Just like we all expected, the Dallas Cowboys came through on Sunday night with a 27-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Okay, fine - maybe we weren’t so optimistic about this one, but we’ll gladly take it. The Cowboys put together a full 60 minutes of quality football and got their first road win of the year against a tough opponent. It wasn’t always pretty and got tense at times, but they made a bunch of plays to pull out the win.
Things were heated from the start as both these teams exchanged pleasantries prior to kickoff.
Kris Richard getting into a little pregame scuffle pic.twitter.com/ogldT9jQGZ— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) November 12, 2018
It was a great win with plenty of things to talk about. Here are 10 thoughts on the Cowboys big road win in Philadelphia.
1. The Rookie
Rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch drew first blood with the first big play of the game when he stepped in front of a Carson Wentz pass for an interception. His coverage skills were hyped up prior to the draft and the Cowboys wanted that type of athleticism roaming around. On Sunday night, he showed everyone just what he’s capable of.
Not only did Vander Esch make the pick, but he has the awareness to stay on his feet and keep fighting for yards on the return. It was worth an extra 28 yards of field position. Nice job, rook.
Not only did LVE start the game strong, but he finished strong as well. Vander Esch ended the game with 13 tackles, all solo, but none was more sweet than number this one.
O que o Leighton Vander Esch fez nessa jogada foi sensacionalpic.twitter.com/qXTG0dpLhX— Blue Star Brasil ✭ (@BlueStarBrasil) November 12, 2018
Man, that looks familiar. Where have I seen that before? Oh yeah, I remember...
Not sure if Usain Bolt could have gotten over in time to block Sean Lee, who sniffed the Darren Sproles screen out immediately: pic.twitter.com/RR97s2o4Tu— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) October 31, 2016
Vander Esch stopped the Eagles on third down and Jeff Heath came through with a big fourth down stop. The defense came through!
It looks like the Cowboys might have found themselves another first-round All-Pro.
2. Martin gives us a scare
The excitement of the Vander Esch pick was short lived as Cowboys Nation cringed at the sight of All Pro guard Zack Martin on the ground holding his leg.
The Cowboys were already without All-Pro center Travis Frederick as well as it being their first game without rookie Connor Williams at left guard. With no Martin, the entire interior offensive line was being manned by backups at one point - Joe Looney, Xavier Su’a-Filo, and Adam Redmond.
Martin would later return because, let’s face it - he’s super tough. The guy is amazing.
Dak, on Zack Martin: “He’s a warrior, it’s as simple as that. He’s a warrior. He’s the best player on our team.” #cowboyswire— David Helman (@HelmanDC) November 12, 2018
Props goes out to the entire offensive line. With more time under Marc Columbo and Hudson Houck this group will continue to improve. And we have to tip our cap to Xavier Su’a Filo who filled in really well for Williams. This could make things interesting going forward.
Guard Xavier Su’a-Filo who is replacing Connor Williams had a great block here. pic.twitter.com/ahLTmm3UNR— Carlos Saldana (@Carlos_Saldana) November 12, 2018
The Eagles front is legit, so for this group to come out and play so well has to be encouraging.
3. Miscues on special teams
The Cowboys defense was doing their job early, but that didn’t translate into rewarding field position thanks to some bad mistakes on special teams. On the Eagles first punt of the game, Cole Beasley opted to let a bouncing ball go past him as to not risk a potential muffed recovery. The ball took a nice roll, costing the team extra yardage, but it was made worse by a holding penalty by Byron Jones. It backed the offense deep in their own territory inside the 10-yard line.
Then, on the Eagles next punt, the Cowboys again had a penalty again when Dorance Armstrong got called for a block in the back. The unfortunate thing was that he blocked the Eagles coverage guy right into Beasley for the tackle. Once again, the Cowboys offense started their possession deep in their own territory inside the 10-yard line.
4. Go for it
Both teams were pulling out all the stops with an early decision to go for it on fourth down. The Cowboys converted a third and long into a short fourth-down attempt. Jason Garrett kept his troops on the field and they had a nice bootleg run called that looked like Dak Prescott would’ve converted, but unfortunately a false start penalty messed that all up. The Cowboys then had to punt.
Doug Pederson would get his chance to go for it on the ensuing drive when the Eagles had a fourth and short at the Cowboys 20-yard line, but Jaylon Smith was able to shoot the gap and tackle Eagles running back Josh Adams for a three-yard loss and a turnover on downs.
But it didn’t stop there. On the next possession, the Cowboys reached in their bag of tricks and pulled off a fake punt on a 4th-and-2 play where Jeff Heath took the direct snap and pushed through the middle for the first down.
Jeff Heath the with the fake punt pic.twitter.com/WFJJ7TYQ0M— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) November 12, 2018
Jeff Heath showed up on fourth down in this game. Not just with this fake punt, but the big fourth-down stop late in the game. Heath loves making game-saving plays on Sunday night. It’s sorta his thing.
5. So close
When Ezekiel Elliott broke a big run and hurdled an Eagles defender, it looked like it was going to be one of those highlight plays for the ages...if only he could have stayed on his feet.
It ended up costing the Cowboys four points as the offense couldn’t find the end zone and had to settle for a Brett Maher field goal.
The Cowboys got those three points back when Chidobe Awuzie was able to get his hand out to knock down a deep pass to Alshon Jeffrey.
Great finish! Chidobe Awuzie! pic.twitter.com/kElVFkByv1— WeAreDBnation (@WeAreDBNation1) November 12, 2018
The play saved a touchdown and kept the Eagles to three points on that possession.
6. Overcoming adversity
After Jake Elliott hit that 56-yard field goal to put the Eagles on the board, the Cowboys had a critical possession towards the end of the first half. Philadelphia had all three time outs and were hoping for a three-and-out so they could have another shot at scoring before the half. And it looked like they were going to get their chance after a Prescott sack.
Raise your hand if you thought the offense was going 73 yards to the house after Dak takes a sack for a 13-yard loss.— Rob Phillips (@robphillips3) November 12, 2018
But, the Cowboys had other plans. After a well-executed passing play to Michael Gallup picked up the first down, the Cowboys kept rolling and scored their first touchdown of the night.
There were several times in the game where the Eagles started gaining momentum and it looked like the Cowboys could have just collapsed. But they didn’t. Even when the Eagles offense finally got rolling in the second half, the Cowboys offense came right back with touchdowns of their own.
Prescott did a great job overcoming some early struggles, only to keep it together and make some huge plays later in the game. He missed some targets early, took some costly sacks, and had another one of those slippery ball incidents, but all-in-all, the Cowboys young quarterback showed up when it mattered the most.
Garrett preaches about staying focused and shaking things off and concentrating on the next play and his team did just that on Sunday night.
7. Home field love from the Refs
The Cowboys hurt themselves with some bad penalties and in the end, would come out on the wrong end of the penalty battle. Dallas had five penalties for 37 yards, where the Eagles weren’t called for a single penalty. Not one. Philly did a good job staying disciplined, but they weren’t that disciplined.
Cris Collingsworth highlighted what a great job Wentz did throwing the ball while his wristband was being tugged on. Pay no attention to the Eagles blocker grabbing Damien Wilson around the neck.
Carson Wentz's wristband was being grabbed and he STILL completed a pass. pic.twitter.com/JoTuZSzPZm— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 12, 2018
The refs also completely ignored and illegal man downfield penalty on an Eagles RPO play. Center Jason Kelece was about five yards down field when the ball was thrown.
8. Fly Zeke fly
Ezekiel Elliott was gassed in this game and for good reason. The Cowboys leaned on their star running back quite a bit in this game. Zeke had 19 carries for 151 yards for an average of 7.9 yards per carry. He also added 36 yards receiving. Elliott scored two touchdowns in the game, both coming in the fourth quarter.
It was a great performance considering the Eagles came into the game with the second-best run defense in the league. The Eagles also came into this game with the highest time of possession percentage in the league, but the Cowboys were able to win the TOP battle by keeping it over 33 minutes in the game.
9. The ghost of drafts past, present, and future
On Saturday, we wrote about how a few first-round draft picks could help the Cowboys beat the Eagles on Sunday night. Well, they delivered.
Past (Zeke) ✔️ 186 total yards, 2 TDs— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) November 12, 2018
Present (LVE) ✔️13 solo tackles, INT
Future (Amari) ✔️led team in receiving, opened up field for the offense https://t.co/D7YbYAv3Dk
Zeke was a monster on offense, LVE was a beast on defense, and let’s not forget the Amari Cooper effect.
Amari Cooper is a legitimate #1 receiver, worthy of a first round pick. Let Michael Gallup mature and he can be exactly what you're looking for in a #2.— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) November 12, 2018
Lots of things still broken on offense, but the receiving corps seems to be fixed.
10. We still have a race in the East
The Cowboys kept their season alive tonight with a big win. They are now 4-5, tied with the Eagles and still two games behind Washington.
If the Cowboys can win next week, it’s going to set the stage for a great Thanksgiving matchup with the Redskins. Philadelphia and Washington still have to play each other twice.
Philadelphia will now travel to New Orleans next week to face a Saints team that is playing like the best team in the league right now.
This win isn’t anything to be pumping our fist about as there is still a lot of work to do. But as these groups gradually improve and the offense finds it’s way, it could give the team a fighting chance.