had no choice but to abandon the run, resulting in just two carries for Sanders. If the Eagles didn't force a fumble in the Cowboys' end zone and Quez Watkins didn't haul in a miraculous completion (16.7 completion probability) early in the second half, they might have been flirting with a shutout. Their 13 total penalties certainly didn't help.
  4. Javon Hargrave is balling. The Eagles defender has been a menace along the interior through the first three weeks of the 2021 season and popped early Monday night, sacking Prescott in the end zone and forcing a fumble that teammate Fletcher Cox recovered for a touchdown. Hargrave finished with five QB pressures (for a rate of 29.4%), one turnover caused via pressure (the Prescott sack-fumble), two sacks and three QB hits. The Eagles' run defense was drastically different during a series in which Hargrave was not available, getting repeatedly gashed by both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. Next Gen Stats told us the difference was worth more than half a rushing yard per play before a fourth quarter filled with garbage time skewed the numbers in the opposite direction. Though the Eagles clearly have plenty of progress to make, they can be happy to know they have a pair of beasts in Hargrave and Cox, provided they're both healthy.
  5. Mike McCarthy still doesn't understand the inner workings of the game clock. A week after McCarthy explained his clock-management blunder at the end of a thrilling Cowboys win over the Chargers by saying he couldn't find the clock at SoFi Stadium, McCarthy willingly declined an offer to stop the clock and get the ball back for another chance to score just before the half Monday night. Twitter appropriately lit up McCarthy for his passive approach to the final minute of the half, as did the commentators on the television broadcast, bringing us fresh evidence to add to McCarthy's long history of flummoxing clock-management decisions. It didn't hurt the Cowboys Monday night, but then again, it's only Week 3.


Next Gen stat of the game: Dak Prescott has completed 25 of 26 quick passes (thrown in less than 2.5 seconds) for 210 yards and one touchdown in his last two games combined, but that's not all: Prescott was also excellent on slower releases, completing 10 of 14 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns on throws of 2.5 seconds or later.


NFL Research: With his 95 yards Monday night, Ezekiel Elliott has averaged the most rushing yards per primetime game of any player since 1970 (minimum 20 games) at 87.4 per game.

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