ARLINGTON, Texas -- Moments before the Dallas Cowboys kicked off against the Los Angeles Rams, the Philadelphia Eagles put away the Washington Redskins, putting pressure on the Cowboys to keep pace in the NFC East.
Few could have predicted what happened next.
The Cowboys put together a dominating performance against the Rams, winning 44-21, not so much to avenge the January playoff loss in Los Angeles as to make sure they will have a playoff game in January 2020.
The Cowboys (7-7) can clinch the NFC East next Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, Fox) against Philadelphia (7-7) with a victory at Lincoln Financial Field. The Cowboys have won seven of their nine games in Philadelphia with Jason Garrett as coach (interim or otherwise).
To get to this point, the Cowboys turned back the clock.
For the first time since Nov. 4, Ezekiel Elliott ran for more than 100 yards, finishing with 117 on 24 carries. For the second straight game he ran for two touchdowns, giving him 10 on the season. He looked as explosive Sunday as at any point this season. It was his sixth 100-yard game of the season.
Linebacker Sean Lee, who did not practice all week because of pectoral and thigh injuries, recorded his first interception since Dec. 10, 2017, and his first full sack since Dec. 7, 2015. It marked the first time Lee, 33, had a sack and interception in the same game in his 10-year career.
Tight end Jason Witten, 37, opened the Cowboys' scoring with a 19-yard touchdown grab, a one-hander on a throw from quarterback Dak Prescott. It was Witten's fourth touchdown of the season and the 72nd of his career, breaking a tie with Hall of Famer Bob Hayes for second most in franchise history. Dez Bryant holds the team record with 73.
Kai Forbath, who won a kicker tryout last Monday, made all of his point-after attempts. His 50-yard field goal to open the third quarter was his longest since 2017, when he played with the Minnesota Vikings. It didn't start great for Forbath, whose opening kickoff went out of bounds, but he made two 42-yard field goals. It was a welcomed change after seeing Brett Maher miss a league-high 10 field goal tries.
It was the Cowboys' first win against a team with a winning record since Week 13 last season when they beat the New Orleans Saints 13-10.
That win gave the Cowboys confidence that they could compete in the NFC. Maybe this win can do the same.
Silver lining: The Cowboys reverted back to their formula for success. It's the running game. Perhaps it was Rams specific, but it's what the Cowboys had to do and it came at the right time. The Cowboys had touchdown drives of 90 and 97 yards in the first half. Combine that with Tony Pollard's 131-yard day and the Cowboys had their best rushing day of the season, which allowed them to dominate time of possession. The formula worked in 2014 with DeMarco Murray and in 2016-2018 with Elliott. Looking ahead, Elliott has run for at least 96 yards in each of his five career games against Philadelphia.
QB breakdown: After a rough stretch in the Cowboys' three-game losing streak, Prescott returned to form. He had his first game with multiple touchdown passes and no interceptions since the Cowboys' last win on Nov. 17 against Detroit. He finished with 212 yards on 15-of-23 passing and had touchdown passes to Witten and Tavon Austin. After he was overly aggressive on a third-down deep ball on the Cowboys' first drive, Prescott settled in and took what was given to him. The Cowboys need him to stay error-free to maximize their chances.