While the AFC had Kansas City vs. Buffalo to highlight its Week 6 schedule, the NFC had a Sunday night showdown between the 5-0 Philadelphia Eagles and 4-1 Dallas Cowboys. In a game where momentum switched by the quarter, the Cowboys had a momentary comeback after going down early, but the Eagles claimed a sixth straight victim to begin the 2022 season, and continued its best start in 18 years with a 26-17 win.
Even Quarter Stunners
The opening quarter of each half offered very little for the Eagles to celebrate, but the even quarters brought out an entirely different Philadelphia team. After a tepid start to the game featuring a punt-filled first quarter, it took the blink of an eye for the Eagles to be all over the Cowboys, nearly playing them out of the game.
Philadelphia mounted two straight touchdown drives that went right through the Cowboys’ defense, and Dallas got just a single offensive play between the two — an interception by the Eagles’ Chauncey Gardner-Johnson that sent the Philly offense right back out moments after completing a 15-play series in the end zone. The Eagles scored on each of their two subsequent possessions in the first half, simultaneously forcing a pair of turnovers from the Cowboys, one on an interception and another on downs. The early damage led to a 20-3 halftime lead.
After a Dallas comeback in the third quarter, where the Cowboys mounted their only two touchdowns, Philadelphia again came through with the big plays it needed to put the game away. Following the Cowboys’ second touchdown drive, Philly burned over seven minutes of clock on a ground-based, 13-play touchdown drive that made it a two-score game. A 6-0 start was largely iced away just a few snaps later, when Brandon Graham hit Dallas quarterback Cooper Rush on a pass, resulting in an underthrown ball picked by Gardner-Johnson once again.
Rush took over the Cowboys’ offense in Week 1 to tempered expectations. Yet he led the team to four straight victories, in the process becoming the first Cowboy and only the 14th quarterback in NFL history to begin his career 5-0 (he had one victory in 2021). In his four starts, he went 65/105 for 775 yards and four touchdowns, without a single turnover.
The Cowboys have entered the danger zone. They’ve been great about not falling behind big with Cooper Rush at QB. This is going to be a problem tonight
— trey wingo (@wingoz) October 17, 2022
After a gilded start to his career, even generating some jokes that he could replace Dak Prescott as the team’s franchise quarterback, the undefeated Eagles won the battle against the undefeated QB. Rush began the game just 5/16 for 36 yards in the first half, missing several passes that he had hit with regularity in the weeks prior. The Eagles’ secondary kept up the pressure, and picked off a pair of throws as part of their early surge that led to the quick lead.
Well at least,we ended the keep Rush starting or bring back Dak as starter controversy.
— Wade Phillips (@sonofbum) October 17, 2022
Rush salvaged things in the second half, leading the team’s comeback with touchdown drives of nine and 15 plays and throwing one touchdown, making it a one possession game in the final quarter. But that underthrown pass in the fourth quarter, to an open CeeDee Lamb deep, was his third interception and closed the Cowboys’ chances at a win. His final numbers in his first career loss: 18/38 for only 181 yards, with the touchdown and three picks, in his likely final game as the team’s starter, barring another injury. Dallas expects Prescott to return for the team’s next contest.
Looking Good, Philly
In a surprisingly strong NFC East, the Eagles had both the Cowboys and New York Giants (4-1 entering Week 6) to contend with atop the division as the week began. The Giants remain a threat as they picked up their fifth win, but the Eagles gained a big advantage over Dallas with Sunday night’s win, now leading Dallas by two games and holding the initial head-to-head advantage. The two teams will meet again in Week 16.
Philadelphia was already the only undefeated team in the NFL as the week began, and with the win give the NFL a 6-0 team for the fifth consecutive season. Each of the five teams to also start 6-0 in the prior four seasons went on to win their seventh game, and all but one reached at least 8-0 before suffering their first loss. Unsurprisingly, all five of those teams also reached the postseason, with two — the Rams in 2018 and 49ers in 2019 — representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.
It is only the second 6-0 start in Eagles history, and the first instance was a memorable one for the franchise. In 2004, the Eagles began the season 7-0, finished the regular season 13-3, and made the franchise’s second Super Bowl.