PHILADELPHIA — What the Cowboys wanted to do in this game, they did.
The way Dallas needed to finish the regular season after a flat performance against Arizona, it accomplished.
Cynics will quibble with the quality of talent for Philadelphia at Lincoln Financial Field. COVID or caution led the Eagles to go without 16 starters Saturday night.
But this is the NFL. Hanging more than half-a-hundred on any team, as the Cowboys did in their 51-26 deconstruction Saturday night, is hard.
Well, maybe not that hard, when you consider Dallas shattered the 50-point barrier twice in a span of 13 days to close the regular season. And that fact is a little difficult to reconcile heading into next week’s Wild Card game.
The narrative for the better part of the last two months has been the Cowboys’ labored, inconsistent offense and how quarterback Dak Prescott doesn’t look quite right. The group offered their rebuttal Saturday and ended the regular season with an exclamation point.
The Cowboys finished the regular season with a franchise-record 530 points, a total that should allow Dallas to lead the league in scoring this season.
Dallas became the first team in league history to have 22 players find the end zone over the course of the season.
A quarterback who has denied for weeks that he’s in a slump, one who took exception a few days ago when asked if he was seeing the field the way he needed, was outstanding.
Prescott completed 21 of 27 passes for 295 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. His final touchdown to former Eagles running back Corey Clement in the fourth quarter broke Tony Romo’s club record for touchdown throws in a season with 37.
Final numbers: Prescott completed 69% of his passes for 4,449 yards with 37 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions on the season.
“It’s a hell of a year for a guy who was in a slump,’’ coach Mike McCarthy observed.
That summed up the attitude coming out of the Dallas locker room Saturday evening. And why not?
The Cowboys didn’t just sweep the division for only the second time in franchise history. They dominated. Dallas outscored Philadelphia, Washington and the New York Giants by 133 points in going 6-0 in the NFC East.
Only one victory — 27-20 over Washington — was by less than 15 points.
Dallas finished with at least 12 wins for only the fourth time in the last 26 seasons. What’s the significance of 26 seasons? That was the last time the franchise won the Super Bowl.
It marked the last time the Cowboys advanced to the NFC Championship Game.
“It was a very productive year,’’ McCarthy said. “We feel good about what we accomplished.
“But our goals are on bigger things.’’
This evening really couldn’t have gone better for Dallas. A ground game that had shown incremental improvement in recent weeks amassed 171 yards.
Ezekiel Elliott, who spoke of the importance of reaching 1,000 yards, carried the ball 18 times for 87 yards to ease past that milestone. It was the biggest game the back has had since Week 5, when he had 21 carries for 110 yards in a win over the Giants.
Other than kicker Greg Zuerlein — who missed a career-high sixth extra point attempt — Dallas fixed just about everything it wanted to fix. It also appeared to come out of the game relatively healthy. Linebacker Keanu Neal (arm and shoulder) is the only player the club will be crossing its fingers on heading into next week.
A Cowboys team that staked its claim to be taken seriously with an early six-game winning streak ended the regular season with five wins in its final six games. The only loss was to the Cardinals, a team they are likely to face again in the coming days at AT&T Stadium.
Arizona or the Los Angeles Rams. One of those teams will be the team’s wild-card opponent.
“It doesn’t matter,” Prescott said. “Line ‘em up. Whoever it is, wherever it is, we’re ready for this run.”
After a two-year absence, the Cowboys are back in the postseason.
“The real [expletive] starts,” Prescott declared moments after the regular season was done.