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Other Week 17 Game Recaps

Week 17 Game Recap: Dallas Cowboys 6, Philadelphia Eagles 0

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Dallas Cowboys

With nothing on the line as Dallas was eliminated from playoff contention in Week 16, the Cowboys posted a lackluster effort against the Eagles despite playing their starters for the entire game. Ezekiel Elliott had his second game back from suspension and was stuffed for much of the game outside of a handful of touches from late in the first half to early in the second half. The passing game will be under the microscope in the offseason as Dak Prescott eroded when forced to be a larger component of the offense, Dez Bryant has not been his formerly dominant self for multiple season now and is owed an elite-level salary, Terrance Williams is a baseline-at-best level secondary receiver, and Jason Witten and Cole Beasley cooled from their previously impactful roles. Dallas features big names on offense, but largely underperformed expectations across the board in 2017.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles had nothing to play for in this game as they had locked in the number one overall seed in the NFC, and they played as if they wanted nothing to do with this game. The Eagles pulled their starters very early in this game as Nick Foles for the second straight game looked very shaky which led Doug Pederson after the game to say, ìIf you're in desperation mode who knowsî when asked about whether he would make a switch to Nate Sudfeld. Sudfeld looked great on this frigid day in Philadelphia as he set an NFL record for completion percentage for a quarterback making his first NFL start although did take a few key sacks and the Eagles had a few drive-killing penalties in this game that led them to being shutout. From the running game, there was not much to note in this game as LeGarrette Blount was the only running back to see more than four carries.

Dallas Cowboys

QB Dak Prescott, 68 offensive snaps, Pass: 17 - 30 - 179 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 16 - 0
Prescott finished his second season on a ho-hum note. On one hand, Prescott led a divisional road win over Philadelphia to lock in a winning season at 9-7. On the other hand, Prescott and the offense struggled mightily as they posted six points and rarely sniffed scoring range, including punting on their first seven drives of the game. Prescott did not convert a third down until late in the second quarter. Finally with a few sparks in the second half, Prescott delivered a strike to Brice Butler on two impactful throws, one down the sideline for a long gain and another on a red zone slant for the game’s solitary touchdown as pressure emerged in Prescott’s face. Prescott’s Week 17 was a microcosm of the season as he missed a collection of available throws, including a deep target to Dez Bryant. Regression was to be expected after Prescott’s highly efficient rookie season, but Prescott struggled to progress after the reads and run game were not as defined as 2017.

RB Ezekiel Elliott, 59 offensive snaps, Rush: 27 - 103 - 0, Rec: 3 - 38 - 0 (5 targets)
Elliott fell just short of 1,000 rushing yards on the season with his 103-yard effort to close the season against the Eagles. Elliott returned to his workhorse status the last two weeks of the season following his six-game suspension, totaling 30 touches as Dallas’ passing game struggled in Philadelphia. The offensive line offered little help to Elliott for much of the first half, being stoned by the Eagles’ front seven at the line of scrimmage, including not converting a fourth-and-one carry and tracking down Elliott when bouncing to the edge when penetration derailed interior running lanes. Elliott found his groove in a short sequence of touches from the late second quarter to the early third quarter, amassing more than 60 total yards on three opportunities with quality blocking and perimeter jaunts. The offensive line improved their play in the second half and Elliott was critical to icing the game and burning clock in the closing minutes of the narrow victory. Elliott’s season was marred by the suspension looming over his head from the beginning of the season until finally serving his six games beginning in Week 10. Elliott returned in Week 16 with a solid but unspectacular game as Dallas was on the playoff fringe.

WR Dez Bryant, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 24 - 0 (8 targets)
Bryant was one of the most disappointing aspects of the Dallas offense in 2017. Week 17 capped off the down season, now three in a row, with a mere 24 yards on a team-high eight targets. Bryant had a long reception called back by penalty but also did not break a tackle on a short reception with a one-on-one after-catch opportunity and did not haul in either of his contested catch targets. Bryant did elude two defenders for additional yardage after a comeback route, but it was his lone highlight of the game. Bryant is a highlight player of the offseason considering his high salary and lack of results of late. Dallas would save more than $20 million in cap space over the final two seasons of Bryant’s contract if cutting Bryant. Dallas also has question marks with Terrance Williams and Jason Witten in a critical offseason to improve the sagging passing game from 2017.

WR Terrance Williams, 34 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 9 - 0, Rec: 2 - 5 - 0 (4 targets)
Williams posted his worst game of the season in Week 17 against the Eagles. Williams gained the expected yardage on a well-blocked reverse rushing attempt and his two receptions in the passing game were both short routes and one was short of the first down marker on third down. Beyond the box score, Williams was overthrown on a deep route by Dak Prescott and drew an illegal contact penalty in the end zone. Williams was reluctantly brought back by Dallas in the offseason with a new contract and is a lock for the roster in 2018 based on his dead cap figure. Considering Williams’ lack of impact, he is a long shot to be on the roster beyond next season as a baseline-at-best secondary receiver in the NFL hierarchy.

WR Brice Butler, 19 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 50 - 1 (2 targets)
Butler continued to flash with his tempered opportunities to close out the season. Butler made the two most impactful plays against Philadelphia as Dallas’ offense struggled to move the ball most of the game. Butler corralled a high-point deep target and shook free on a red zone slant route for Dallas’ lone touchdown. On a mere two targets, Butler led the team in receiving yards. Butler finishes the season averaging more than 20 yards-per-catch and a 20% touchdown rate as arguably the team’s best receiver despite being down the depth chart in weekly snaps. Butler signed a minimal one-year contract to remain with Dallas in 2017 and is one of the more intriguing free agents of the position as he as quietly developed in an ancillary role with the Cowboys after flaming out with the Raiders. Butler has prototypical size, movement, and ball skills to excel with more downfield opportunities in the future.

TE Jason Witten, 68 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 17 - 0 (3 targets)
Witten was another underperforming Dallas offensive player in 2017 and finished with minimal impact in the Week 17 win over Philadelphia as the Cowboys were out of the playoff race. Witten was fifth on the team in receiving yards on a mere three targets. Witten made one notable catch, hauling in a third-and-long throw which was behind him. However, Witten was short of the first down on the play. Witten also had a short reception called back by penalty. Early reports are the aging and eroding tight end will return in 2018, but the bigger question is if he is worth it for Dallas. As a 15-year NFL veteran, all with Dallas, the allegiance factor is high, but the results have fallen to a career low of 8.9 yards-per-catch and 35 yards-per-game in 2017, which is the lowest since his rookie season. Witten has no dead money left on his contract and slated for $6.5 million in 2017, a figure too high for Witten’s recent lack of impact.

Philadelphia Eagles

QB Nate Sudfeld, 40 offensive snaps, Pass: 19 - 23 - 134 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 22 - 0
Nate Sudfeld played the role of a game manager in this game as he methodically moved the Eagles down the field in this game. Sudfeld looked calm and collected and did not let the tough conditions bother him as he went through his progressions on his reads and checked the ball down when he needed to without trying to force anything downfield as his longest completion of the day was just 16 yards. Sudfeld did show athleticism in this game as he was able to scramble for 22 yards on a play that he should have been sacked as the pocket broke down, he stepped up and found a lane juking defenders and got to the sideline for a 22-yard gain.

QB Nick Foles, 19 offensive snaps, Pass: 4 - 11 - 39 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 1 - 0 - 0
The struggles for Nick Foles continued as he was pulled after just 19 snaps. The Eagles would have loved to see Foles get back to his first start against the Giants where he looked tremendous, but unfortunately, that was not the case for the quarterback who looked very uncomfortable in the pocket completing just 4 of 11 passes and throwing an awful interception on a ball that was significantly under-thrown.

RB LeGarrette Blount, 19 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 37 - 0, Rec: 1 - 11 - 0 (1 targets)
Blount was filling in for Jay Ajayi who did not play in this game due to rest. Blount who only played 25% of the snaps in this game, did lead the team in carries with nine as no other running back saw more than four carries. This was a typical LeGarrette Blount performance as he just was able to use his power to gain positive yards but did not have any memorable runs or break anything longer than a nine-yard carry

RB Wendell Smallwood, 22 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 6 - 0, Rec: 3 - 24 - 0 (3 targets)
Wendell Smallwood led the Eagles running backs in snaps but was largely under-utilized in this game as he saw just four carries and was unable to do anything with his carries mounting just six yards as the Eagles offensive line failed to get a push for most of the day. Smallwood was utilized as a pass receiver which is his strength as he caught all three of his passes that Sudfeld threw to him on check-down plays.

WR Nelson Agholor, 30 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 7 - 0, Rec: 3 - 11 - 0 (3 targets)
For the third straight week, Nelson Agholor's role just is not the same as it was early on in the season with Carson Wentz as the team was looking to get him in space as often as they could whether it be a deep throw or crossing routes that would open up space for Agholor to run. Now that Wentz is no longer in the game, it is a concern for Agholor as the team is not having Agholor run the deep routes and has turned him into more of a traditional possession wide receiver. Agholor was on the field for 55% of the plays which was far higher than any of the starting skill position players, but he was only targeted three times in this game.

TE Zach Ertz, 14 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 24 - 0 (2 targets)
Ertz played just 14 snaps in this game and once the team took out Nick Foles they pulled Ertz. Ertz was the one bright spot in this game from a receiving standpoint as it appears that it is clear that he is the primary target in this offense with Nick Foles as the quarterback as he made a very nice 15-yard reception and another nine-yard reception both of which Foles stared Ertz down the entire time just waiting for him to get open on the play.