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A New Cornerstone? Dallas Fleeces the Eagles 33-10

The Cowboys - Eagles rivalry has seen a series of streaks the past 20 years. Eagles coach Buddy Ryan declared a vendetta against Tom Landry when Dallas used Danny White and Tony Dorsett to thrash Buddy's scrubs during an '87 strike game. Buddy make a point of rubbing it a late TD in the next meeting and did not lose to Landry again.

It was left to the Jimmy Johnson's Cowboys to break the streak in the late fall of '91. He got his foundational win in '92 and ruled the Eagles for the rest of his tenure. Ray Rhodes got under Barry Switzer's skin, most notably with his 4th and 1 victory in '95, but the rivalry did not turn again until 2000, when Andy Reid's guys KOed Dallas in the infamous 41-14 "pickle brine" game. They've won all but one game between the teams since.

Until today. The light went on Sunday for the 2005 Cowboys, who took dramatic steps forward on offense, defense and special teams in a complete 33-10 flattening of the Eagles. It's too early to tell, but the measure of physical domination was such that this might be the foundational win -- a win I said was impossible for this team last week -- that pivots the season and the Eagles' series the Cowboys' way.

The Dallas special teams set the tone for the afternoon, as Tyson Thompson lost the opening kickoff in the sun, fielded the bouncing ball on a shorthop, then raced down the left sideline to the Philadelphia side of the field. Had he not cut directly into kicker Todd France at midfield, he might have scored, as he had two blockers leading him down the sideline.

Drew Bledsoe took full advantage of the great field position with a crisp four-play TD drive. He found Terry Glenn running an 18 yard square in before Lito Sheppard at the Eagles' 33. On the next play Glenn ran a deep out and beat CB Sheldon Brown for 17 more yards. A two yard Julius Jones run prefaced Glenn's last catch of the drive. He lined up in the left shot inside Keyshawn Johnson and ran another deep out, badly beating SS Michael Lewis to the left endzone sideline for a touchdown. Glenn beat three quarters of the Eagles' heralded secondary in just three plays to give Dallas a 7-0 lead after Jose Cortez' PAT.

Cortez joined the legion of Cowboys to have breakout games, booming the kickoff for a touchback. Demarcus Ware made an immediate introduction to Donovan McNabb, sacking him for a nine yard loss on first down. Two incompletions and a punt set Dallas up at the Eagles' 43. A short Jones run and a seven-yard crossing route to Glenn on third and eight saw Dallas go for broke on 4th and 1. Sean Peyton overloaded the right side of the Cowboys' line, flanking FB Lousaka Polite and TE Dan Campbell outside RT Rob Petitti. When Campbell flipped SLB Dhani Jones on his head, Julius Jones had a lane off right tackle. He took the fourth- down pitch behind the pulling Petitti and outraced the rest of the Philly linebackers to the Eagles nine.

An eight yard pass to Keyshawn Johnson set up a second fourth and one. This time, DT Keyonta Marshall knifed inside LT Flozell Adams to trip up Jones short of the goal line. The Eagles appeared to have seized the momentum, but just as quickly, the Cowboys took it back. Three plays lost a yard and when Patrick Crayton returned Dirk Johnson's punt 16 yards, Dallas had a first down at the Eagles' 33.

Payton went back to the first series script, challenging Sheppard. Terry Glenn blew past the Pro Bowler on a fly pattern, actually showed to catch Bledsoe's pass and got his left foot inbounds before Sheppard pushed him off the field. The signaled touchdown was not challenged by the Philly sideline. Cortez' second PAT made the score 14-0 just over seven minutes into the game.

A third three and out by the Eagles gave Dallas another short field, as they started at the Philadelphia 49. Bledsoe began working the middle of the field to Jason Witten. A deep out gained fifteen yards. After Keyshawn ran a reverse for three yards, Bledsoe found Witten for nine more yards to the Philly 22. A pass to Keyshawn for eleven two plays later brought Dallas to touchdown's door again. But two Larry Allen holding penalties prevented any chance for a third first -quarter TD. Allen was flagged on an eight yard Jones run to the three. Payton called a screen to Jones on the following play and a nifty gain to the eight was wiped out by a block-in-the-back penalty on Allen. A Jones draw and a square-in to Johnson moved Dallas back inside the ten and gave Cortez a glorified extra point. He made the short kick, pushing the lead to 17-0.

Dallas was on an adrenaline high and it seemed to wear off during the next few minutes, as the Eagles went on their only sustained drive of the day. McNabb began working the middle of the Cowboys' pass defense and three passes to LJ Smith, Greg Lewis and Brian Westbrook, plus a pass-interference call on Anthony Henry, quickly moved the Eagles to the Dallas 25.

McNabb brought back bad memories of last year's Monday night loss when he ad- libbed in the pocket and found Terrell Owens for 18 yards to the Dallas 10. The coverage stiffened and when Bradie James, another breakout player, batted away a McNabb pass in the end zone, the Eagles had to settle for a short France field goal.

Dallas answered with a methodical, 12-play 70 yard drive. The early series passes had backed the Eagles blitzes off, as DC Jim Johnson decided not to expose Lito Sheppard in single coverage any longer. With Sheppard backed off the line, Bledsoe and Keyshawn completed a short pass in front of him for six. Witten then continued his exploitation of Michael Lewis, beating the safety for nineteen yards. The looser coverage also backed up the Eagles' linebackers, and Julius Jones got fourteen yards on two consecutive runs. With Dallas in a third and five two plays later, Jones was sent off left tackle when the Eagles showed only six men in the box. He outraced Jeremiah Trotter to the yardstick and Dallas had a new set of downs.

An eight yard pass to Witten on third-and-nine found Dallas in a now-familiar 4th and 1 at the Eagles' twelve. After a timeout, Bledsoe faked a run off left tackle to Jones and floated a pass over a blitzing Michael Lewis to Lousaka Polite, who had sold a fake block and slipped into the left flat. Polite scored. Cortez' PAT pushed the lead to 24-3.

McNabb appeared to get the Eagles going again, completing a 21-yard pass to Greg Lewis that moved the Eagles to their 46. But two sacks in the next three plays, one on a rare corner blitz by Terence Newman, stopped the drive. Johnson's punt pinned Dallas at its six with two and a half minutes left. It seemed Dallas might get conservative and try to nurse its lead into the locker room. The Eagles, who had scored a late first half TD to pull to within 24-13 at Kansas City the week before, thought this was Parcells' plan, as they began calling time outs. A key pass interference penalty on Sheppard moved Dallas to its 19 and Bledsoe pushed the accelerator. After two runs by Jones and Bledsoe moved Dallas past the 40, Bledsoe completed three consecutive passes against Sheppard, moving Dallas to the Eagles' 19.

A draw play to Jones on first down was stopped by nickel linebacker Mark Simoneau, who rolled up on Jones' left ankle and sent him from the field. The injury took the wind out of Dallas' sails, as the next two plays gained only five yards. But Cortez nailed a second field goal with nine seconds left and Dallas went to halftime leading 27-3.

Any thoughts that Dallas might sit on the lead were dispelled immediately in the third quarter. The defense forced the Eagles into another three and out and a Crayton 24 yard punt return again put Dallas in Eagle's territory. A quick six-play drive moved Dallas closer so Cortez could expand the lead to 30-3.

McNabb tried to spark the moribund Eagles offense, completing a 25 yard pass to Owens, who finally shook free from Terence Newman. A sack by a blitzing Roy Williams forced a punt three plays later, however, and Dallas changed gears. Jones had emerged from the locker room without a limp, but he watched from the sideline as Tyson Thompson got his first extended work in the Dallas backfield. Eight Thompson runs were interrupted only by a twelve-yard pass to Glenn and a three-yard Bledsoe scramble. The rookie powered the Cowboys from their own 21 to the Eagles' 24, eating up almost seven and a half minutes in the process.

From there Philadelphia got its only break of the game. Bledsoe ran a sprint out pass to Johnson on third and eight. Johnson gained four yards before Sheppard hit him squarely on the ball. It popped into the arms of Sheldon Brown, who ran 80 yards for a touchdown that closed the Cowboys' margin to 30-10, with 1:12 still remaining in the third quarter. The receiver and his quarterback got into a heated argument on the sideline, with Johnson claiming Bledsoe had run him directly into rolled-up coverage.

Concern grew a bit when Dallas surrendered the ball after three plays, with Mat McBriar making his first punt of the day with 14:56 to go. The defense calmed the Cowboys' faithful by forcing a three and out of their own. The offense then rode Tyson Thompson's legs a second time. He carried the ball on six of the drive's first seven plays and nine times overall on a 13 play, 9:07 drive that set up Cortez' fourth field goal of the day.

Dallas now had a 33-10 lead and Philadelphia had only 4:39 left to play with. Andy Reid made a surprising decision to send out McNabb for one more drive, that resulted in yet another three and out. The teams cleared their benches the rest of the way. The Eagles were all too ready to escape their lost Sunday in Texas. The Cowboys, on the other hand, looked eager to learn if they have in fact laid the cornerstone for a successful long-term run.


  • The most impressive aspect of the win is that Dallas did not resort to any trickery. The defense did open the game in its nickel package, but after two series went back to its base 3-4. There were no exotic coverage packages and no trick plays on offense. Terrell Owens was stopped by tight coverage, by corners, safeties and linebackers alike.
  • While I'm on the subject of linebackers, let me praise Bradie James, one of my whipping boys last week. James looked like a different man, especially in coverage. He was more certain on his drops and knew where he needed to be. Do it again next week, Bradie.
  • Good preparation is usually accompanied by some luck. Dallas escaped a big play in the second quarter when the Eagles matched Westbrook up against Willie Pile. The Cowboys were blitzing and there was nobody behind Pile to stop Westbrook, who got a good five yards behind the safety. McNabb felt pressure from his right and sailed the ball long for an incompletion. The Eagles' offense never got another chance at a big play the rest of the afternoon.
  • They did it again. The play was negated by Larry Allen's penalty, but Dallas again ran a screen effectively. This makes three weeks in a row that Julius Jones has broken free on this play. It's going to become a big weapon in the offensive arsenal.
  • Mike Zimmer is also digging into his bag of tricks, throwing a corner blitz at McNabb. The Cowboys blitz packages were fairly basic the first month. If the rookies are starting to get comfortable, the sophistication of Dallas' blitzes should go way up.
  • Kevin Burnett got some play in the goal-line defense, as well as on special teams. Look for him to get more responsibility, especially if Dat Nguyen's neck keeps him out for a while.
  • The wrinkle of the day: Dallas twice lined up Keyshawn Johnson as a fullback. He stayed in both times to block blitzing safeties and did a good job.
  • Marco Rivera had his best game. He neutralized Eagles MLB Jeremiah Trotter. The Cowboys were effective running the ball inside to their right, directly at the Eagles' anchor.
  • Tyson Thompson still needs to protect the ball better. He had two near- fumbles that needed to be reviewed. He will no doubt hear about it from his head coach this week, if he hasn't already.
  • Foundational wins sometimes signal two teams going in opposite directions. You wonder how much of the win was due to the Cowboys elevating their game and how much was due to the Eagles' being flat. They looked beaten at halftime. They rushed for 19 yards this week and only 28 last week. Running games this weak don't win championships. The Cowboys exposed Lito Sheppard and Michael Lewis, who looked lost in coverage. Right now the Eagles are relying on Donovan McNabb to carry them. He's as tough as they come, but you wonder how much longer he can handle the strain.
  • It was a good day in the standings, as Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Washington and, of course, Philadelphia lost. Dallas is now just one half game out of first place, with the division-leading Giants coming to Texas Stadium next week.
  • It's probably premature to discuss foundational wins, since Dallas has yet to win consecutive games. The Giants game will tell us a lot about this team's maturity level.
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