When it comes to games being called badly by the officials, I thought I had seen it all. I was wrong. In a game that seemed to last about five hours, time after time the Eagles defensive backs and linebackers continued to grab and hit the Dallas receivers with impunity. One might conclude that the refs for this game swallowed their whistles, but I didn’t see any paramedics on the sideline seeing to these same officials in order to preclude a serious medical emergency. In fact I discovered they did still have their whistles, but they were reserved for any slight transgression on the part of the Cowboys. But the Cowboys did overcome a lack of calls in their favor and a multitude of calls against them that led to negative yardage they had to make up as well as free yardage and first downs for the Eagles.
In a game the Cowboys had under control most of the day, the rare tense moment came when quarterback Tony Romo threw an interception on an attempt to hit running back Phillip Tanner over the middle. It appeared that Tanner could have done more to knock the ball away from the defender, but he didn’t. As a result, the Eagles ended up with the ball around the Dallas thirty yard line. But even though they went for it on fourth down and converted for a first down during that possession, the Eagles still ended up with only three points to show for it, once again proving that hustle on the part of the Cowboy’s offense after an interception can be a plus four point play.
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles left the game around the end of the third quarter, after a hard hit by the Cowboys, and was replaced by rookie Matt Barkley. Foles was off target most of the day, with the pressure by the Cowboys defense at least partially responsible. Barkley was more accurate with his throws, allowing the Eagles to move the ball more crisply, but as rookies tend to do, he threw interceptions, three in fact, which equated to “game over” for the Eagles. So, the Eagles much vaunted “fast break” offense, rated second in the NFL, was only able to hang three on the Cowboys and that was the result of the Romo interception.
In fact, this game represented the very first time in his career as a head coach at the collegiate and pro levels that the Eagle’s Chip Kelly’s team was held scoreless in the first half of the game. Credit the Cowboys much maligned defensive players and coaches for this accomplishment. After struggling with playing zone defense, the Cowboys linebackers and defensive backs are playing much more man coverage. The result of this subtle change was the stellar performance we saw against the Eagles yesterday. I firmly believe this is a real strength of the Cowboys defense and it’s a sign of good coaching to recognize these strengths and use them to their advantage.
On offense for the Cowboys, we are witnessing a change of guard as rookie receiver Terrance Williams continues to make big plays and touchdowns and Miles Austin becomes more invisible with each passing game. If Austin is still around and starting ahead of Williams by next year, I will be quite surprised. And is there anyone that can cover Cole Beasley? It doesn’t appear to be the case as he appears to be open every time he gets on the field. Beasley is one guy that needs to never be on the inactive list on game day, unless he’s hurt.
So here we are. The Cowboys now lead the NFC East with a 4-3 record and have clearly played better in head to head competition against the other NFC East teams. They just need to do it again, as they will be facing each of these teams one more time this season.