Cowboys rout Eagles as NFC playoff race picks up steam
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Mike McCarthy was nervous for an NFC East showdown with Philadelphia after the Dallas coach missed two days during the week after an emergency appendectomy.
Not to worry, thanks to his quarterback, kicker and opportunistic defense.
Dak Prescott threw for two touchdowns, Brandon Aubrey made four field goals to start his career a record 30 for 30, and the Cowboys pulled even in the division with their 15th consecutive home victory, 33-13 over the Eagles on Sunday night.
The Cowboys (10-3) weren't deterred by Jalen Carter's 42-yard fumble return for a touchdown, winning their fifth consecutive game since a loss at Philadelphia that gave the Eagles a two-game division lead.
Dallas owner Jerry Jones said it was the biggest win in McCarthy’s four seasons as coach.
“And it has to do with the fact that he came up off the operating table and did not even wince and stand there and fight it all night and coach it,” Jones said.
The Eagles (10-3) lost three fumbles and didn't score an offensive touchdown as quarterback Jalen Hurts, who had the first fumble, lost consecutive games for the first time since October 2021.
While the Cowboys currently hold the tiebreaker with an extra NFC East victory, the defending NFC champion Eagles would take the division title on subsequent tiebreakers if they win their remaining four games.
“The role’s the same as it’s always been,” coach Nick Sirianni said. “And now we’re going through some adversity. And so adversity can do a couple of things to you. It can break you or it can make it way better.”
Aubrey became the first kicker with two field goals of at least 59 yards in the same game, connecting from 60 yards late in the first quarter. His 59-yarder in the third allowed Aubrey to surpass Greg Zuerlein and Harrison Butker, who each had a pair from at least 58 yards.
The 28-year-old rookie added two in the fourth quarter, from 45 and 50 yards, to extend his NFL record for perfection to start a career. The previous record was 18.
“Just going out there, doing it one at a time,” said Aubrey, who grew up in the Dallas area and once was a Major League Soccer prospect. “I know I can make any of the kicks they’ve asked me to do.”
With McCarthy calling plays from the sideline just four days after leaving the facility and ending up in surgery, Prescott had a career-best seventh consecutive game with at least two TD passes.
“I just wanted to do my part,” said McCarthy, who is in his first year of calling plays for Dallas. “I wanted to make sure I was prepared as I normally am. I was a little nervous about it today. We’re all creatures of habit.”
The Dallas offense bogged down after Prescott’s first-half TD passes, but two big completions for first downs to tight end Jake Ferguson, including a hurdling effort early in the fourth quarter, led to both of Aubrey’s field goals after the break.
The Cowboys were cruising when Prescott lost control of the ball while being sacked by Fletcher Cox in the third quarter, and Carter picked up the loose ball and ran untouched to get the Eagles within 24-13.
“The fourth-down stop was probably the biggest one of the game,” McCarthy said. “That was a huge momentum swing in the game. I thought our defense was lights out tonight.”
Smith later had the last of Philadelphia's three fumbles, ending any realistic hopes for a rally. All three fumbles ended promising drives for the Eagles, who were coming off a 42-19 loss to San Francisco.
“It was the same thing two weeks in a row,” Cox said. “We kind of dug ourselves a hole in the first half. It was kind of hard getting our way out. I think the biggest thing for this team now is really find out who the dudes are.”
Prescott was 24 of 39 for 271 yards, and the Cowboys limited Hurts to 197 yards passing and 30 rushing.
CHURNING IT OUT
Ferguson is compiling quite the highlight reel of hurdle plays, and now the second-year player has consecutive games of at least five catches and at least 70 yards for the first time.
“Confidence is through the roof with him,” Prescott said. “He’s a fun guy to play with. Active, will do whatever it takes. Wants to make the catch, wants to jump over guys.”
Eagles: At Seattle on Monday, Dec. 18. The Seahawks' loss at San Francisco means Philadelphia won't face a team with a winning record in its final four games.
Cowboys: At Buffalo next Sunday in the first of consecutive road matchups with AFC East playoff contenders. The second is division-leading Miami.
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