What We Saw: Week 18

Week 18 was one of the craziest of the season thanks to Jacksonville's stout defense

Cowboys @ Eagles

Final Score: Cowboys 51, Eagles 26

Writer: Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)


On a historic night for Dak Prescott, the Dallas Cowboys cruised into the playoffs with a convincing victory over a Philadelphia Eagles team filled with backups. Prescott threw for five touchdown passes for the first time in his career and also set a new franchise season-high for touchdown passes in a single regular season with 37, surpassing his predecessor Tony Romo. What an achievement for Prescott coming off his terrible ankle injury in 2020, a remarkable bounceback season.

Eagles Head Coach Nick Sirianni chose to rest almost all of his starters with the Eagles already guaranteed a post-season berth and with little chance to improve their seeding. That suited Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys just fine after a difficult month for Prescott and the offense, which needed this type of game to prepare them for the post-season.

Gardner Minshew traded blows with Prescott early but the Eagles stand-ins could not sustain the pace as the Cowboys ran all over them in the second half. In the end, it was the Cowboys backups that enjoyed putting the cherry on top of a perfect night for Dallas, who put up 50+ points for the first time ever in Philadelphia. Stick that in your cheesesteak!


Dallas Cowboys




Dak Prescott: 21/27, 295 yards, 5 TD, Sack

Cooper Rush: 1/1, 10 yards | 3 carries, -4 yards


Dak Prescott rolled majestically into the playoffs with a virtuoso performance against a depleted Eagles defense by throwing four first half touchdowns en-route to breaking the franchise record for the most touchdown passes in a season. After the injury to Michael Gallup last week, Prescott continued to feed Cedric Wilson targets in the red zone.


Prescott led five scoring drives in the first half, four of them for touchdowns. The go-ahead throw to Dalton Schultz near the goal line exhibited just how finely tuned this offense was in the red zone today. Dak was executing his reads perfectly.


With the expectation that Prescott would be pulled from the game once the franchise record had been achieved, Kellen Moore dialled up a fifth and record-breaking call to give Dak a monumental day at the office. The Cowboys offensive line is literally an extra offensive weapon for Prescott, allowing him time in the pocket to throw. However, Dak is exceptional at sticking in the pocket allowing plays to develop, as we see on this touchdown pass to Corey Clement.


Prescott finishes the regular season by completing 69% of his passes for 4,449 yards and a 37:10 TD/INT ratio. Elite.


Running Back


Ezekiel Elliot: 18 carries, 87 yards | 3 targets, 1 reception, 3 yards

Corey Clement: 7 carries, 58 yards | 4 targets, 4 receptions, 22 yards, TD

JaQuan Hardy: 3 carries, 26 yards, TD

Ito Smith: 1 carry, 4 yards, TD


There have been plenty of questions around who is the better back in Dallas but Ezekiel Elliot ensured that statistically at the very least it is he. Elliot ran efficiently if not spectacularly against the Eagles backup defensive line, averaging 4.8 yards per carry and taking his total yardage on the ground for the season above 1,000 for the fourth time in his career.


Elliot was totally outplayed by Corey Clement, however, as the former Eagles running back averaged a whopping 8.3 yards on his seven carries, and also caught all his four targets out of the backfield for 22 yards and Prescott’s fifth touchdown pass of the day. Clement stepped into the role vacated by the injured Tony Pollard.

As the score racked up, the Cowboys backups got a chance to show what they could do. On this third team for the season, Ito Smith made his name known to Cowboys fans.


And the final piece in the Cowboys running back room, JaQuan Hardy also got in on the action. It doesn’t mean much but it doesn’t look good either that all the Cowboys backs apart from Elliot found the end zone today.


Wide Receiver/Tight End


Cedrick Wilson: 6 targets, 5 receptions, 119 yards, 2 TD

Amari Cooper: 7 targets, 5 receptions, 79 yards

CeeDee Lamb: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 45 yards

Dalton Schultz: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 21 yards, 2 TD

Jeremy Sprinkle: 1 target, 1 reception, 10 yards

Blake Jarwin: 2 targets, 1 reception, 6 yards


The Cowboys ran with their first team offense for much of the first three quarters, surprising some especially when they were still allowing CeeDee Lamb to return punts. Still, the rhythm that Mike McCarthy wanted to find with this offense came quickly and all the major pieces had a hand in the victory. Lamb hauled in this difficult catch that was thrown slightly behind him to setup the Cowboys’ first score of the day. Lamb finished with just two catches for 45 yards but they were crucial in setting up the first half numbers. Lamb and Amari Cooper did much of the damage in extending drives before the break.


The night belonged to Cedrick Wilson, however, who had a career night as he stepped into the role vacated by Gallup and was a clear favorite target deep in Eagles territory, turning two targets into two touchdowns. It was his first multi-touchdown game of the season and only the second time he had amassed 100+ yards in the campaign. Wilson has excellent ability to create separation from the line of scrimmage and he is a give-it-all guy who the Cowboys love. Look for him to be a legitimate WR3 next season if Gallup moves on.


There haven’t been many better tight end fliers than Dalton Schultz over the past few years. The former Stanford product hauled in his seventh and eighth touchdown catches of the season, finishing with over 800 yards and firmly establishing himself as a top fantasy tight end option in 2022.


Philadelphia Eagles




Gardner Minshew: 19/33, 186 yards, 2 TD, INT, 3 sacks | 5 carries, 10 yards


With Jalen Hurts rested for the playoffs, the “Minshew Mania” fun continued in Philadelphia with Gardner Minshew suiting up to start this game and lead a second-string outfit on the most part. For about 20 minutes, it was nothing but fun and heart from the much-loved cult quarterback. Even when it was horrible, it turned out fun…


Minshew led an 11-play, 75-yard opening drive for a score, finishing it off with this delightful shovel pass to quarterback-turned-tight-end Tyrie Jackson for his first ever catch in the NFL. What a way to start!


From there, however, it only went downhill as Minshew could not inspire his supporting cast to play above themselves as the Cowboys defense took control. Minshew performed admirably and showed why he is one of the best backups in the league, a valuable commodity. He fittingly finished his night by finding emerging wideout Quez Watkins for a 36-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to provide an air of respectability to the scoreline.


Running Back


Kenneth Gainwell: 12 carries, 78 yards, TD | 7 targets, 4 receptions, 9 yards

Jason Huntley: 13 carries, 51 yards | 1 target


Mile Sanders would not have played in this game even if he had recovered from injury. Boston Scott and Jordan Howard were both ruled out due to COVID protocols so it was left to underused rookie Kenneth Gainwell and practice-squad promotion Jason Huntley (a second year back initially drafted by the Lions) to lead the Eagles backfield. And for the first half at least they managed to keep the Cowboys defense guessing, exploding through the middle and making things happen for this offense. Gainwell, thought to be more of a threat out of the backfield in the passing game, actually showed some nice moves when running outside the zone. He looked impressive and ran in to bring the Eagles level late in the second quarter.


As the script fell away from the run game (the Eagles gave up two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the first half), the Eagles struggled to sustain drives as the Cowboys put up a big second half lead. It was a shame as the check-down game failed to work effectively and Minshew was forced into third-and-long more often than not.


Wide Receiver/Tight End


Quez Watkins: 7 targets, 5 receptions, 84 yards, TD

DeVonta Smith: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 41 yards

Tyrie Jackson: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 22 yards, TD

Jalen Reagor: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 19 yards

Richard Rodgers: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 11 yards

Greg Ward: 2 targets, 1 reception, 2 yards | 1/1, 2 yards

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside: 2 targets


DeVonta Smith was one of a few Eagles starters that played some time in this game, mainly with the aim of breaking DeSean Jackson‘s franchise rookie receiving record. He did so in the second quarter and was immediately removed to save him from the playoffs. Despite falling 84 yards short of a 1,000 yard-season, Smith led the team in targets with 104 and was impressive week-in, week-out. His ability to beat defenders across the formation will be a valuable asset going into his second year.


The Eagles will be glad to have hit at the receiver position with Smith after a number of high-profile failures in drafting at the position over the past few years. Even in this game, former high draft picks Jalen Reagor and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside showed exactly why they have been busts with a number of disappointing drops and poor route-running plays, one of which resulted in an interception – Arcega-Whiteside showing poor hands to tip the ball into the hands of the Cowboys defense.

One player who has been a find is 2021 sixth-round selection Quez Watkins. The Southern Miss receiver has flashed his ability in every game this season and his work ethic has been rewarded with an increased role. He equalled his season-high in targets with seven in this game, producing a season-high five catches for 84 yards and his first receiving score of the season.


Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)

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