Eagles-Cowboys Postgame: Stuffing the Cowboys
I'm sure most of the credit will go to Philadelphia quarterback Mark Sanchez and running back LeSean McCoy for the Eagles 33-10 domination of the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving, but I think they won the game in the most basic way: the Eagles won the battle in the trenches.
The Eagles defensive linemen said early in the week that they didn't think the Cowboys offensive line was as great as everybody in the media was making them out to be and they went out on Thursday and backed up their words. Cedric Thornton, Bennie Logan and especially Fletcher Cox absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage and shut down the previously potent Dallas offense.
Dallas RB DeMarco Murray came into the game leading the NFL in rushing and the Eagles held him to a mere 73 yards rushing, which is about 50 yards less than his average. It was also only the second time this year that Murray was held under 100 yards rushing. By shutting down what the Cowboys do best, the Eagles were able to put the Cowboys in the uncomfortable position of having to rely entirely on their passing game and Tony Romo.
Romo came into the game as one of the hottest QBs in the entire NFL. He had only thrown 6 INTs all season, but the Eagles managed to pick him off twice. The biggest reason for that was that without their normal rushing attack, that was ranked second in the NFL before Thursday, the Eagles were able to pin their ears back and get after Romo. The Eagles managed to sack Romo four times, but he was pressured constantly and never looked comfortable in the pocket. It got so bad for the Cowboys and their over-matched offensive line that Casey Matthews even notched a sack. Casey Matthews.
Romo only completed 18 of his 29 passes for 199 yards, with no TDs and those 2 INTs. That translated into a sad 53.7 QB rating. It looks like Romo decided to start his annual December swoon a week early this season. Of course, the officials can't be overlooked in how they affected this game either. They mentioned during the broadcast that this particular crew calls the fewest penalties of any set of officials in the NFL. They lived up to reputation by allowing lots of contact between the receivers and defensive backs. That definitely favored the Eagles CBs Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams, who need to be able to use their size to bump receivers to make up for their complete lack of speed or ability to turn around when passes are in the air. One pass actually hit Fletcher square in the back of helmet.
On the other side of the ball, it appears that Eagles head coach Chip Kelly reads my articles.
Kelly completely reversed his ridiculous trend of throwing the ball all over the yard in spite of the fact that he had a turnover-machine in Mark Sanchez at quarterback.
The Eagles ran the ball 45 times and only threw it 29 times. Most of that was due to the fact that the Eagles had an early lead, but Kelly has had big leads and had Sanchez throw over 40 passes a few times already this season. This time, he realized the error of his ways and rode his stud RB to victory.
LeSean McCoy hasn't had the greatest year, after leading the NFL in rushing last season, but he looked unstoppable against the Cowboys. McCoy rushed for 159 yards on 25 carries. He could have had much, much more if the Eagles weren't in complete control of the game in the second half, but Kelly got Darren Sproles one carry, Chris Polk got 11 carries and even receiver Josh Huff got the last carry of the game for the Eagles before a Sanchez kneel-down.
Kelly finally realized that maybe it might just be a good idea to run out the clock after all. Heck, the Eagles even huddled in the fourth quarter, which is something they almost never do. The Eagles ran the ball 28 times in the second half, while only throwing it 5 times. In previous games, Kelly has called more than five pass plays on single second half drives when his team has had a big lead. This time, the Eagles only led 23-7 and Chipper decided to take the air out of the ball and grind the pathetic Dallas defense into the ground.
The game-plan was a good one from the start. Kelly knew that the Dallas defense isn't very good and he took it right to them with short passes and a strong commitment to the running game. The Eagles took the opening kickoff and embarked on a 9-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in Sanchez's 2-yard TD run, where the entire defense bought the fake to McCoy. They followed that up with a 7-play, 88-yard TD drive, when Sanchez hit Jordan Matthews with a 27-yard TD pass. The Cowboys showed their only offensive life of the entire game with a drive late in the first quarter, highlighted by a nice 38-yard reception by Dez Bryant. Murray's 1-yard TD run at the beginning of the second quarter was the highlight of the day for the Cowboys. Actually, that was the only highlight for the Cowboys.
The Eagles settled for three Cody Parkey field goals to make the score 23-7, but the lack of TDs in the redzone was about the only negative for the Eagles in this game.
Who is the Better RB?
Well, McCoy did fumble the ball on his own 13-yard line early in the 3rd quarter, but the defense was so dominating on this day that after they allowed Murray to gain 9 yards on first down, they stiffened up and held the Cowboys to a Dan Bailey field goal. The best play in that series was an incredible play by Cox, where he blew up the Cowboys line and dropped Murray or a loss on second down. Cox was a disruptive force throughout the entire game.
McCoy ended his day by making up for his fumble with a beautiful 38-yard TD run to make it 30-10 in the third quarter.
The main reason the Eagles offense was able to dominate the Cowboys defense was that the offensive line looked a lot like the unit that was considered the best in the NFL last season. Now that all of the starters are back and healthy, except RG Todd Herremans, the line appears to be rounding back into form. They were blowing the Cowboys front seven off the ball and creating huge holes for the RBs to run through all game. The Eagles have used seven different offensive line combinations this season, but they have had the same combination start the last two games, which were both nice wins. They also gave Sanchez all day to survey the field and find the open receivers.
How Bout Them Cowboys
Since Sanchez (20-29-217 yards-1 TD-0 INT) was only asked to throw short passes and hand the ball off, he managed to not make the fatal mistakes that have defined his lackluster career. He did manage to run a few times on option plays, when the Cowboys were obviously focused on taking McCoy out of the game. Those runs, and their inability to stop McCoy, helped to demoralize the Dallas defense that seemed to be sucking wind even before halftime.
It was not only great to see the Eagles crush the hated Cowboys, but it was also great to see Jerry Jones' sour face, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten yelling at teammates and coaches on the sideline and, of course, it's always great to see Romo Face. It comes out every year and it always comes out near the end. Priceless!
NFC East Standings
New York Giants
The win gives the Eagles (9-4) a leg up in the NFC East over the Cowboys (8-4), but the two teams meet again in Philadelphia in two weeks. Of course, the win also gives the Eagles a 3-0 record in the division, while the Cowboys are now 2-2. So even if the Cowboys somehow manage to beat the Eagles in two weeks and the teams end up tied, the tiebreaker would be records within the division. That means that while this one win didn't necessarily win the division for the Eagles, but it sure did make it a lot easier with four weeks left to play in the season.