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Backups No Match For Cowboys First String

Eagles didn't play most of their starters, and it got ugly late in the first half with Dallas winning big a week beofre playoffs open

PHILADELPHIA – It was Eagles-Cowboys in name only.

Really, it was the Dallas varsity against the Philadelphia JV.

The Eagles sat every starter on defense and, on offense, only played two regular starters, center Jason Kelce and WR DeVotna Smith.

Kelce played only one snap, which was all the veteran needed to extend his streak of consecutive starts to 122, and Smith broke DeSean Jackson’s rookie record for most receiving yards in a season.

And as soon as he did Smith’s night was over.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, played their starters, at least those that were not on the COVID list, such as Micah Parsons, or injured, such as Trevon Diggs.

The offense was mostly intact, though, with Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and receivers Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Cedric Wilson playing through three quarters.

Playing against the Eagles' second, and mostly third, team defensive players, the Cowboys predictably put up enough points to win, 51-26, in the regular-season finale at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday night.

The loss snapped the Eagles’ winning streak at four games. Still, they will head into next week’s wildcard playoff round at 9-8 against an opponent on a day to be determined by Sunday evening.

Dallas’ season ended at 12-5 and the NFC East champs will be in action next week.

There is a slight chance that these same two teams could meet again next weekend, though it would be in Dallas.

There are two scenarios that could play out that would send the Eagles to Tampa Bay next week to meet the defending Super Bowl champions. There is one scenario that could send the Eagles to Los Angeles, Arizona, or Dallas.

Trying to gauge how a rematch against the Cowboys would turn out should it happen is difficult to gauge based on who played and who did not, on both sides.

The Eagles treated this as a preseason game, albeit with temperatures much lower than what they would be in August. This one was played with a game-time temperature of 26 degrees and a wind chill of 21 and was likely much colder by the time it ended.

The Eagles first touchdown came on a three-yard shovel pass from Gardner Minshew to Tyree Jackson, which was the first catch and first touchdown of his career. Jackson, though, suffered a knee injury in the second half could not continue.

The other TDs came on a 7-yard run from Kenny Gainwell and a 36-yard catch from Quez Watkins, in the final two miinutes. It was Watkins' his first score of the season and he finished with five receptions for 84 yards.

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Still, Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon played it like a preseason game. He didn’t blitz, didn’t do much more than rush four and play coverage. Straight vanilla stuff.

The Cowboys held a 30-17 lead at halftime, scoring two touchdowns in a span of 1:40 to cloe the half, the second set up in good field position after a 21-yard punt by the suddenly struggling Arryn Siposs, who ahad a 24-yard boot in the second half.

Prescott threw four touchdowns in the first half, two to Cedric Wilson and two to tight end Dalton Schultz. He added another in the second half, this one to former Eagles running back Corey Clement.

Head coach Nick Sirianni appeared to linger on the sidelines right before the half ended staring daggers at Dallas coach Mike McCarthy.

While Prescott played three quarters before Cooper Rush relieved him, Hurts wasn’t active.

The Eagles quarterback ended his first season as the team’s starter with 26 total touchdowns, 16 passing and 10 rushing. He threw for 3,144 yards and nine interceptions with a passer rating of 872. His 784 yards rushing led the team.

Smith took his seat late in the first quarter after breaking Jackson’s mark. Jackson held the mark of 912 set in 2008.

Smith needed 38 coming in. He got 41, catching passes of 25, 12, and four. It took an extra game for Smith to do it, but that didn’t matter to the Eagles or Smith.

Once he got the record, he headed to the bench and received congratulations from his teammates, his night, like just about every other Eagles starter, was over.

Despite an offensive line that, after Kelce left, went, from left to right, Andre Dillard, Sua Opeta, Brett Toth, Jack Anderson, and Le’Raven Clark, the Eagles’ running game still clicked.

Gainwell had 78 yards on 12 carries (6.5 yards per carry) with Jason Huntley adding 51 yards on 13 runs.

As a team, the Eagles ran for 149 yards, marking their 12th straight game with more than 100 yards rushing.

Minshew was nowhere near effective as he was in his only other start this season, when he was efficient against the New York Jets, completing his first 11 throws and finished 20-for-25 with 242 yards and two touchdowns in the win that day.

Against Dallas, Minshew was 19-for33 with 186 yards and two TDs.

Elliott ran for 87 yards on 18 carries to spark a Cowboys ground game that piled up 171 yards against backups.

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.