The Eagles made it look easy as they beat the Cowboys 33-10. They held DeMarco Murray under 100 yards rushing and ended Tony Romo's streak of games with a touchdown pass at 38. And Mark Sanchez became the latest in a string of backup quarterbacks to look like All Pros against Dallas.
For this week, the Eagles are clearly in charge of the NFC East, and their performance leaves very little doubt as to why the are. The only thing they could not do consistently all game was score touchdowns in the red zone, but when you score seven times in a game, it doesn't matter if four of them are only for three points. Especially when the other team is hardly scoring at all.
The first half was bad, and probably should have been worse on the scoreboard. The Eagles gained 292 yards and scored five times. Dallas could only muster 130 yards and had crucial mistakes. There was a complete misfire by Romo with a wide open Jason Witten that could have extended a drive. Barry Church for some reason ran right over Dwayne Harris on a punt return. And Cole Beasley fumbled a ball to set Philadelphia up on the Dallas 11 yard line. As advertised, the rapid pace of Chip Kelly's offense had the Cowboys defenders gasping, and after they gave up two touchdowns on the first two Eagles possessions, it looked like they might not be able to stop them at all. But they at least were able to slow the Eagles in the red zone after that, holding them to three field goals in the second quarter. But outside of one three and out, they were unable to stop Philadelphia in between the twenties. And with the offense sputtering outside of one touchdown drive, the lead began to pile up, and the game paused for the smooth vocal stylings of Pitbull with Dallas trailing 23-7.
One thing that certainly did not help the Cowboys defensively was an injury to Rolando McClain. Reports during the game indicated that he hurt a knee, and he was certainly not able to move like the guided missile we have become accustomed to. Having him hurt made the task for an already tired defense, hardly able to recover after the late game in New York, even harder.
Dallas was unable to answer offensively for the entire game. While the hyper paced Eagles offense was able to march up and down the field, Dallas could not sustain drives all day. Too often a good gain on first down would be followed by a failed play on second. The last real chance for the Cowboys to get back into the game was probably on a LeSean McCoy fumble at the Philadelphia 13 on the Eagles' first possession of the second half, but after a DeMarco Murray nine yard run, the Cowboys went backwards and had to settle for a field goal. A Tony Romo interception late in the third quarter, on which Terrance Williams was almost a bystander rather than diving in to try and break up the pick, put the game out of reach after the Eagles again marched down the field and scored another field goal.
It leaves the Cowboys still trying to break through the eight win barrier. As Troy Aikman observed, the Eagles dominated in the trenches on both sides of the ball. That vaunted Cowboys offensive line was nothing special against them, and the defensive line just could not keep up with the tempo. Romo did not seem sharp all game, and once again the Cowboys paid for the time it seems to take their receivers to get open. Without the time to stand in the pocket, Romo was not able to complete passes.
This was not a game that Philadelphia benefited from their special teams, at least in the way that they have earlier this year. They didn't need to. They were simply the better team with a better plan. While the short week may have been a factor, it was in no way the only factor.
The Cowboys continued their odd trend of being much worse at home than away. They will finish the season with no better than a .500 record at AT&T Stadium and must depend on their winning ways on the road if they are to hope to make it into the playoffs. Three of the last four games are away, and that actually may wind up being a good thing.
Dallas has also done very poorly against teams that have winning records. The victory at the Seattle Seahawks is the only one this year. With the Eagles rematch and a game against the Indianapolis Colts still to go, this does not portend well for them. They would need at least two wins to have a decent shot at a wildcard spot, assuming they are not able to catch the Eagles. That may be as much as they can hope for unless they can use the long break after the upcoming Thursday night game against the Chicago Bears to get things working better.
The issues on defense have started to catch up with Dallas, and the extremely high third down conversion rate of earlier in the season turned out to be unsustainable. Now we have to see if this team can finish strong and fight for a playoff spot. Jason Garrett's philosophy is getting yet another test.