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NFC East Notebook: The Cowboys’ comeback, Washington stutters and Philly drops

Let’s check out the news around the division this week

Atlanta Falcons v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Following Week 1 of play, the Washington Football Team dominated headlines around the NFC East because of its improbable first place standing. After Week 2 though, the news around not only the division but the league as a whole was the Dallas Cowboys.

In the past 20 seasons, teams leading by 15 points or more in the final five minutes of a game had a record of 1,875-6. The Cowboys were 25-1 underdogs to beat the Falcons at William Hill sportsbooks in Nevada in the fourth quarter.

So though the comeback has become viral, let’s quickly set the scene. The Cowboys were trailing 29-10 entering the second half. After holding the Falcons scoreless in the third quarter, Dallas trailed 39-24 with 5:02 left in the game. They started with the ball on the Falcons’ 10-yard line.

Dak Prescott would drive the team down the field and connect with tight end Dalton Schultz for a touchdown. Trailing by 15, the Cowboys were going to have to go for the two point conversion on one of their touchdown scores. Head coach Mike McCarthy elected to go for it on the first one, but the Cowboys were stopped and the score stood at 39-30.

When the Falcons got the ball back, the Dallas defense forced just the second punt of the second half. Then Prescott got the ball back and completed four of six passes for 66 yards. Michael Gallup made a 38-yard catch two plays later to set up touchdown run by Prescott.

Then, of course, came the onside kick. Last season, teams converted onside kicks 10.7 percent of the time in the fourth quarter. Strangely enough in Week 1, the Falcons recovered an onside kick in the fourth quarter themselves.

Greg Zuerlein’s spinning kick rolled and rolled and no Falcons player jumped on the ball. C.J. Goodwin was able to pick it up and we all know what happens from there.

Sunday’s 40-39 victory over the Falcons is now the second-largest comeback in Cowboys history. Prescott became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 450 yards and rush for three touchdowns in the game.

Let’s check out the other top headlines from around the league this week.

Philadelphia Eagles

Meanwhile things in Philly are not as joyful as the Eagles sit at 0-2 to start the season after a 37-19 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 2. Poor performances from Carson Wentz and turnovers all-around have contributed to back-to-back losses by the Eagles.

After two weeks, the Eagles rank last in the league in turnover differential (-5) with one takeaway and six giveaways. Their opponents have scored 30 points directly off turnovers alone.

Meanwhile, Wentz has completed 50 pass in 85 attempts for a completion percentage of 58.8 in his first two starts. He averages six yards per attempt, has thrown two touchdowns, four interceptions and has a 68.3 passer rating. He has also fumbled the ball twice and lost one of them.

As the eighth-highest paid quarterback in the league, the Eagles expect much more out of Wentz. His inaccuracy issues began in Week 1 and he showed no signs of improvement in Week 2, particularly when he had a wide open Zach Ertz open on third-and-five and threw wide and high.

It doesn’t help matters that Jalen Reagor suffered a UCL tear in his thumb against the Rams and is now expected to miss multiple weeks. Philly has been counting on the speedy rookie to help them make some breakout plays, but it looks like they are going to have to wait.

Washington Football Team

After an impressive Week 1 comeback win over the Eagles, the Washington Football Team had a much more sobering experience in Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals. They lost 30-15 in a manner that reminded anyone who had gotten too excited about Washington in Week 1 that it is still rebuilding.

Washington was held scoreless by the Cardinals in the first half, marking the second-straight week that the offense got off to a slow start. Washington did not score against the Eagles in Week 1 until the very end of the first half. In the second halves of both games, offensive coordinator Scott Turner made the decision to speed up the tempo and both second halves were more productive.

“Then you get in a little bit of a hurry-up situation with a little bit of angst going on and you see him connecting,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “You see it all being kind of put together. That’s the guy that we want to see when we start the game.”

Dwayne Haskins Jr. also expressed confidence in an up-tempo offense.

“I feel very comfortable in a tempo, no-huddle offense...When you think too much you play slower,” Haskins said. “I feel like I’ve gotten to an understanding now where I’m playing faster and trying to get the guys to play the same speed I’m playing at.”

The offense might be slow to start but Haskins is showing signs of growth. He threw four interceptions in 22 attempts in his first two games last season, both off which came off the bench. In his eight starts since then, Haskins has thrown one interception just three times in 212 attempts. He has not thrown an interception in his last three games.

Dallas Cowboys

So the Cowboys pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in franchise history last week.

But it is important to remember that this is the same team that lost to the Rams in Week 1. And while the comeback was impressive, the only reason the Cowboys had to climb all the way back was because the offense was almost nonexistent for the first two quarters. Just because the Cowboys were lucky last week does not mean they will get lucky again. Dallas has a tough opponent in Week 3 as it takes on Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks.

Wilson is coming off of a strong performance against the New England Patriots in which he finished 21/28 for 288 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. Wilson’s ability to use his legs to keep plays alive will pose a challenge to a still-developing Cowboys defense.

And when he isn’t running, Wilson is looking to connect with one of his top receivers, which poses another mismatch for an injury-riddled Cowboys secondary. Look for the Cowboys to try to capitalize on the relative weakness of Seattle’s offensive line and force Wilson to scramble to get ride of the ball.

The Cowboys offensive linemen meanwhile will have their work cut out for them as the Seahawks are among the top blitzing teams by percentage this season at 36 percent.

Sunday’s contest against the Seahawks will help to determine whether last week’s win against the Falcons was the marking of a very talented team or, simply a fluke.