ARLINGTON, Texas — The shirt didn’t work.
The Eagles not only didn’t beat the Dallas Cowboys in the 41-21 contest, Philadelphia also never even found a lead as the Cowboys improved to 2-1 and took an early lead in the NFC East.
The Cowboys’ game plan was balanced.
An offense coordinated by Kellen Moore, whom the Eagles interviewed in January for their head coaching vacancy, scored three times by air and twice by ground as Dak Prescott utilized a variety of weapons.
Prescott was an efficient 21-of-26 for 238 yards and three touchdowns in his first contest back. Running back Ezekiel Elliott led all rushers in the game, demolishing the center of the field to the tune of 95 yards and two touchdowns in his most dominant rushing performance so far this season.
‘MA, THE MEATLOAF!’ Eli provides humor, Peyton ponders ‘what if?’ with LeBron during MNF broadcast
Elliott’s pounding wasn’t the Eagles’ only problem, as Dallas running back Tony Pollard also burst for 60 yards on 11 carries. And it was tight end Dalton Schultz, whose shifty schematics yielded yards after carry aplenty, who caught two of Prescott’s touchdowns on the night.
And yet, in a change of pace from recent seasons, the Cowboys defense contributed just as substantially if not more to the momentum and tenor of a key division contest. Nabbing takeaways, they demonstrated to a crowd of 93,267 it is not a fluke or beginner’s luck in coordinator Dan Quinn’s first season in Dallas.
Second-year cornerback Trevon Diggs tormented fellow Alabama alumni in Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts and receiver Devonta Smith. Diggs’ 59-yard pick six was just one of three passes he deflected from Hurts. Add in defensive line pressure from rookies Micah Parsons and Osa Odighizuwa, and Cowboys fans would have been forgiven for forgetting that their best defender is out six to eight weeks with a fractured foot.
In all, the Cowboys didn’t flinch when allowing a big offensive gain (which they surely did at times) nor a turnover (the Eagles’ first score, a strip sack turned touchdown) nor even a sack of Prescott, whom replay reviews suggest may have crossed the plane for a rushing touchdown as well.
No, they hung in there to surpass .500 for the first time in head coach Mike McCarthy’s two-season tenure.
Pass protection and deep plays will be among the skills they’ll need to work on before hosting the Carolina Panthers next Sunday, but the halftime refrain as Cowboys legendary coach Jimmy Johnson received his Hall of Fame ring on the AT&T Stadium field described the night much more than Sirianni’s “Beat Dallas” shirt.
“How ’bout them Cowboys,” Johnson yelled yet again, and a packed crowd at AT&T Stadium erupted in cheers.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dallas Cowboys defeat Philadelphia Eagles to take early NFC East lead