Instant Analysis: Cowboys’ kid defenders play to their ceiling, throw house party in home opener

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Youth has been served. The Dallas Cowboys turned in their most complete performance in some time on Monday night, pushing around the Philadelphia Eagles for a 20-point win where they still left points on the board. It was a dominating 41-21 victory that included more of a two-headed rushing monster that’s been established in the first two weeks, another exquisite leadership performance by quarterback Dak Prescott and a second-straight inspiring defensive performance.

The Cowboys have a handful of veteran players on defense, but by and large they were led Monday night by the kids’ play. One might even say they threw a house party at the AT&T Stadium home opener as the full force of their defense locked Eagles’ QB Jalen Hurts in a refrigerator for most of the night. Every little step he took in the backfield must’ve felt like he was grounded in his bedroom. For more of how it all went down, one just has to follow the drip.

It was over when . . .

. . . Mike McCarthy decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the three-yard line. Dallas was already up 27-14, but the Cowboys had gone a little flat after Trevon Diggs' pick six took it to the stage, allowing the Eagles to make the score a little closer for comfort than most would like. With just under 11 minutes left the Cowboys seemed to be melting down during a red-zone opportunity. On two consecutive plays, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott weren't on the same page. On first down, Prescott seemed to forget to motion Elliott back into the backfield, then turned to look for a handoff that wasn't there. On the next Elliott sprinted out to the flat and Prescott seemingly looked to give it to him again, barely avoiding a big hit by a defender. Prescott scrambled on the next play to take the ball down to the three-yard line, but instead of lining up for a field goal that would make it a 16-point lead that would be able to be tied with two scores, McCarthy broke out the marbles. Prescott patiently moved around backfield, drifted right and waited for his targets to come open. He found Cedrick Wilson in the back of the end zone for a toe-tap touchdown that put the game on ice. https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1442682614733705216?s=20

Game Ball No. 1: Trevon Diggs

"Light's out, party's over, cake's on the griddle, and you're already greased." - Fats to Kid in jail Diggs didn't have to rap his way out of a jam like Kid did, but he certainly was on lockdown status. The Cowboys No. 1 corner completely shut down his second No. 1 wideout in three games, following up on his Week 1 performance against Mike Evans. For the third-straight week he came up with an interception, tying the incomparable Everson Walls for best CB start in franchise history. He added flair too, taking his pick to the house to start the third quarter where he looked every bit of the receiver he was recruited to Alabama to be. https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1442671437433634817?s=20 After being juked out on the Eagles' first play, a 37-yard pass to TE Dallas Goedert, Diggs had no issues moving forward. He shut down Devonta Smith and held him to just three catches on the night for 28 yards, but it wasn't only that. In addition to his interception, he had two other pass deflections and showed the swagger and attitude of a shutdown corner. He jawed with former teammate Hurts throughout, stood over dominated receivers while they were on the ground and did everything in his power to let the Eagles know this wasn't the last they'd be seeing of him. In three games against Philly, he now has four interceptions. After not having a pick in his first seven career games, he now has an incredible six in his last eight contests.

Game Ball No. 2: Dak Prescott

"Always and fo-evah! Each moment wit you. Is just like a dream to me, AND you, that somehow came true. Ooo..." - Bilal A young Martin Lawrence playing stink-breath Bilal was pure comedy throughout that Friday, but him getting a chance to slow dance with a girl inspired him to sing along with the music. Those lyrics capture how Dak Prescott seemed to feel about being able to return to the field at AT&T Stadium for the first time since his horrific injury. Prescott teared up during the national anthem, later explaining how the culmination of all the hard work to get back there made him emotional. Then he went out and sliced and diced the Eagles defense like a DJ on the turntables. Prescott finished 21 of 26 for 238 yards and three scores. He did so without Michael Gallup, with a hobbled Amari Cooper and barely targeting CeeDee Lamb after a big 44-yard play on the opening drive. He was robbed of his own 1-yard touchdown run by a bogus replay process when the ball was clearly over the goal line but it didn't deter him. Prescott completed over 80% of his throws for the second straight week and placed himself high in league annals for starts to the season. https://twitter.com/ESPNStatsInfo/status/1442702167685701637

Game Ball No. 3: Osa Odighizuwa

"I don't know why they named that boy that African name. Knowing he from Cleveland!" - Pops OK, so Odighizuwa is from Dayton, but close enough. There had been multiple flashes throughout training camp, the preseason and the first two games of the regular season that Dallas had themselves a steal in the UCLA product. Starting at three-technique after Neville Gallimore's elbow injury opened the door and Odighizuwa kicked it off the hinges. He's never giving the job back. On Monday night, he registered a sack and a half and was inches away from another two take downs of Hurts. His full sack was a violent takedown of Hurts after a beautiful rip through fellow rookie Landon Dickerson at right guard. https://twitter.com/dlinevids1/status/1442669052506238980 The Cowboys appear to have the making of a strong defensive line that will be just fine waiting on their leader, DeMarcus Lawrence to return from injury in the second half of the season.,

Key Stat: 186

"I wouldn't do that just yet..." - Pops as Kid tried to climb back into bed after sneaking out to the party. The Cowboys' offense totally dominated the Eagles from the start, the same way they opened up against the Los Angeles Chargers the week before. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is so in his bag right now, he might pull out a rainbow at some point; there's no telling what he has in there. Using guard Connor McGovern as a fullback, he once again let the opposing defense show what they wanted to do and then beat the brakes off them like a kid who had snuck out past curfew. Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard once again left opponents dizzy with their thunder and lightening routine as Pollard danced through defenders and Elliott left a trail of bodies after several of his runs. Here's what the carnage looked like after just 15 minutes. https://twitter.com/KDDrummondNFL/status/1442657161331437571

5 Quick Hits

  • Elliott finished the game with 95 yards on the ground and his first two-touchdown performance since Week 5 2020 against the New York Giants. He loves primetime, he loves playing the Eagles and he looked as good as he has over the last season plus.

  • Randy Gregory didn't appear in the stat sheets but he was a menace yet again against the Eagles. Lane Johnson and company were called for multiple holding penalties in trying to keep Gregory off of Hurts and they could've been called for several more. He's rounding into shape.

  • The Cowboys have a problem at the interior positions aside from Zack Martin. Connor Williams got a bogus holding call early, but deserved several others. Center Tyler Biadasz was abused all night by Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave. There may not be many answers to be had there, but pressure up the middle is certainly not ideal.

https://twitter.com/NextGenStats/status/1442695341648736262 https://twitter.com/LeeSharpeNFL/status/1442695266209964036

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