The Dallas Cowboys head into the City of Brotherly Love and seize first place of the NFC East in a dominant win over the Eagles, 17-3. Philly’s woes at home continue; the team has not won a game at the Linc since September 30th in 2012 (that’s a nine game losing streak for those of you counting at home). Monte Kiffin’s defense completely shut down the hurry-up Eagles, becoming the first unit to hold Chip Kelly and Pat Shurmur’s offense to under 400 yards of offense in a game (278 total offensive yards is by far the low point for this team in the 2013 season). Nick Foles struggled with his accuracy and LeSean McCoy found nowhere to run the ball. With those two roadblocks, it is not hard to see why the Eagles were held without a touchdown for the first time since Week 11 of last year.
Tony Romo wasn’t perfect on the afternoon by any means, but he was effective. The Dallas quarterback was credited with two interceptions (although one came on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half), and hit on 28 of his 47 passes. His 317 yards and one touchdown will look pretty in the newspaper however, and it will overshadow the fact that the Eagles actually played pretty well on defense. Dez Bryant was targeted an astounding 17 times; he made eight catches for 110 yards on the afternoon. Cary Williams did a solid job fighting with him all day, the 110 yards receiving were more due to the fact that Romo went his way on over a third of his throws.
John Parry and company really let these two teams play during this game. There were quite a few occasions where the cornerbacks were allowed to get physical with the wide receivers without drawing a flag. Commentators Thom Brennaman and Troy Aikman were trying to make the case that this worked in the favor of the Eagles, however you can make a strong case that it actually helped the Cowboys even more, and here’s why: Nick Foles couldn’t hit the side of a truck with many of his throws and if the Dallas Cowboys were plastering to the Eagles receivers down the field, that only increased the level of difficulty on some of the throws. The Philly receivers were able to create some separation, but Nick simply missed them (most notably on the end zone throw to a wide open Jason Avant). There were a couple of drops from receivers, but for the most part the inaccuracy of Foles brought the team down.
Matt Barkley came in early in the fourth quarter in relief for the injured Foles (concussion). Being down 17-3 by the time he stepped on the field, it is fair to grade him on a curve. The USC product did throw three interceptions, but that was because he was trying to make plays for his team in a desperate situation. The numbers may not look all that great, but he did show some pretty good accuracy on throws and some pretty decent pocket presence. The three interceptions will serve as a dark cloud over what could have been a respectable debut; one that saw him thrown into the fire in a less than optimal situation.
Credit for this victory has to go to the Dallas defense. They shut down LeSean McCoy and that was the key to this win. Often when quarterbacks struggle with accuracy (as Nick Foles did on Sunday), their best friend is a strong running game. The Cowboys didn’t let the Eagles fall back on their #1 ranked rushing attack at all, and that really handicapped them. This is surprising seeing as how Monte Kiffin’s unit has not stacked up well against the run for the majority of this season. Outside of a dominating performance by the Dallas front four, coverage down the field was admirable as well. Foles is a quarterback who will not make a risky throw unless absolutely necessary. In other words, he does not force the ball into coverage. All afternoon, the Cowboys’ coverage was smothering the Eagles wide-outs, giving Foles limited opportunities to stuff the ball into the arms of intended targets. Many of his throws were underneath to LeSean McCoy (who had six receptions) and the defense rallied to the ball. Speaking of which, Dallas was spectacular in terms of wrapping up on the game. The Eagles make people miss with great frequency and they were unable to slip through many of the tackles from the Cowboys defenders all day. That, above all else, was the biggest reason why Philly failed to create more than two plays of over twenty yards.
The Dallas Cowboys have won back-to-back games for the first time since their three game winning streak at the end of last year, and this came at an optimal time. With this win, Jason Garrett and his team are over .500 and in sole possession of first place in a highly competitive NFC East. Not to mention, they are now 3-0 within the division, which could come in handy when tie-breaking procedures come into play at the end of the season. Grounding the high-flying Philly offense has to be their greatest achievement on the season, and they look to build on this victory next week when they head to Detroit to take on the Lions. The Eagles look to dust themselves off in a game against the Giants at home; which is pretty close to a must-win given this loss at home to the Cowboys.