NFL teams whose playoff qualification is almost assured often rest their starters before the postseason. That wasn’t the case for the Cowboys on Saturday night.
Quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott and most of the rest of the offensive front line stayed in the game until early in the fourth quarter. His final series ended with Prescott throwing his fifth touchdown pass of the game, which broke Tony Romo’s franchise record for touchdown passes in a season.
Coach Mike McCarthy said after the game that in addition to getting the win, the team wanted all 48 active players to enter the game. But he also said he felt it was important for the team to establish “rhythm and timing going into the playoffs.”
“We talked about it on the Sunday after last week’s game. We all clearly felt this is for the best, “McCarthy said.” The players wanted to play. Even the non-playing guys wanted to play, so I think it tells you where we are as a football team, and that’s exciting. This was the right thing to do for us, and I’m glad how it turned out. “
It wasn’t until 12:44 left in the game that backup quarterback Cooper Rush entered the game for Dallas. The Cowboys were leading 37-20 at the time. They ended up winning 51-26.
The Cowboys’ playoff fate was almost certain heading into Saturday. They entered the night as the No. 4 seed in the NFC. To advance to the No. 3 seed, they would need the Rams to lose to the 49ers, the Buccaneers to beat the Panthers and the Cardinals to lose to the Seahawks on Sunday. To get to the No. 2 seed, they would need victories by the 49ers, Panthers and Seahawks.
According to FanDuel Sportsbook, the Rams are favorites by 3.5 points, the Cardinals are favorites by 5.5 points and the Buccaneers are favorites by 8.5 points in their respective games.
McCarthy’s decision to leave the starters was in stark contrast to the fact that Eagles coach Nick Sirianni laid off several offensive starters, including quarterback Jalen Hurts.
The most notable benefit for the Cowboys was that Prescott set the team’s record for touchdown passes in a season with his 37th, surpassing the mark set by Romo in 2007. Meanwhile, Elliott had a chance to hit 1,000 rushing yards. for the first time since 2019. He did it in the second part.
Prescott finished the game competing 21 of 27 passes for 295 yards, five touchdowns and no turnovers.
The Cowboys (12-5) lost their previous game, falling to the Cardinals 25-22. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak. Dallas has been the number one scoring offense in the NFL this season, but there was concern after Arizona’s game that it was on a losing streak. Before that meeting, the Cowboys had scored more than 30 points just twice in their last six games, though one of the games was a 56-14 beating of Washington in Week 16.
If the playoff field remains the same as Sunday, Dallas would face the Cardinals again in the wild-card round.