Accept it. They're good.
The Cowboys were their own worst enemy early tonight, sabotaging a tactically brilliant opening drive with two Jason Witten red-zone penalties. Dallas left the first quarter with two long, aborted drives, five penalties and a 0-0 scoreboard.
It looked a lot like the Giants '07 breakdown.
But this team is different. The offense closed two long second quarter drives. The defense, which had its nose bloodied by a 76-yard Michael Vick uppercut to Jeremy Maclin, resumed its bamboozlement of Donovan McNabb. He finished the half with just 39 passing yards on 10 throws. Patrick Crayton consistently made long returns and the nickel defense forced two late first half fumbles, which were converted to ten points.
Dallas entered the 2nd scoreless but left for intermission with a 27-7 lead.
The defense maintained control over McNabb in the third quarter, frustrating him with a coveage package which used a lot more deep safety help than usual. Credit goes to the underneath guys, Orlando Scandrick, Bradie James and Bobby Carpenter, who kept Brent Celek and the Eagles running backs quiet in the short passing game. Carpenter picked the right time for his best game since the '06 playoff loss to Seattle. He pressured McNabb when his number was called on blitzes and he recovered two fumbles.
On offense, Jason Garrett kept the same general approach he had in game one. He opened by attacking the short flanks of the Eagles defense, correctly anticipating heavy Philadelphia blitzing up the middle. The same flanker screens which worked so well before worked again tonight.
When the Eagles rolled up their corners to combat this, Garrett attacked the middle with a blizzard of slants to Roy Williams and Miles Austin and slants from the slot for Patrick Crayton, who again beat Joselio Hanson.
Tonight Dallas just plain beat up the whole Eagles team. The bench looked like a triage area for Philly's secondary. Free safety Macho Harris left in the 2nd after a vicious Kevin Ogletree hit on a kickoff return. Quintin Mikel landed on his face trying to tackle Jason Witten and knocked himselt out for a play. Sheldon Brown was also nicked up and became a target for Miles Austin and for Roy Williams, who found the open slants to his liking. He re-appeared in the Dallas attack, catching five balls over the middle for 59 yards.
Garrett delivered the clincher late in the 3rd when he called for the trusty power right, when the Eagles were blitzing heavily inside. Marc Colombo and one tight end sealed the edge and the pulling blockers led Felix Jones around right end. 73 yards later, he had pushed Dallas lead to 34-7.
The Eagles scored a second touchdown very early in the 4th, but the Cowboys offense answered with a ten-play, 8:12 drive which made three first downs. Dallas didn't score any points, but left the Eagles with no hope for a comeback. Demarcus Ware stripped McNabb of the ball three plays later, and Carpenter's recovery set the team on course for Minnesota.
-- Marc Colombo's return was a non-story. He looked like he had never left, holding Juqua Parker without a sack and playing a solid right tackle.
-- The Torch: Marion Barber was pulled from the game in the first quarter, and Felix Jones got a Tiki-Barber workload; The results: 16 carries, 148 yards rushing and a 30 yard reception. Nothing wrong with 178 yards from scrimmage. He's found his role, and he should be the premier back the rest of the way, regardless of which back rotates with him.
-- That back may be Barber. Tashard Choice took a helmet to an earhole on his final carry and may have suffered another minor concussion. He looked dazed and did not return to the game. He's already missed a game with a concussion and a second such injury would rule him out for the Vikings game.
-- Tony Cool. It was just another day at the office for Mr. Romo, who looks like he's in a rocking chair sipping tea, even when he's being blitzed.
-- The Anthony Spencer Experience is waiting for you. He continues his late-season drive with outstanding overall play. He worked through an eight man max protect scheme to sack McNabb and end the Eagles second, 2nd-half drive.
-- Familiarity breeds contempt, and yellow laundry. The two teams are tired of each other and could not help commiting chippy penalties after whistles. The Eagles took 116 yards in penalties tonight. The Cowboys had 112 yards worth of flags.
-- Ooops, they did it again. One week after acknowledging they went pass happy, the Eagles threw 37 passes and ran just 11 times.
-- Paging DeSean Jackson. The National Bank of Newman is on line two. You have insufficient funds to cover the tweets you made this week. Your butt is overdrawn.
Jackson's line: 3 catches, 14 yards
Look for the big breakdown tomorrow. In the meantime, raise a glass to the Cowboys!