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The Vent: All tricks, no treats as Cowboys stumble to another loss

The Dallas Cowboys now sit at 2-6 through the first eight weeks of the 2020 NFL season after squandering four takeaways in a 23-9 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

DALLAS — If you are a Dallas Cowboys fan, and were waiting all day for Sunday night (you know you sang it), the Sunday Night Football game failed to deliver on any sort of promise of entertainment. 

The Cowboys fell to the rival Philadelphia Eagles 23-9 on Halloween weekend and Dallas’ play remains quite frightening.

Losing is never fun, especially when it’s against the Eagles, but at least the Cowboys didn’t embarrass themselves for the first time in weeks. They didn’t follow that same tired script that they’ve been using week in and week out throughout the 2020 season.

RELATED: Cowboys force four turnovers but fail to take advantage in loss to Eagles

In fact, Dallas actually had an early lead, created takeaways, and put pressure on the opposing quarterback. That’s three things that the Cowboys have sorely lacked this season and they were able to do them against the Eagles. The team also put forth a strong effort for four quarters, which was a step in the right direction.

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t another woeful performance, though. It was always going to be a difficult task for rookie quarterback Ben DiNucci to lead the Cowboys to a win, but the hope was that he’d give the offense a spark perhaps just via the veterans around him looking to step up and support a seventh-round rookie QB making his first NFL start. That didn’t turn out to be the case.

The Dallas fanbase likes their food-based sayings. There’s the ‘Let Dak cook!’ mantra begging for Dak Prescott to throw the ball more and the ‘Feed Zeke!’ moniker to keep giving the ball to Ezekiel Elliott. 

However, on Sunday, the Cowboys decided that they didn’t even want to let DiNucci get near the kitchen. Heck, to paraphrase a famous quote from former coach Bill Parcells, they didn’t even want him to shop for the groceries.

For an organization that sounded like they had confidence in DiNucci, and praised his ability all week, they failed mightily to back up those claims. 

The game plan called for gimmicks and trick plays to get the offense moving. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore dialed up plays that were designed for anyone but the rookie signal caller to have the ball in his hands. It felt like the Cowboys were running a high school varsity offense for most of the game.

The razzle dazzle worked for the first drive, which netted the Cowboys three points, but it fizzled out as the game wore on. The wildcat formation hasn’t been a thing in the NFL for years now, but the Cowboys kept trying it with Elliott over and over. Coincidentally, as the contest progressed, we saw why the Cowboys felt the need for all the trickery.

DiNucci had a difficult time throwing the ball down the field, often slinging it sideways to his receivers as he danced around defenders. There were also plays where he would try to make throws from awkward arm angles, and, at other times, he didn’t have the pocket presence to feel the pass rush surrounding him.

All of the above is possibly standard extremely green rookie quarterback stuff, but that’s not what the Cowboys were selling throughout the week. If it wasn’t abundantly clear before this game that Prescott is an outstanding quarterback and the Cowboys’ offense is suffering without him, it is now.

It is unfortunate that DiNucci and the offense didn’t look competent, because the defense actually pitched in and played well.

After getting lackluster performances on the defensive side of the ball for the first seven games, the Dallas defense showed signs of life. The Cowboys sacked QB Carson Wentz four times, created four turnovers, and held the Eagles to just 222 total yards. That total is a Dallas season-best.

Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence led the charge with a sack and three tackles for a loss, while linebacker Leighton Vander Esch had his best game in nearly a year with a sack, a forced fumble and a tackle for a loss.

Rookie corner Trevon Diggs, whom the Eagles picked on for much of the game, also created two turnovers with the first two interceptions of his career. Diggs’ two-interception night was the first time a Cowboy had multiple pickoffs in one game since Jeff Heath in 2015.

The point is, the Cowboys just cannot seem to put together a complete game. When their offense was humming with Prescott, the defense was putrid. The defense was getting things done against the Eagles, but the offense couldn’t pull its weight.

When the best thing you can say about the Cowboys is at least they tried hard, it says a lot about the direction they’ve been heading. Dallas gave their best, but it was clear that they didn’t have the pieces on offense to come out of The City of Brotherly Love with a win.

To no one’s surprise, a game plan of gimmicks on offense wasn’t enough. All that confidence in the 3rd string QB went out the window when the game started and Cowboys fans were left disappointed again. 

There weren’t enough treats from the Cowboys this Halloween, just tricks in their latest defeat.

Do you think the Cowboys have any shot at beating the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 9? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.