Eagles Beat Cowboys 23-9 in Sloppy Battle for First Place
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Eagles couldn’t give the game away no matter how poorly they played.
Carson Wentz threw a pair of touchdown passes to overcome four turnovers, Rodney McLeod returned a fumble 53 yards for a score and the Eagles beat the Dallas Cowboys 23-9 on Sunday night.
A pair of two-win teams fighting for first place in the weak NFC East in Week 8 put on a sloppy performance fit for the preseason instead of prime time.
The Eagles (3-4-1) took control of the division with their second straight victory. Dallas (2-6) has lost three in a row.
“It didn’t look pretty,” said Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham, who had one of the team’s two strip-sacks. “We knew it was going to be a battle. We held strong.”
Dallas rookie Ben DiNucci, a seventh-round pick from James Madison making his first start, was sacked four times and lost two fumbles. He completed 21 of 40 passes for 180 yards.
“We clearly understand what this loss does to us,” Cowboys first-year coach Mike McCarthy said. “But we need to rally and get together here and move on. ... We took a step in the right direction in a number of areas, and felt a number of components of our football team also improved.”
Wentz threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles but his 9-yard TD pass to Travis Fulgham in the third quarter gave Philadelphia the lead for good. Wentz connected with Jalen Reagor on the 2-point conversion to make it 15-9.
“Too many turnovers. I got to be better,” Wentz said. “I’m not good enough.”
Dallas was driving at the Eagles 21 with a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter when DiNucci was sacked by T.J. Edwards and fumbled. McLeod picked up a loose ball and went the distance for a 21-9 lead. The 2-point conversion failed, but Dallas later took a safety on a punt.
DiNucci started because Andy Dalton is out with a concussion and Dak Prescott broke his right ankle in Week 5.
“I thought I played well at times,” DiNucci said. “Obviously. had two costly turnovers. The spot that we were in the game, field position, all that stuff, can’t really have that. So that’s on me.”
Boston Scott ran for a career-best 70 yards for the Eagles. Wentz finished 15 of 27 for 123 yards.
“A win is a win,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “We have to start stacking them together. We’re happy and excited to get the win, but we have some things to figure out.”
Greg Zuerlein hit a 59-yard field goal to give Dallas a 9-7 halftime lead. The Cowboys turned two fourth-down stops at their 44 into short-drive field goals.
DiNucci drove Dallas effectively on the opening possession and Zuerlein kicked a 49-yard field goal.
The Cowboys then had an excellent opportunity after Donovan Wilson strip-sacked Wentz and recovered at the Eagles 25. Dallas had a first down at the Eagles 4 before Brandon Graham stripped DiNucci on second down and recovered.
Philadelphia turned that turnover into a score as Wentz tossed a 2-yard TD pass to Reagor for a 7-3 lead. Reagor, the 21st overall pick, missed the previous five games following thumb surgery. A 32-yard pass to Fulgham set up the score.
The Eagles went for a fourth-and-3 at the Cowboys 44 on their next drive. Leighton Vander Esch sacked Wentz, knocking the ball away and Dallas recovered at Philadelphia’s 46. Zuerlein’s 49-yarder cut it to 7-6.
The Eagles had a first down from the Cowboys 34 late in the first half when Trevon Diggs made a sliding interception in the end zone. Dallas had three takeaways in the first half and four total after getting only three in the first seven games.
Diggs picked Wentz again on a deep pass on Philadelphia’s opening drive in the third quarter. But Zuerlein missed a 52-yarder wide right on the ensuing drive.
“I feel like we’re doing a heck of a job growing together,” Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence said. “We’ve just got to peak our game (from) tonight and come up with a win next time.”
The Eagles pulled out the Philly Special in the second quarter with wideout Greg Ward, a college quarterback, looking to throw to Wentz, who was covered. Ward ended up running for 2 yards.
The Cowboys had Elliott and Cedrick Wilson take direct snaps in a wildcat formation with DiNucci split wide.
Eagles: CB Darius Slay (ankle) and DT Malik Jackson (quad) left in the third quarter.
Cowboys: Host the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-0) next Sunday.
Eagles: Visit the New York Giants (1-6) on Nov. 15 following a bye.