After losing 42-10 to San Francisco in Week 5, the Cowboys had something to prove. They had to prove to themselves, their fans, and the world, they could compete against the best.
Dallas’ five wins in 2023 were against fairly inferior opponents. The Cowboys had a growing reputation of being a team that could bully the little guy but would wilt under the pressure when faced with a worthy opponent.
Against Philadelphia, they had an opportunity to silence critics and put themselves in the conversation as a legit postseason challenger. They also had a prime opportunity to close the gap on the division and send their rivals into the bye week on a sour note.
Alas, none of that was to be. Dallas lost 28-23 in a nailbiter. They kept their critics energized and dug themselves a hole to climb from, siting three wins behind the Eagles at the season’s midpoint.
The numbers break down the good, bad and what lies ahead.
The headline of the day was the struggles of Terence Steele at RT. On first view it was reported Steele gave up eight pressures but PFF has since bumped that already enormous number up to a whopping 12.
Total pressures allowed by #DallasCowboys offensive linemen this season:
Steele has been the weak point of the offense all season but Sunday against Philadelphia he hit rock bottom. Whether it was Hassan Reddick or Brandon Graham, Eagles pass rushers looked like Hall of Famers against Steele.
Signed through 2028, Steele is the biggest commitment on the Cowboys’ offensive line. Clearly his recovery from injury is a factor, but valid excuse or not, Dallas cannot continue to accept that level of performance and expect to compete against good teams.
CeeDee Lamb has been an unstoppable force for Dallas as of late. Over the past three games he’s averaged 155 yards/game receiving. He’s been winning at all levels and has been the only consistent pass-catcher in Mike McCarthy’s offense.
Playing for a new contract, Lamb is showing he’s in the NFL’s top WR tier. While the Cowboys were proactive in re-signing Steele and Trevon Diggs, they have been playing the waiting game with the season’s top performing players, Dak Prescott and Lamb.
The Cowboys will need Lamb to keep things humming on offense. And the recent ascension of TE Jake Ferguson will hopefully help. But right now, all credit is due to Lamb.
0-3 on defensive fumble recoveries
It’s safe to say the Cowboys had their fair share of bad luck in Week 9.
Beyond Prescott stepping out of bounds on a would-be 2-point conversion, Luke Schoonmaker getting tackled inches shy of the end zone before he even caught the ball, or the officials taking away a touchdown because they seemingly ignored Chuma Edoga getting checked in as an eligible receiver, the ball just didn’t bounce Dallas’ way on Sunday.
You can see Dak Prescott confirming with the official that #71 declared as an eligible receiver.
Illegal formation penalty still thrown. Wiping away a touchdown. pic.twitter.com/8g2R6POTfW
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) November 6, 2023
The Eagles fumbled three times Sunday afternoon and recovered all three. It was as unlikely as it was unfortunate. If just one of those fumbles went the other way, the game would have been completely different.
There has to be optimism in the fact Murphy’s law was in full effect against the Cowboys. Simple probabilities tell us this kind of outcome is unlikely to happen again.
There has been much talk about the Cowboys’ home and away splits and that’s only going to get louder and more relevant after this critical division loss to Philadelphia.
Even with half the season remaining, the Eagles are now the clear favorite to win the NFC East which means Dallas is destined for a postseason on the road.
I don’t want to overstate the importance of the Cowboys’ loss in Week 9, but it’s rather significant when looking at seeding. Dallas now only has a 7.4% chance of getting the No1 seed and has a 55% of the 5th seed. Not ideal for a team only averaging 21.8 points on the road. pic.twitter.com/cOHgad5ryk
— Reid D Hanson (@ReidDHanson) November 6, 2023
As tempting as it is to shake off this loss as just another week, it shifts the odds dramatically in Philadelphia’s favor and means Dallas has to prepare for a life on the road.
With the Cowboys recent total of 23 points, they are now averaging a paltry 21.8 points per game outside of Arlington.
They have to figure out how to be more efficient on offense between now and the new year because they way things look today, 21.8 points isn’t going to cut it.