This game shouldn’t feel new.
And yet, because of a confluence of injuries and postseason considerations, Sunday will mark only the second NFL game featuring both Prescott and Hurts.
“Yeah, crazy to think it’s only been one time,” Prescott said Thursday. “It’s a lot of excitement. Makes the game better, obviously. It’s a matchup we look forward to every year.”
The Cowboys-Eagles rivalry has long been among each team’s most spirited. Each team’s current era of success has fueled that further, Dallas and Philadelphia capturing six of the past seven NFC East titles but never defending the crown (the 7-1 Eagles are on pace to this year).
Across Prescott’s career, he has won eight of 11 games against the division foe, completing 67.51% of his passes for 2,757 yards, 19 touchdowns to eight interceptions and a 98.9 passer rating.
Hurts has won two of his four games vs. Dallas, completing 59.62% of passes for five touchdowns, four interceptions and an 85.1 passer rating.
Most recently, along the Eagles’ route to last season’s Super Bowl, the teams split contests.
The Eagles, starting Hurts as Prescott recovered from a thumb fracture, won at home. The Cowboys, facing Gardner Minshew as Hurts recovered from a shoulder sprain, won their home game as well.
Each was glad to get a win, much less a division win against a fellow playoff team. But in assessing their head-to-head caliber of play, the games fell short of expectation. Neither team should be favored without their starting quarterback. Neither team rallied to overcome the significant setback.
And while the last matchup of the quarterbacks 26 months ago gave a decided 41-21 edge to Dallas, the Cowboys know Hurts has grown exponentially since that two-interception game.
“Jalen’s an explosive guy,” Cowboys All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons said Wednesday. “When I first got in the league, and maybe his rookie year and second year, he would hold onto the ball. But from this year and last year, he’s been processing pretty fast. At more of an elite level.
“Really been coming on. We’ve definitely got our hands full.”
Hurts’ passer rating jumped from 87.2 in 2021 to 101.5 last year, his completion percentage from 61.3% to 66.5%. He continued to punish with his legs, scoring 13 rushing touchdowns. But his creativity, versatility and playmaking in the passing game threatened opponents at a whole new level.
Turnovers have plagued Hurts more this year, his first eight games featuring eight interceptions and three fumbles that probably are not wholly unrelated to a knee injury he’s reportedly battling.
“He has the talent, we respect his strength, and he has just evolved and gotten better and better and better at every phase,” Cowboys team owner Jerry Jones said. “It’s easy for me to say, but this is serious s*** that we are dealing with up there.”
The Eagles said the same about Prescott this week.
Prescott is coming off his best game of the season, an efficient four-touchdown performance in the Cowboys’ 43-20 win over the Los Angeles Rams. Prescott struggled against the last top NFC team Dallas played, completing just 58.3% of passes for one touchdown and three interceptions in a 42-10 loss against the 49ers.
Prescott’s history with the Eagles is far brighter than his two consecutive playoff losses to the 49ers.
“He's operating in a highly efficient way right now, getting the ball out fast and he's decisive with where he wants to go with the ball and he's accurate,” Eagles defensive coordinator Sean Desai said. “He's throwing the ball on point to where the offensive structure is asking him to throw the ball, so he's doing a good job.
“Then the one thing you can't ever sleep on him, we learned this a long time ago and you guys have seen it way more than me, his legs. He can still create plays and make plays from a scramble position as a thrower and a runner, so he's playing at a high level.”
Prescott used his legs to pick up key first downs in each of the Cowboys’ past two games, scoring a rushing touchdown against the Chargers and a passing touchdown while on the run against the Rams.
Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said his team will “try to confuse” Prescott “to try to knock him off his rhythm.”
“But I can’t tell you how much respect I have for Dak,” Sirianni added. “I just feel like he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. We have our hands full going into this game to make sure that we contain him.”