The Cowboys won convincingly against the Eagles yesterday by scoring on offense, defense and special teams. As I predicted for this game, in a contest between two mistake prone teams, the one that makes the least mistakes will win. That turned out to be the Cowboys.
Don’t get me wrong, the Cowboys were not mistake free. Doug Free still had his false starts and Morris Claiborne struggled on defense, even negating an interception by Anthony Spencer with a holding call. Orlando Scandrick had his share of problems and Jason Hatcher gave extra yards to the Eagles offense with encroachment penalties.
But the Cowboys protected the ball and played well enough to come away with a victory they had to have if they were to keep any playoff hopes alive. I was disappointed to see the Cowboys not employ a hurry-up offense, because I am still convinced that is the key to keeping opposing defenses off balance as well as wearing them down. However, it ended up not being needed for this game.
No doubt, part of the Cowboys success in this game had to be the result of forcing Michael Vick to leave with a concussion and being replaced by a rookie quarterback. But I am hopeful that this game was a glimpse of things to come from the Cowboys in the second half of the 2012 season.
Keys to this victory certainly included Jason Garrett following my advice (laugh) by finding ways to get Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley and Lance Dunbar on the field more. Harris showed what he is capable of as a punt returner, and that punt return was a glimpse of what we could see from him as a receiver.
Beasley has shown the ability to get open in the slot and make first downs. I saw a play yesterday where Beasley was open, but Tony Romo chose to throw downfield to Dez Bryant on a pass that ended up incomplete. A throw to Beasley would have ended up as a first down.
Lance Dunbar provided a nice change of pace from Felix Jones and had his moments when called upon to run the ball. And, as the kickoff returner, I think Dunbar will run one back for a touchdown before the season is over.
Rob Ryan continued to find ways to cover for the loss of Sean Lee, and others, on defense. As I predicted before the season began, this will be a big year for Bruce Carter. He has not disappointed and, if anything, he has surpassed the expectations I had when I made that statement.
I am sure that Claiborne is feeling a little battered in the area of confidence, but I am also sure he will get his confidence back. You have to have a short memory to succeed as a cornerback, as they say. I also hope the interception returned by Brandon Carr is a sign of things to come.
I do still have some concerns with this team though. Romo is not throwing as accurately as we are used to seeing and I am not sure what the cause of that is. He also seems to be keying on one receiver, leading him to attempt passes to receivers that are covered, when others are more open. And of course it makes it easier for the opposing defense to intercept the pass.
I also don’t understand why the awful defense of the New Orleans Saints can sack the Eagles’ quarterback seven times and we can only accomplish it twice. The Cowboys would not have won this game on offensive production alone. The Eagles scored more points than the Cowboys offense. It was points scored by the defense and special teams that put them over the top to win this game.
They can’t count on that every game, so the offense still needs some work, if they are to count on them to win games as this season progresses. With a better second half schedule that includes many games at home, let’s hope this game was more of a sign of things to come, than an aberration.