The Dallas Cowboys (5-3) almost knocked off the the reigning NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles on the road, coming up just a small handful of plays short in a 28-23 loss that went down to the game's final play. While they didn't win, the Cowboys proved they belonged with the class of the conference and that they could beat them -- if they can get out of their own way and just make a big play. The Eagles fumbled the football three times, but the Cowboys were unable to recover the loose football in every instance.
Dallas reached a first down at the Eagles' 6 with 27 seconds remaining, and then everything became undone in chaotic fashion: a false start penalty on left guard Tyler Smith pushed them back to the 11, a stunning 11-yard sack of quarterback Dak Prescott happened, Prescott threw an incomplete pass, a delay of game penalty pushed them back to the 26 and a completion to CeeDee Lamb -- who had a career-high in receiving yards (191) for the second week in a row -- served as the game's final plays. Lamb ended up four yards short of the end zone.
Here is a look at some of the Cowboys' biggest storylines from their gut-wrenching defeat in Philadelphia, and whether those takes are overreactions or reality.
Dak Prescott has what it takes lead the Cowboys to victory against the NFC's top teams
Overreaction or reality: Reality
Despite Prescott being under siege for chunks of Sunday afternoon and absorbing a season-high five sacks, he was one of the biggest reasons the Cowboys almost stole victory from the jaws of defeat, nearly completing an 86-yard touchdown drive in 46 seconds without timeouts. Prescott threw for a season-high 374 passing yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions on 29-of-44 passing, putting on high-level display of chemistry with top wideout CeeDee Lamb. The Cowboys quarterback's play is one of the biggest reasons Dallas had a chance to win in the game's final seconds.
He scrambled well, regularly evading a collapsing pocket, particularly from the right side of the offensive line, to consistently make strong off-balance throws to not only Lamb but also tight Jake Ferguson and wide receivers Michael Gallup and Jalen Tolbert. If second-round rookie tight end Luke Schoonmaker's left knee lands an inch further up field on a fourth-and-goal pass from Prescott, the entire conversation surrounding this game is incredibly different.
CeeDee Lamb will earn his first First Team All-Pro nod if he continues to play at this level
Overreaction or reality: Reality
Last week in a 43-20 home win against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 8, CeeDee Lamb totaled career highs across the board with 12 catches for 158 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns. On Sunday against the Eagles, Lamb smashed his receiving yards career-high once again with 191 on 11 catches. One of the more impressive elements of his huge day against a solid Eagles secondary was how he ended up running routes to almost every area on the field and managed to make a big play in each spot.
He is now only the second Cowboys player since at least the 1970 NFL/AFL merger with 150 receiving yards or more in consecutive games along with Miles Austin, who did so across Weeks 5 and 7 in the 2009 season. Week 9 marked Lamb's third consecutive game with over 100 yards as he had 117 on seven catches in Week 6 win at the Los Angeles Chargers. As for his 2023 First-Team All-Pro chances, they're alive and well at the moment. His 57 catches this season are tied for the ninth-most in the league with Chiefs All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce and emerging Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.
Lamb's 824 receiving yards are the fifth-most in the NFL and the four players ahead of him -- Tyreek Hill (1,076), A.J. Brown (1,005), Stefon Diggs (834) and Puka Nacua (827) -- have all played one more game than him because the Cowboys already had their bye week in Week 7. Should Lamb produce continue to produce like this, he could make a strong charge for one of the three wide receiver openings on the 2023 edition of the exclusive club.
Tyler Smith will make his first career Pro Bowl if he continues to play like this
Overreaction or reality: Reality
Cowboys left guard Tyler Smith, Dallas' 2022 first-round pick, is playing All-Pro-caliber football right now as his 3.3% quarterback pressure rate in the lowest among left guards in 2023, among those with at least 150 pass-blocking snaps this season, according to the NFL's NextGen Stats. On Sunday, Smith faced one of his fiercest tests of the season in going up against the Eagles' 2023 ninth overall draft pick Jalen Carter, who has regarded by many as the most recent draft's top overall prospects prior to some legal issues surfacing. Smith shut Carter down, allowing only one pressure to him on 13 one-on-one matchups and two across 24 overall meetings with him at the line of scrimmage.
Cowboys LG Tyler Smith allowed just 2 pressures over 24 matchups against Jalen Carter, including just 1 pressure over 13 one-on-one matchups.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 6, 2023
Smith has allowed a 3.3% pressure rate this season, lowest among left guards (min. 150 pass blocking snaps).#DALvsPHI | #DallasCowboys pic.twitter.com/mjlFVDMySw
The Cowboys have been proven right by their decision to keep him at left guard despite his ability to play left tackle when Tyron Smith has missed time with injuries this season. Tyler Smith proved, once again this season, that he is one of the NFL's best interior offensive lineman.
Cowboys have a problem at right tackle with Terence Steele struggling against NFC's best
Overreaction or reality: Overreaction
Cowboys right tackle Terence Steele has had a rollercoaster 2023 season since returning from a torn ACL. Steele has surrendered just eight quarterback pressures in pass protection in Dallas' six games against teams that weren't a 2022 NFC Championship Game participant, while he has allowed a whopping 16 pressures in Dallas' two games against the 49ers and Eagles, eight against each team.
It's natural for there to still be some cobwebs to shake off for Steele, given he tore his ACL under a year ago (Week 14 of the 2022 season). However, there is an expectation for Steele to return to his pre-injury form as soon as possible since the Cowboys signed him to a five-year, $82.5 million contract extension with $49.3 million guaranteed this past offseason. Steele will face the Eagles once more in the regular season in Week 14 this season on December 10, but he isn't guaranteed to see the 49ers' vaunted defensive front again this season. The further removed Steele gets from his injury date, the better he should play.