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Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: Cowboys Playoff Fate In Their Own Hands

Dallas assumes control of the NFC East.

Elsa/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys got their revenge, walking into the Linc and walking out with a 38-27 victory of their NFC East rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles.

What's it mean? Dallas, at 10-4, is one game ahead in the NFC East. They control their own playoff fate. But, they can't afford any slip-ups the rest of the way. If they do, they might need help to get in, and the wildcard is a tough route to go.

NFC playoff picture: What's the landscape after Cowboys' win? | Dallas Morning News

What the Cowboys need to do If Dallas wins its final two games, it's guaranteed the NFC East title and a trip to the playoffs. If Dallas loses once, it will likely need a Philadelphia loss as well. Because of tiebreakers, it will be difficult for the Cowboys to get one of the wildcard spots.

The Cowboys turned to their stars for this win. And their stars came up big.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles - Recap - December 14, 2014 - ESPN

Dez Bryant caught a career-best three touchdown catches from Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys rallied to beat the Philadelphia Eagles 38-27 on Sunday night after wasting a 21-0 lead. DeMarco Murray had a pair of TD runs to help the Cowboys (10-4) move ahead of the Eagles (9-5) into first place in the NFC East. The Eagles dominated the Cowboys in a 33-10 road win on Thanksgiving, but Dallas takes control of the division with two weeks left.

When Dallas needed it most, Romo and Bryant were the deciding factor.

Romo outplayed his counterpart, Mark Sanchez. The Eagles desperately wanted to avoid having the game rest on the shoulders of Sanchez, but it did and he couldn't will his team to victory.

Sanchez fails to lead the comeback

But in the end, the simple truth was that Tony Romo made a bad Eagles defense pay routinely and Sanchez failed to make a bad Dallas defense pay often enough. Romo threw beautiful balls for touchdowns while Sanchez threw adequate short passes and hoped his receivers could gain yards after the catch. The killer came on the last play of the third quarter. Sanchez attempted to his tight end Zach Ertz over the middle, but the throw was side. Ertz got a hand on it but the deflection was intercepted by the Cowboys’ J. J. Wilcox. A little over 2 minutes later, Romo hit Dez Bryant with another in a series of rainbows over Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher for a touchdown. It gave the Cowboys a 35-24 lead -- and while it did not end the game, it did define the challenge of the endgame, a challenge that both Sanchez and his teammates were unable to meet.

Bob Sturm: One massive advantage and all-time performance boost Cowboys past Eagles | Dallas Morning News

On the defense forcing Eagles QB Mark Sanchez to throw downfield: Sanchez can be a fine quarterback if the down and distance is in his favor. The second you stop their run to put them in third and long, Sanchez can’t bail out into rollouts and  bubble screens, the kind of things that are high-percentage throws. If you can force him to throw downfield, he is absolutely the type of guy who’s going to give you a chance to pick him off. The Cowboys put him in some high leverage situations and in part the play that ended the third quarter,  a third and long, he had to fit the ball into  Zach Ertz and J.J. Wilcox made the play (an interception). That probably turned the game as much as anything.

And Dez Bryant simply destroyed Bradley Fletcher.

Fletcher has no answers for Bryant

Bradley Fletcher, bless his short memory, must have nightmares about the receivers that have beat him the last two seasons. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis keeps sending him out there, and the cornerback keeps letting the Eagles down. Fletcher will deliver a game or two, possibly three in a row, when he isn't toasted more than Wonder Bread. But when his technique breaks down, he doesn't have the athletic ability to defend the best receivers. The Cowboys' Dez Bryant beat him for two first-half touchdowns and one in the fourth quarter. Fletcher probably wouldn't have been in such a predicament if his counterpart, Cary Williams, hadn't been penalized twice on third down. But he never looked back on a perfectly tossed corner fade in the end zone (there was likely little he could have done to break up the pass). He was beat to the goal line by Bryant when Tony Romo lofted a 26-yard pass for a touchdown. And he was beat again on a 25-yard toss for a TD in the fourth.

The Cowboys offense rolled to 38 points, but they need to give thanks to the defense and special teams. They certainly made life a little easier for the offense.

5 thoughts: Tony Romo, Dez Bryant lead the way as resilient Cowboys take division lead | Dallas Morning News

5.) The Cowboys entered Sunday night’s game 5-0 in games with two or more turnovers. They record four against the Eagles. No one is confusing this defense for one of the better groups in the league, but if they can continue forcing turnovers like they did against the Eagles, they have a chance against anyone. C.J. Spillman had a fumble recovery, J.J. Wilcox contributed an interception and a forced fumble. Kyle Wilber added a fourth-quarter fumble recovery and Bruce Carter finished things off with an interception in the final minutes. Even Rod Marinelli has to be happy about that.

NFL Recap - Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles - Dec 14, 2014 - Game Recap

The Cowboys recovered what ended up being an onside kick to start the game. A short kickoff bounced between deep returner Josh Huff and short man Brad Smith at the 15 and was recovered by C.J. Spillman at the Eagles 18. After Romo connected with Terrance Williams on an 8-yard pass on third-and-6, Murray ran in from the 1 to make it 7-0.

Dan Bailey made his kicks, the coverage teams kept Josh Huff and Darren Sproles in check. It was an all-around team effort.

One player on defense found some redemption in this game.

Rapid Reaction: Dallas Cowboys - Dallas Cowboys Blog - ESPN Dallas

Stock watch: J.J. Wilcox was admittedly not very good against the Eagles on Thanksgiving. He was out of control and out of his gaps and the Eagles made him pay. In the second half Sunday, Wilcox had an interception of Mark Sanchez on the final play of the third quarter that led to a Bryant touchdown and with 7:48 to go he poked the ball free from Celek for a fumble that linebacker Kyle Wilber recovered. The Cowboys turned that takeaway into a Dan Bailey field goal for a 38-27 lead with 4:37 to play.

Now it's the Eagles who are fretting about their playoff chances.

NFL Playoff Picture: Eagles blow huge opportunity to control their fate - Bleeding Green Nation

The Eagles blew it. They had a chance to beat the Cowboys at home and virtually secure the NFC East with just two games remaining. They had a chance to become the first team since the 2001-2004 Eagles to win the division in back-to-back seasons. They came up short. Philadelphia's loss drops their playoff chances from 73.4% to 35.8%. They are not officially eliminated yet by any means, but now they will need help to qualify for the post-season.

We'll close with this...

Philadelphia fans throw beer bottles and eggs at Cowboys buses | Dallas Morning News

Philadelphia Eagles fans welcomed the Dallas Cowboys to Philly by throwing eggs and beer bottles at the team buses. Our writer Jon Machota reports that most of the effort hit only the media bus.

Stay classy, Philadelphia!

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