Like some mythical creature, Tony Romo appeared briefly in the 2nd Quarter and left with a flash of light. For some, it was all they really needed from today's game.
The Cowboys, who played shorthanded all day and switched to mostly backups after Romo's appearance, ended up losing their regular season finale in Philadelphia. However, for the top seed in the NFC, winning was far less important than other goals for the day.
Goal #1 – Romo played and looked great. His delivered some sharp passes and threw a pretty touchdown to Terrance Williams on his one drive. There has been debate about how much a veteran like Romo needs to worry about rust, but the work got today certainly didn't hurt. It also may have helped his trade value for the coming offseason.
Goal #2 – There were no serious injuries that I witnessed throughout the game. Randy Gregory came up slow on one play but was back out there in the second half generating some consistent pressure.
Goal #3 – Key starters and roleplayers got much-needed rest today. Dallas was able to give Tyron Smith a week off for his knee and ongoing back issues, along with Ronald Leary. Many defensive players got an extra week of rest and healing before the first-round bye. Ezekiel Elliott also took the game off.
The loss means that Dallas finishes the year 13-3, one win short of giving Jason Garrett the best regular season record in franchise history. It also denied Dak Prescott the best record for a rookie QB in NFL history.
Clearly, neither was concerned about those records. Dallas approached the game with their eyes already set on January and managed the roster accordingly. They have much bigger goals in mind.
- Despite sitting out today, Elliott finished the year with 1631 rushing yards and should run away with the 2016 title. He was over 300 yards ahead of the next-closest running backs going into the week. He will have the third best all-time rookie season, trailing just Eric Dickerson (1808 yds) and George Rogers (1674 yds).
- Randy Gregory got his first career sack in the second half and looked good throughout the game. His quickness off the snap is rare and led to a backfield stop on a running play along with several pressures on Carson Wentz. It remains to be seen if the NFL will allow him to play in the postseason.
- Jack Crawford is one of the least talked about guys on our defense but always seems to look good when given opportunities. He blew up a running play and, on the very next snap, picked up a partial sack. You can see why Dallas re-signed him last offseason; consistency and versatility go a long way.
- Despite missing some of the offensive line, Darren McFadden looked good running the ball and a few good receiving plays. He has a spark that Alfred Morris lacks and it makes him a better relief back. I wouldn't be surprised if he has a few big plays during the postseason, where fresh legs help him to punish a tiring defense.
- Mark Sanchez had a rough day. He threw two interceptions and barely completed half of his passes. One pretty downfield throw to Cole Beasley was about the only positive Sanchez had. A free agent this offseason, Sanchez didn't help his case for competing for a backup job next year.
- Speaking of declining value, Doug Free seems to be decaying before our eyes. He's still a great run blocker and that is important for a run-first team. However, his increasing liability in pass protection will likely cost him a job in the near future. Dallas saves $5-$6 million by releasing him this offseason.