PHILADELPHIA — The schedule shows the Cowboys lost on the first day of November to Philadelphia.
That’s not entirely accurate. Sunday’s outcome was determined one week earlier outside our nation’s capital.
Washington linebacker Jon Bostic is the reason the Cowboys fell to the Eagles, 23-9, on a dreary, windy evening at Lincoln Financial Field. The illegal hit that knocked Andy Dalton out of the end of that game and all of this one was the decisive blow.
Not Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz and his cringe-worthy performance. Not an Eagles defense that was gifted a late touchdown and safety to make the gap between these two bad teams appear greater than the actual divide.
Dalton was signed to win games like this when Dak Prescott is out. Chances are the veteran quarterback would have beaten the Eagles if he hadn’t been forced to stay home with a concussion.
Ben DiNucci was dreadful, producing an evening of cover-your-eyes moments. The rookie completed 21 of 40 passes for 180 yards and got the Cowboys close to the end zone only twice. He fumbled the first time in what turned out to be at least a 10-point swing. He came up short in the closing seconds when a touchdown wouldn’t have mattered.
What did you expect? The Cowboys didn’t draft DiNucci in the seventh round out of James Madison to start in Week 8 at Philadelphia.
“A tough ball game,” head coach Mike McCarthy said. “I obviously feel for our team.”
Dallas has been outscored 86-22 to lose three straight since Prescott was lost for the season with a gruesome compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle. The team lugs a 2-6 record into the second half of the season.
The franchise has had a worse record after eight games only twice since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule 42 years ago.
A defense that has been a drag on the team’s fortunes all season forced four turnovers and put the Cowboys in position to win this game and, ridiculously, take over the top spot in the NFC East.
The offense made sure that didn’t happen.
The Cowboys had three field goal drives in Sunday’s loss. DiNucci only had to navigate 47, 15 and 14 yards for those points.
Michael Gallup led the way with seven catches for 61 yards, but most were on bubble screens. None traveled for more than 12 yards. Tight end Dalton Schultz had two more catches and nearly double the yards of rookie CeeDee Lamb.
Amari Cooper came into the game with 53 receptions, a franchise record through seven games. He finished with one catch for five yards against Philadelphia.
“We had some opportunities,” McCarthy said. “Philadelphia had a number of injuries, and there were some matchups we would have liked to exploit more. But the wind was blowing pretty good, about 18 to 20 miles per hour, particularly in the second half. That made it tough.
“But the ability to get the ball on the perimeter would have benefitted us.”
Dallas did a nice job on the ground, particularly since the Eagles knew the Cowboys wanted to run and were loaded up to stop it. But Ezekiel Elliott failed to reach 100 yards for a career-high eighth consecutive game, finishing with 19 carries for 63 yards.
Sunday marked the second consecutive week that the Cowboys’ offense failed to find the end zone. The group has been on the field for 36 possessions in the aftermath of Prescott’s injury.
It has a not-so-grand total of one touchdown to show for it.
“I think, like anything in life, the game of football will teach you humility in every form and fashion,” McCarthy said. “That’s part of our challenge. I clearly believe we will be better off in the future because of these hard times.”
That brighter future doesn’t start next weekend. Pittsburgh, the league’s last undefeated team, awaits. Dalton should be back.
“[Dalton] was significantly better when I spoke to him on Saturday,” McCarthy said. “I would think he’d be close.”
It’s doubtful the game against the Steelers will be close, based on the results of the last three weeks.
But that’s a loss for another week.
Blame Sunday’s loss on Jon Bostic.
Catch David Moore and Robert Wilonsky as they co-host Intentional Grounding on The Ticket (KTCK-AM 1310 and 96.7 FM) every Wednesday night from 7-8 p.m. through the Super Bowl.