Let’s be honest here. There were times in the exciting but often sloppy 29-23 Dallas Cowboys win over the Philadelphia Eagles you had major doubts. (I know I did.) Dak Prescott finally looked like a rookie at times, Ezekiel Elliott was kept from running free and dominating (although it took a penalty robbing him of a 60-yard run to do so completely), and until the very end of the game the defense let Carson Wentz and Darren Sproles continuously gash them at the wrong times. But there was one player for the Cowboys that was performing at a high level for the entire game (except overtime, when the defense never had to take the field), and for that, and particularly some key plays that the final outcome hinged on, this game ball goes to the best defensive player currently wearing the Star, Sean Lee.
He was all over the field for the Cowboys, and led the team in tackles with 11. But mostly, he deserves this week’s game ball for two key plays in the fourth quarter, both of which had to be made to get the game to overtime where it would eventually be won.
The first came at the 7:17 mark of the last stanza of regulation, with the Eagles facing a third and eight at the Dallas 30. The Cowboys trailed 23-17 at that point, and a field goal would have likely put things out of reach. All the Eagles had to do was not lose yardage to give them a good shot, but after Wentz picked up his own fumble, he threw a pass to Sproles, who bedeviled Dallas all game. But not this play, as Lee came streaking in to tackle him for a six-yard loss. That pushed the ball back far enough that head coach Doug Pederson elected to punt the ball away rather than try the lengthy field goal. The ball wound up at the Dallas 10-yard line, and Prescott had the best drive of his night, leading the team 90 yards and capping it off with the game-tying touchdown to Dez Bryant. Had Lee not made that tackle, the Cowboys may not have had a chance.
Then he made a second crucial play inside the two minute warning. The Eagles had shown they could drive down the field quickly to end the first half of the game, and despite them facing a first and 20 due to a penalty, they still had enough time to attempt to get in position for a possible game winning kick. But on a blitz from Rod Marinelli, Lee knifed into the backfield and forced Wentz to duck under him, which allowed Cedric Thornton and Tyrone Crawford to clean it up with a sack. The six-yard loss put Philadelphia in too deep a hole to overcome, and another sack on third down would end any threat.
Even though Lee was not credited with that sack on first down, he was the catalyst for it, and he was one player who was making a positive impact for Dallas from the opening kickoff to the end of regulation. And while Prescott eventually rose up and made the plays needed to first tie the game and then win it, he was very inconsistent. Dez Bryant was big, getting 113 yards and that tying touchdown in his first game back from injury. Elliott didn’t get 100 yard rushing, but had a total of 148 yards from scrimmage. Still, no one did as much to win the game as Lee, both through his consistently good play and in the key moments when he made a real difference.
For that, he gets this game ball. And the Cowboys get the win to take a two game lead in the NFC East and remain at the top of the NFC. Those facts, of course, are far more important, and Lee would be the first to tell you that.
That’s just the kind of player he is.