FRISCO, Texas (AP)Dak Prescott just had his best game of the season in a second consecutive win for the Dallas Cowboys since they were blown out by San Francisco.
The star quarterback knows as well as anybody that both victories, including 43-20 over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, won’t do much to change the perception from the 42-10 loss to the Niners.
Prescott also knows a victory this Sunday would change things. Dallas (5-2) visits NFC East rival and division-leading Philadelphia (7-1), the defending NFC champ and only seven-win team in the NFL.
“Trust me, the guys in the locker room, myself, we know what this game means,” Prescott said after his first 300-yard passing game of the season (304 yards) with four touchdowns.
“We’re not going to compare this to two weeks ago,” Prescott said, referring to the San Francisco game Oct. 8.
“Obviously we learned a lot about that. In a sense, that’s apples and oranges. It’s a big game. I know how we’re going to approach the week. Yeah, it’s a matchup we’re looking forward to.”
After the Cowboys bounced back from the San Francisco loss with a 20-17 win at the Los Angeles Chargers, coach Mike McCarthy said he thought he and the team spent too much time talking about the Niners game, publicly and privately.
Prescott made a similar point in an interview on the field immediately after beating the Chargers, turning a question about the game into a “We’re looking ahead, not behind” answer.
Even loquacious owner Jerry Jones is a little more sensitive about what he’s saying – from even before the Cowboys saw the then-unbeaten Niners.
“I made every kind of mistake talking about it too early,” Jones said after the win over the Rams. “And yeah, I learned from that one. My problem is, I don’t learn from these.”
The Cowboys split last season’s meetings with the Eagles, finishing two games behind in the division before a wild-card win in Tampa Bay and a divisional playoff loss to the Niners that kept Dallas from getting a third chance at Philadelphia.
A Dallas victory would turn the division race into a toss-up. An Eagles win would make it difficult for the Cowboys to avoid another postseason filled with road games.
McCarthy wasn’t quite in tune with his quarterback after beating the Rams.
“I like where we are and who’s next is irrelevant,” McCarthy said. “Frankly, we can talk more about that on Wednesday.”
Prescott’s connection with receiver CeeDee Lamb is as strong as ever after Lamb was visibly frustrated over not getting the ball in the loss to the Niners.
Lamb had career highs with 12 catches for 158 yards in a second consecutive 100-yard game since being limited to four catches for 49 yards against San Francisco.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Cowboys are having a hard time getting the running game going. The per-carry average has been under 4 yards in three consecutive games, and that’s with receiver runs of 14 yards from Brandin Cooks and 12 from Lamb.
Tony Pollard, in his first season as the lead back after the offseason release of two-time rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott, had a decent game against the Rams with 12 carries for 53 yards. But his per-carry average is at 3.9 yards after being above 5 each of the previous two seasons.
K Brandon Aubrey is one field goal from setting an NFL record for consecutive makes to start a career. And it’s not as if he isn’t getting tested. Aubrey’s 17th in a row was a 58-yarder, the 28-year-old rookie’s longest so far. He tied the 2015 record of Cleveland’s Travis Coons with a 27-yarder for his 18th. Aubrey also has been perfect on extra points (17 in a row) since missing his first-ever NFL kick on a PAT.
Diminutive rookie RB Deuce Vaughn was the talk of the preseason after several highlight-reel runs. It hasn’t translated to the regular season. Vaughn was inactive for a second consecutive week after averaging four carries per game through the first five weeks.
There was also talk of the 5-foot-6 Vaughn sharing return duties with KaVontae Turpin, but special teams needs played a role in him sitting both weeks. He has just one punt return, and Turpin just had his best game. Turpin returned a punt 63 yards to set up a touchdown and had another 87-yarder for a score that was wiped out by a holding penalty.
Oft-injured LT Tyron Smith had a neck issue develop during the week and ended up being inactive against the Rams because of it. Smith’s absence guarantees an eighth consecutive season of the eight-time Pro Bowler missing at least three games. His replacement, Chuma Edoga, injured an ankle early in the fourth quarter and didn’t return.
3 – DaRon Bland is the first Dallas player with three interception returns for a touchdown in a season. He’s the first in the NFL since Marcus Peters in 2019. The league record for an entire season is four.
The Cowboys have lost three of their past four games in Philadelphia. The victory was a meaningless finale to the 2021 regular season when both teams had already secured playoff berths.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL