The Cowboys' first two games have each featured one side of their offense; pass-heavy against the Bucs and run-focused against the Chargers. But based on what we know about tonight's opponent and other factors, Dallas will likely need the entire offense clicking to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles.
Week 1 belonged to Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and the receivers in general. The Cowboys put up 403 yards and three touchdowns through the air against Tampa Bay. Outside of an interception that bounced off CeeDee Lamb's hands, it was a near-perfect performance for the passing game.
The run game was quiet with only 60 yards on 18 carries. Strategy had a lot to do with this; Zack Martin's absence and the up-front talent for the Bucs defense made it wiser to keep the ball in the air. Thankfully, Dak's efficiency kept the chains moving where Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard weren't in a position to help.
The script flipped in Week 2 against Los Angeles. Zeke and Pollard went off for 180 combined rushing yards and a touchdown each. The shift led to a slow day for Prescott; just 237 passing yards and an interception with no scores.
Both approaches have led to positive days; a nail-biting victory over the Chargers and the narrowest of losses to the defending champion Buccaneers. But if the Cowboys want to get to 2-1 in tonight's Monday Night Football meeting with the Eagles, can they lean on just one part of the offense again?
Philadelphia showed big-play ability in their Week 1 victory over the Falcons and scored 32 points in a blowout. Granted, Atlanta is looking like one of the NFL's worst teams so far in 2021 but that's no reason for the Cowboys to get cocky.
Dallas will be missing a lot of defensive talent tonight, highlighted by DeMarcus Lawrence but including Dorance Armstrong, Carlos Watkins, Keanu Neal, and probably Donovan Wilson. This group is better than Atlanta's when healthy, but how many absences can they suffer before they get pulled to the same level?
If Jalen Hurts and the Eagles offense get back to Week 1 form then this game could quickly turn into a shootout. They will put the onus on Dak Prescott to keep pace.
One way to prevent this, though, is the ball control offered by a dominant run game. Dallas basically split time-of-possession with Los Angeles and needed every second of it to put together a win. With Philly giving up around 120 rushing yards in each of their first two games, there's good potential for Elliott and Pollard to have another big week.
However, last week's game between the Cowboys and Chargers showed that even a great day on the ground didn't leave much room for error. Dallas needs more drives to finish with seven points to avoid another stressful conclusion.
Could the Cowboys beat the Eagles with a one-sided offense? Possibly; we've seen that either side is capable of putting up huge numbers when everything's working. But with our defensive injuries and the potential for a big game from Philadelphia's offense, Dallas can't afford for anyone to take a night off.