ARLINGTON, Texas — Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his tenure that has made his team the most valuable in the world. Part of Jones’ playbook is having the attitude that “all news is good news” when it comes to media attention. He almost never shies away from proclaiming his Cowboys to be “Super Bowl or bust” or that his current team (now 5-2) is his most talented team. Following Dallas’ 43-20 smackdown of the visiting Los Angeles Rams in Week 8, he took a humble approach in his regular postgame chat with media members on Sunday.
“Well, no, I think we just need to call it for what it is,” Jones said postgame when asked if a complete team win has him thinking about the Super Bowl. “We played a good game today l and we got to do it again here next week.
“I’ve been watching, on the side up there, the Washington, Philly game [the Eagles won 38-31] and both those clubs are ahead of us, Washington two times. Philadelphia two times. We got our work cut out for us.”
A measured Jones who refuses to look ahead to the Super Bowl and wants to stay squarely in the present? Jerry, blink twice if you are currently the victim of bribery, extortion or another disgusting crime. Ahead of the Cowboys’ Week 9 matchup at the defending NFC champion Eagles (7-1), Jones is avoiding any pregame hype about facing one of Dallas’ most-hated NFC East rivals. Head coach Mike McCarthy and multiple Dallas players embraced the idea that their Week 5 game against the 49ers, the 2022 NFC runner-up and the team that had bounced them in the playoffs the last two seasons, was more than just another regular season game. The Cowboys went on to suffer their most humiliating loss of the 2023 season on “Sunday Night Football,” losing 42-10 as they committed three more turnovers (4-1) than the 49ers.
“Yeah, let’s soak this one up. I don’t want to do anything to poke the bear… I made every mistake talking about it [the Week 5 game at the 49ers] too early or too late that you can make,” Jones said on Sunday. “Yeah, I learned from that one. My problem is I don’t learn from experience.”
When Prescott was told in his postgame press conference on Sunday that Jones said he learned from talking too much about the 49ers and didn’t want to talk too much about their Week 9 road contest against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, he was floored.
“I don’t believe what you just said,” Prescott said.
“Pour honey on me,” Prescott added, embracing the “poking the bear” metaphor Jones used. “I always say that. If you see me and a bear in a fight, pour honey on me, so you can poke it. It’s [hyping up an upcoming matchup] part of the National Football League. Whether we talk [about it] or not, we know what’s ahead of us. Great opponent. Excited for it. Opponent we are familiar with and vice versa. I know you guys are going to build it up. That’s part of your guys’ [in the media] job. As you should in a big game like this with a big, big, big rival. Division game. Down the road this game will mean something as we get further down the line in the season. Trust me, the guys in the locker room, myself, we know what this game means.”
Internally, the Cowboys are following Jones’ lead and not planning on look back to Week 5 to prepare for Week 9.
“We’re not going to compare this to a few weeks ago [the 49ers game],” Prescott said. “Obviously, we learned a lot about that, but that’s not to say in a sense that’s apples to apples, that’s apples and oranges. It’s a big game, but don’t for a second, I don’t even what to compare that to be honest with you. I know the men that we have and how we’re going to prepare and how we’re going to approach the week. It’s a matchup, in Philly, we’re looking forward to, I can promise you that.”
It makes sense Prescott would look forward to facing Philadelphia given he has won seven of his last eight starts against the Eagles while throwing an efficient 17 passing touchdowns and only four interceptions.
This stretch of success includes three wins of row in which Prescott completed at least 75% of his passes as the Cowboys scored 40 or more points in each victory: a 41-21 win in Week 3 of the 2021 season on “Monday Night Football,” a 51-26 victory in Week 18 of the 2021 season (the Eagles rested some starters) and a 40-34 triumph on Christmas Eve in Week 16 of the 2022 season. Prescott is the only quarterback since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger with a completion percentage of 75% or higher and three passing touchdowns or more in three consecutive contests against a single team.
Both Prescott and Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, the 2022 NFL MVP runner-up, missed one game in the rivalry last season and as expected, their team lost the game they missed. The Eagles won 26-17 in Philadelphia in Week 6 last year when Prescott was out with a thumb injury. The Cowboys won 40-34 in Week 16 last season when Hurts was out with a shoulder injury.
“Any time you play Philly, obviously, in-division rival, I know them well, they know us well,” Prescott said. “Getting to play them and then [Eagles quarterback] Jalen [Hurts] wasn’t playing and then vice versa when he was playing, I wasn’t playing, so excited for this matchup [in which both quarterbacks are set to play]. Yeah, it’s fun. Anytime you go to Philly is just a little bit more fun. So excited for it. Yeah, excited for it. Enjoy this win, great that it was an early game. Get to enjoy it for the day and then turn the page tomorrow [Monday] and yeah, we understand what is ahead of us.”
Cowboys safety Jayron Kearse revealed Dallas’ defense was so incredibly aware of their Week 9 opponent that they very much wanted to do their part to ensure a stress-free win on Sunday against the Rams.
“It feels great, it feels great,” Kearse said on Sunday when asked about riding a win into Philadelphia in Week 9. “I talked to D-Law [defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence], I talked to Micah right before the game, and we said, ‘Let’s come out here, let’s get this game over quick, because we know what we got ahead of us next week.’ We came out and did that. Got it done early and [we] were able to sit down and relax a little bit at the end.”
The heartbeat of the defense, two-time First-Team All-Pro Micah Parsons, is already emphasizing the dire need for the Cowboys to show up stronger on the road. Within the friendly confines of AT&T Stadium, Dallas has been downright dominant. They own the longest active home winning streak in the NFL with 11 straight wins, and they have won all three of their home games in 2023 by a combined score of 111-33. The Cowboys have defeated each of their home opponents by 20 or more points, making them the only team in the NFL in the last 15 years to win each of their first three at home by 20 or more.
However, the road has been a different story. They are 2-2 with two embarrassing losses to the Cardinals (a 28-16 loss in Week 3 that was worse than the final score indicated) and of course the 49ers (the 42-10 defeat). Dallas is plus-7 in turnover differential at home in 2023 while minus-1 on the road. That trend has to flip if the Cowboys intend to hand the Eagles their second loss of the season. Philadelphia’s only defeat in 2023 came in a 20-14 Week 6 loss at the Jets in which they turned the football over four times to New York’s none. Hurts threw a career-high three interceptions and running back D’Andre Swift lost a fumble.
“We have to do better on away games,” Parsons said on Sunday. “Obviously, everyone knows home-field advantage is a real thing. So, we have to keep winning and be consistent. We can’t just do it one week and not the next, it has to be consistent. This would be be a great opportunity for sure.”
“We just can’t beat ourselves,” Parsons said on what needs to go differently against the Eagles after thinking about what went wrong against the 49ers. “A lot of people sat here and said that the team [the 49ers] was just so much greater than us, I didn’t think so. I just thought we just beat ourselves. We put ourselves in bad opportunities. We didn’t get off the field. A lot of penalties [six] and a lot of big plays that we gave up that we usually wouldn’t have given up. We just have to be the same way. We have to get Jalen Hurts, we have to get [him] off the field. We have to win on first and second down against these very good teams because we know what they want to do on third and if they get fourth and short, we all know where they want to go with that too [run the ball]. We just have to be smart with the opportunities that we have.”
Keeping Eagles Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Brown in front of them would fall under the category of not beating themselves. Brown, who had 130 receiving yards and two touchdowns on eight catches in Philadelphia’s 38-31 victory over the Commanders in Week 8, has an NFL-record six games in a row with at least 125 receiving yards. Fortunately for Dallas, they have the personnel to keep up with him in second-year cornerback DaRon Bland, who recorded his third pick-six of 2023 on Sunday against the Rams — setting a Cowboys single-season record — and 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore. Bland’s 9.6 passer rating allowed as the primary defender in coverage is the lowest in the NFL among 47 players with 40 or more targets thrown their way this season while Gilmore’s 46.3 passer rating allowed as the primary defender ranks third in the league. They also rank one and two in the NFL in completion percentage allowed as the primary defender in coverage with Bland’s 41.5% rate just ahead of Gilmore’s 42.9% figure. The Cowboys know the ball is going to go to Brown, the question is will Bland, Gilmore and the rest of the Dallas secondary be able to stop him?
“That change [required for the Cowboys on the road] is just within the 60 minutes of a football game,” Parsons said when asked what needs to be different in Dallas’ handling of big games against fellow NFC contenders. “You can have the greatest game plan ever, but if you don’t go out there and execute, what does the game plan really matter? That’s the thing about football. You can know exactly what someone is going to do but you have to go out there. That’s the thing about football. You can know exactly what someone is going to do but you have to go out there and stop it.”