The Cowboys ended the regular season on a high, beating the Eagles 51-26. It wasn’t Dallas’ most consistent win this season, but a lot has been accomplished nonetheless:

Took it seriously

Such is life in Week 18 that it’s an achievement, but it is, especially given the competition. The Eagles posted this one, benching their starting quarterback, running back, tight end, two starting offensive linemen, three starting defensive linemen and half of their secondary. Jason Kelce, five-time Pro Bowl center, played precisely one snap to maintain his streak before hopping off the bench. Wide receiver DeVonta Smith stayed on just long enough to set Philadelphia’s rookie receiving record and then join him on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys have tried. In the tradition of Jerry Jones pre-match warning, Dak Prescott played in the fourth quarter. The same goes for the starting offensive line and the receiving corps. Ezekiel Elliott probably would have done it too if he hadn’t hit 1,000 yards this season at the end of the third quarter.

Your mileage on this probably varies, and for good reason. On the one hand, the Cowboys almost certainly qualify for the fourth seed in the NFC playoff bracket, so why not take some inspiration from Philadelphia and put their valuable players back? On the other hand, no one needed Jones’s reminders or Mike mccarthy that the offense looked far from ready for the playoffs in the second half of the season.

To Dallas’ credit, things worked. There’s the obvious caveat that those 51 points are largely against saves, but the NFL’s most significant offense deserves some measure for shredding those second and third strings the way they should. Prescott played one of his most effective halves of the season, completing 16 of 21 passes for 240 yards and four touchdowns in the first two quarters. Ezekiel Elliott looked sharper than he has been in weeks, racking up 87 yards on 18 carries, his highest rushing average in a game since Week 9, and his rushing yards. since Week 5. Amari Cooper, after asking for more work in the passing game, added 79 receiving yards – his fourth highest total of the season – while Dalton Schultz scored two touchdowns to continue his ascent on the Cowboys’ priority list during the free agency offseason. Once the starters were in the fourth quarter, Cooper Rush led a pair of touchdowns to push Dallas past half a century. And Greg Zuerlein… missed another extra point.

It wasn’t all perfect, in other words, but it was pretty close. The Cowboys won, the offense gained confidence and no one was injured. It was the best tune-up possible before the playoffs.

Keep a streak alive

The Cowboys drew first blood from this reception from Cedrick Wilson early in the first quarter:

Why am I mentioning this?

Make that 10-0. I can’t tell you why this is a thing, and I wonder if it is a good thing. But something tells me that everyone’s collective blood pressure will be much lower if Dallas is first on the board next weekend.

I took out the brooms

The Cowboys have won all six games against their NFC East rivals, and if you’re prone to “Well, actually” that statistic looking at the collective mediocrity of Philadelphia, New York and Washington, let me counter by emphasizing that the Cowboys had only done this two other times in franchise history.

It matters, in other words, just as the Cowboys don’t let their inferior opponents strike over their weight. It won’t win them a Super Bowl. But it plays a big part in making the playoffs and whether or not to hunt one.

Made a famous judge very happy (probably) ✓

Let’s take a moment to discuss third-string running back Ito Smith, who crashed into the end zone early in the fourth quarter. Ito, it should be noted, is not Smith’s first name. It’s also not a terribly intuitive nickname for a guy whose birth certificate says “Romarius.”

How did this happen, you may be wondering? Because – and I swear I’m not making this up – when Smith’s 4-year-old cousin came to visit her in the hospital as a newborn baby, she noticed he looked like strikingly to Lance Ito, the judge of OJ Simpson’s murder. test. Truly. There is an article on that and all, in which Judge Ito said to the late Vaughn McClure, “[H]after having watched [Smith] and finding out that he is a handsome and talented man is certainly not a bad thing.

You can read about it here, on what you can judge — understood? Yeah? Why don’t you laugh? – how strange the resemblance between baby Smith and adult Ito is. Personally, I think the jury is out. But there’s no denying Smith’s performance on this piece (OK, I’m quitting).

Made history

Dallas entered this game after scoring 479 points during the season and came out with 530, a new franchise record. That’s thanks in large part to Prescott, who broke Tony Romo’s franchise record for touchdown passes in a season with 37. After Prescott and the starters sat down for the night, the runner Fourth String Balloon JaQuan Hardy, This Year’s Dumbest Moment Star Hard knocks, became the 22nd Cowboy this season to score a touchdown, an NFL record for a team.

All told, at the end of the night, the 2021 Cowboys became the first team in league history to have players with 4,000 passing yards (Prescott), 1,000 rushing yards (Elliott). , 1,000 yards receiving (CeeDee Lamb), double-digit sacks (Micah Parsons) and double-digit interceptions (Trevon Diggs). And, for funsies, Pro Bowl bettor Bryan Anger’s net average of 44.6 this season set a Cowboys record and is tied for fourth in NFL history.

These are the last of many milestones the Cowboys have set in 2021. They have helped make this regular season a time worth remembering and celebrating, however playoffs unfold.

There are many ways to win in the NFL, many of them boring, some downright cynical. More often than not, the Cowboys have delivered some thrilling ones, through Diggs flying around high school and Parsons prowling all levels of defense, Lamb’s escapades after the capture and break-up of Tony Pollard in games of race and back, Prescott spreading the ball and Randy Gregory walks away from the edge.

Dallas have been very good this year, and they’ve been spectacular too: the best offense of the game combined with their most opportunistic defense. Some weeks the Cowboys were amazing; others, they were mediocre. But they were still worth watching from at least one side of the ball, which is a real achievement for a group tasked with entertaining us for four and a half months. It’s a success tied with their dozen wins.

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Mike Piellucci

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Mike Piellucci is D Magazinesports editor of. He is a former staff member of athleticism and VICE, and his freelance …