Eagles-Cowboys Postgame: Saving the Season Yet Again
The Philadelphia Eagles are not a very good football team. They just had the good fortune to face a Dallas Cowboys team with Matt Cassel at quarterback, instead of Tony Romo.
Honestly, the Eagles beat the Cowboys 33-27 in overtime thanks to a bad Cassel pass that Eagles LB Jordan Hicks returned 67 yards for a TD. Well, that and the fact that Eagles QB Sam Bradford successfully fought off the urge to continue throwing the football to the opposing team with shocking regularity. The Eagles didn't turn the ball over against Dallas and they won the game. It really is as simple as that.
The game didn't start off well, with the Eagles producing nothing in the first quarter as usual. The Cowboys, on the other hand, drove 93 yards for the game's first score on their first possession on a Cole Beasley 5-yard TD reception. The big play on that drive was a 51-yard catch and run by Dez Bryant, who the Eagles tried to single cover with Nolan Carroll. I mentioned that in my preview, but the Eagles coaches obviously didn't listen. Maybe they should have. The Cowboys also converted a 4th & 1 play on the Eagles 9 yard line on the drive.
Then, something strange happened after that. The Eagles defense decided to start playing. After the Cowboys gained 93 yards on their opening drive, the Eagles defense held them to 83 yards for the rest of the first half.
Meanwhile, the Eagles finally stopped throwing passes 1 yard short of the first down marker long enough to tie the score. And they did it by, get this, running the football. The Eagles tied the score at 7-7 with a 13-play, 80-yard drive where they ran for 53 of those yards, including DeMarco Murray's 1-yard TD run. That 7-7 score held up for what was a pretty boring first half.
In the second half, the Eagles had another impressive scoring drive, going 95 yards on 7 plays. Ryan Matthews 6-yard TD run put the Eagles up 14-7, but no lead was ever safe in this game.
The Cowboys tied it at 14 due to the fact that the Eagles defense didn't seem to be able to cover Beasley (9-112-2), who was wide open on his 17-yard TD. Then Hicks made his incredible game-changing Pick-6, to put the Eagles up 21-14. The momentum from that play lasted all of 5 seconds, as the Eagles normally reliable special teams gave up an 80-yard return on the ensuing kickoff. As if that wasn't bad enough, the Cowboys tied it at 21 on a jump ball in the endzone that they somehow allowed Bryant (5-104-1) to catch.
At this point I was screaming at my TV for Chip Kelly to run the damn football. The final stats show that the Eagles ran the ball 35 times and threw it 36 times, but it sure didn't feel like it during the flow of the game. Murray and Matthews were running the ball well and, as anyone who has watched Sam Bradford throw the football this season can attest, I was just waiting for him to throw yet another killer interception.
Of course, Bradford deserves a lot of credit for what was his best game of the season. Hey, he set the bar for himself pretty damn low through the first seven games. Bradford completed 25 of 36 passes for 295 yards, 1 TD and no INTs. The big thing was not turning the ball over though.
The teams traded FGs by Caleb Sturgis and Dan Bailey, ending with Bailey pinballing one through the uprights after a 5-yard holding penalty on Malcolm Jenkins made it a shorter attempt with time expiring in regulation. Sturgis had put the Eagles ahead with a 53-yard FG right before that, which lead to OT.
But I would be remiss if I didn't take the opportunity to wonder out loud what the hell the refs were watching when they called pass interference on Byron Maxwell on the Cowboy's final drive. Maxwell went for the football while Bryant basically ran into him without looking back for the ball. It was a horrible call in a season filled with them.
Anyway, in overtime (where there can be ties Donovan McNabb) the Eagles got the ball first.
Murray had a great game against his old team and he really set up the winning score on the final drive. Murray rushed for 83 yards and 1 TD on 18 carries and caught 6 passes for another 78 yards receiving. Murray's work got them down to the Dallas 43 and the Eagles were faced with a 4th & 1. Kelly went for it, giving the ball to Matthews, who gained 2 yards and the first down. Of course, there was the little matter of the officials incorrectly ruling that Matthews had fumbled, as my heart momentarily stopped. Luckily, replays clearly showed he was down before the ball came out. On the very next play, Bradford hit Jordan Matthews (9-133-1) across the middle and he ran into the endzone untouched for the win.
The win saves the season for the 4-4 Eagles and almost certainly ends the season for the Cowboys (2-6), as they have now lost 6 straight games. But the win was anything but pretty.
The Eagles committed 10 penalties for 70 yards. Maybe one of Lane Johnson's teammates will be nice enough to tell him what the snap count is in future games, because he clearly doesn't know. Also, the Eagles never start fast. They didn't score in the first quarter in this game and have now scored only 10 points in the first quarters of their 8 games. There were still a few too many dropped passes, although none by Jordan Matthews. The Eagles defense did OK, but they allowed Matt Cassel to complete 25 of 38 passes for 299 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT. They were lucky Tony Romo is hurt. They also allowed Darren McFadden to gain 117 yards rushing. That makes two weeks in a row that they have allowed a 100-yard rusher. They need to get back to stopping the run, sooner rather than later. And although he played well tonight, Bradford is still Captain Checkdown. He is eventually going to have to test defenses by throwing the ball deep to back the safeties off. Tonight, almost all of his passes were short and his receivers did a nice job of running after the catch.
I would also like to point out that the Eagles offense did much better after Dallas LB Sean Lee left the game with a concussion. The Eagles did a good job of taking advantage of his absence, but they are going to have to play better against other teams whose defenses are better than the Cowboys.
Who redeemed himself the most in the Eagles' win?
But the positives outweigh the negatives, when the Eagles beat the hated Cowboys.
The Eagles only got one turnover on the Hicks Pick-6, but Brandon Graham (remember him?) actually had two strip sacks of Cassel. The defense didn't recover either of the fumbles, but the Eagles sacked Cassel four times in all. Meanwhile, the Eagles revamped O-line only gave up one sack. Going into a game where LT Jason Peters was out and RT Lane Johnson was moving over to LT and journeyman Dennis Kelly was starting at RT, the line play was a big question mark against girlfriend-beater Greg Hardy. The O-line did a nice job in pass protection and in opening up holes for the running game. I was shocked.
It is also a big relief that Caleb Sturgis seems to have been a nice pickup after Cody Parkey went down for the season. If Sturgis misses that 53-yrd FG, with 1:46 left in the game, the Cowboys are near midfield with a chance to win the game.
The good news is that the Eagles won a game that they absolutely had to have. The bad news is that the New York Giants also won, so the Eagles are still a half game out of first place in the NFC East. The division may just come down to that Week 17 game at the Meadowlands and how much fun will that be?
For now Eagles fans can hope that Sam Bradford has finally figured out that you shouldn't be throwing the ball to the guys in the other jerseys all the time if you want to win games. It looks like DeMarco Murray is getting more used to the Eagles offense, as well. No, he's never going to be the stud he was running behind that Cowboys offensive line, but maybe this game is the springboard Murray needs to finish the season strong. The special teams finally had a breakdown, but at least it didn't cost the Eagles the game. Oh, and the defense still leads the NFL in turnovers, thanks to Hicks.
NFC East Standings
New York Giants
At the halfway point of the season, the Eagles are perfectly mediocre at 4-4, but at least they have 5 of their remaining 8 games at home. They also only have to face 3 teams that currently have a winning record and one of those teams are the frauds in New York that they already beat.
Things could, and probably should, look better for the Eagles after 8 games, but at least things are improving thanks to this win over the Cowboys. If they lost, I would have had to spend an extra hour editing out all the curse words out of this article. As it is, there is still hope for this season. Well, unless they lose next Sunday. Then all bets are off.