Since their bye week, the Dallas Cowboys have achieved home victories against the , the , and then hit the road to take down the division rival Philadelphia Eagles. They outscored these three bird teams 95-54. This run through the NFC aviary exemplifies how well the offense, defense, and special teams units in Dallas have come together to launch the team atop the division with a 6-2 record.
While scrolling through stories regarding last night's 20-16 victory over the Eagles, I noticed many writers use the same four-letter word when describing the Cowboys: team. Sure, Dallas did not play a perfect game, but it seems as if the coaches are getting the most out of each of their players. In turn, the players are responding by being in position to execute their playcalling. Simply put - the Cowboys are, all-together, clicking.
More VRR after the jump.
Pairing up a good pass rush with some nice coverage in the secondary is always a good recipe for defensive success.
Cowboys nose tackleand outside linebacker overwhelmed the Eagles' offensive line and stayed in quarterback 's face throughout the game. McNabb was only 16-of-30 for 227 yards and he threw two interceptions. He appeared completely out of rhythm for much of the evening -- and the secondary played a large role in that. If you take away the deep ball from the Eagles, they're not much to look at. It's not like they can turn to a power running game.
"We took it personally that no one was giving us any respect," Jenkins said. "We've been shutting receivers completely down, but people weren't talking about it. I think we made a statement tonight. To come into their house and walk away with a win ... I think it's a big statement."
Although speedy wide receiversand looked as if they could break a huge play at any moment, they never did. The Cowboys' secondary held them in check while a fierce rush and a heavy blitz maintained serious pressure on McNabb that produced four sacks and two interceptions.
Jackson, who had at least one 50-yard play in five of the first seven Eagles games, was limited to two catches for 29 yards. Four Dallas wide receivers caught passes for more yards.
Austin beat Brown badly off the line of scrimmage to make the catch all alone at the 24. He then cut inside to race untouched into the end zone, where he celebrated by firing the ball into the net behind the goal post.
"They had a double move there," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "Sheldon played a heck of a game, but they got him on a double move there."
Romo helped sell it with a pump fake. "I thought they had been jumping it a little bit throughout the game, so we went with it," Romo said. "They bit on the fake, a couple of guys went to it, and I just gave him the ball and he did the rest."
The four-play, 55-yard drive that ended with Austin’s score began after the Cowboys made their biggest defensive play of the season. On fourth-and-one from the Dallas 45, Donovan McNabb tried to sneak it over right guard only to get stopped cold bywith 10:49 left. The Eagles challenged the spot, but the play was upheld, costing them their final timeout.
"That’s just the way it is . . . I understand it, we have to get it blocked," Witten said. But on the third-and-3 late in the fourth quarter, Witten knew the final pass was going to him."Yeah, that was the play," said Witten. "I knew I was going to get the chance to make it."
And he did, catching his seventh passes of the game for 43 yards. But it was those last five yards that put the game away. When it comes to wanting the ball, Witten really is no different than any other receiver. He feels like he’s good enough to make the play when it counts.
The "spread" offense continues as Romo hit seven different receivers.
One game after Romo spread the ball around to 10 pass-catchers, seven caught balls Sunday totaling 307 yards, Romo’s fourth 300-plus-yard game of the season. And, yes, his perfectly placed 49-yard bomb to Austin in the fourth quarter was the back-breaker.
But Romo’s best achievement might have finally been getting him and struggling receiver Roy Williams on the same page. Williams caught a season-high five balls for 75 yards. Most impressive was the percentage Romo completed to him. Romo threw his way eight times, completing five. Entering the game, the two had connected just 38 percent of the time.
"It was good to see us get that working tonight," centersaid. "To us (linemen), it's really not anything different. We're still blocking like any play. But we knew it's something that can be successful."
(Leonard) Davis, who paved the way on the three rushing plays, said the always-vocal Choice gives him a personal pep talk before each play in the huddle.
"He goes up to me and says . . . 'Big Leonard, I'm running it up right behind you . . . I'm running it behind you,'" Davis said of Choice. "He gets excited about it. I already know before we run the play, I already know what the results are going to be. It's just something you have to study the look and how they're going to scheme against it. It's like any other run play -- when we have the numbers, it's going to be hard to stop."
Twice Ogletree snatched third-down screen passes from quarterback Tony Romo, for 20 and 17 yards, to put the Cowboys inside the Eagles’ 5-yard line both times, setting up the first touchdown and a field goal late in the first half.
Ogletree also recorded the first run of his career, picking up 6 yards on an end-around, a play used mostly forand then last week for Miles Austin for the first time.
Some Cowboys bumps & bruises:
Felix Jones strained his neck. Andre Gurode sprained an ankle. Mike Jenkins "jammed" his wrist. All are expected to be fine. Also, Anthony Spencer suffered a groin injury, which we should learn more about in Coach Phillips' press conference today. It doesn't sound too worrisome, though.
Philly writer, Bob Ford, uses last night's game to question the strength of the NFC East.
"We battled our tails off," Reid said. "It was two heavyweights swinging at each other, a tough, hard-fought game."
That might be how he saw it, but the two teams combined for three turnovers, 11-for-27 third-down efficiency, and more than 150 penalty yards. These teams looked like welterweights at best. It has been difficult all season to figure out how good the Eagles might be. Until last week, when they thumped the, their only meeting with a legitimate opponent had ended in a loud defeat against the . They also managed to lose to the along the way, which is the textbook definition of being unpredictable.
The Cowboys split their first four games, losing to the Giants and the, and have now won four straight.
The Giants, meanwhile, won their first five games, have lost their last four, and head into their bye on fumes.
The question is whether these are three very good teams taking turns pounding each other, or whether these are three inconsistent teams that show up sometimes and not others. Watch a game like last night's and it's tempting to say the latter. Apologists and head coaches will tell you that tackle football is a messy business and that motivated opponents can make any team look sloppy. There's some truth there, too, but it doesn't account for stupid penalties and unimaginative play-calling.