It took seven weeks, but ladies and gentlemen, your Dallas Cowboys have won back to back games. Yet another divisional foe met their doom facing the Cowboys, this time being done in on their own home turf. The Cowboys travelled to the city of brotherly love and showed none, stifling the Eagles and extending the Philadelphia home losing streak with a dominating 17-3 victory. The win not only put Dallas in sole possession of first place but also finished a first half sweep of the division, essentially adding an extra game over everyone at this point. Here is this week’s installment of “Game Balls and Close Calls” as we breakdown the stand out performers who made this possible.
OFFENSIVE GAME BALL
Terrance Williams / Cole Beasley
Honorable Mention: Tony Romo, Dez Bryant
Just like last week when I decided that two people deserved a game ball for their effort, this week it was too tough to pick just one. Williams and Beasley have stepped up in a major way in the absence / disappearance of Miles Austin to take the heat off of Bryant. Williams caught the lone touchdown pass of the game and totalled six catches for 71 yards on the seven times the ball was thrown towards him. Beasley also added six catches for 53 yards on seven targets and moved the chains on a few crucial third downs which led to points. Williams is filling in as the deep threat Austin used to represent as well as a reliable outside compliment to Dez, while Beasley is quickly becoming dangerous from the slot and a chain mover. These two have honestly made Austin expendable and give hope to the future of the offense as they are both under the age of 25. Without their contributions in this game, the balance of the game would have been much more up in the air.
Romo was not spectacular all the time but he was when it was needed. He did have two interceptions although one was a garbage hail mary pass to end the half. The other led to points for Philadelphia and could have been much more crucial except that he responded and drove the ball right back down to put up a TD that put the game out of reach. Dez was his normal amazing self and likely would have had even more of an impact on this game if the officials would have called some of the obvious penalties that were committed against him in coverage.
DEFENSIVE GAME BALL
All Starting 11 players
How can you single out one guy from the performance that was put out Sunday? All week, much was made of the explosive Philadelphia offense and how Chip Kelly made Monte Kiffin defenses look foolish. Advantage Kiffin. League leading rusher LeSean McCoy was held to almost half his normal out put, only gaining 55 yards. The Eagles, who were averaging almost 27 points per game were held to three. As for the Kelly v. Kiffin battle, this also represented the first time in Kelly’s coaching career that his team was held to zero first half points and only three total points.
Pick a guy responsible and you would be right. Sean Lee was magnificent, leading the team with 11 tackles and adding a tackle for loss and an interception. Brandon Carr completely eliminated DeSean Jackson from the equation holding him to three catches and a paltry 21 yards. J.J. Wilcox and Barry Church played the most complete game a starting safety duo has for the Cowboys in a long time and then of course, there is that defensive line again. Missing DeMarcus Ware, not to mention all the other “names” you’re familiar with, all these guys did was dominate the line of scrimmage. Three sacks, five tackles for loss, five quarterback hits and holding the league’s best rushing team to half their average kept Philadelphia extremely one-dimensional. If you can eliminate the threat of the run from the Eagles, their receivers are not good enough to win individual battles. Dallas proved that point and executed their plan perfectly, all with a group of guys you would never recognize.
SPECIAL TEAMS GAME BALL
Honorable Mention: None
Part of the reason that Dallas had such a suffocating presence on defense was due to the field position provided by Jones. Of his nine punts, six of them pinned the Eagles inside their own 20-yard line, two of which landed inside the 10-yard line. The Eagles never started better than the 30-yard line on any of his punts and had an average starting field position of the 17-yard line after receiving the ball from a punt. That definitely starts the defense off on the right foot and keeps them from feeling the pressure of having to defend a short field.
In my opinion, these plays were the most crucial to the success of the Cowboys in this game, contributing greatly to the win.
1. LATE SECOND QUARTER, 1:02 LEFT, 1ST AND 10 FROM THE EAGLES 22 YARD LINE – The Cowboys had just failed to add to their meager 3-0 lead by going three and out and giving the ball back to Philadelphia with two time outs and time on the clock. Thankfully, the defense was up to the task of maintaining the lead. With the Eagles feverishly trying to add some points before half, the Cowboys defense held them to an impossible 60-yard field goal attempt which had no chance of being good. Aside from keeping the shutout intact at that point, this also helped keep momentum on Dallas’ side as the Cowboys received the second half kickoff.
2. EARLY THIRD QUARTER, 9:27 LEFT, 3RD AND GOAL FROM THE EAGLES 4 YARD LINE – As Dallas is driving for the first touchdown of the game, they are faced with a third and goal. Romo drops back and goes to his most dangerous weapon, Dez Bryant, who cannot make the catch… because he was almost tackled in the end zone. Two plays earlier Dez was also interfered with in the end zone without a call. This time, the Cowboys were given the call and on the very next play, Philip Tanner punched it in to give the Cowboys a 10-0 lead. Two scores in this game seemed like four with the way the defense played.
3. LATE THIRD QUARTER, 0:03 LEFT, 3RD AND GOAL FROM THE DALLAS 9 YARD LINE – After a horrible throw under duress by Romo was intercepted and returned into Dallas territory, the Cowboys were once again faced with the task of maintaining momentum. They once again rose to the challenge. Keeping the Eagles offense out of the end zone was the clear positive that came from this stand but they were also able to knock starting quarterback Nick Foles out of the game. This limited the Eagles extremely in the fourth quarter, only down one score and still with a chance to win.
4. EARLY FOURTH QUARTER, 9:28 LEFT, 1ST AND GOAL FROM THE EAGLES 9YARD LINE – Now in a one score game and coming off an interception that led to the Eagles score, Tony Romo led the Cowboys methodically down the field. Completing six passes on the drive, Romo put the Cowboys into scoring range by getting all the way down to the Eagles nine. His seventh completion of the drive was a perfect slant pass to Terrance Williams who blew by his man off the line and walked in easily for the touchdown, giving Dallas a two touchdown lead that would prove to be insurmountable.
5. MID FOURTH QUARTER, 7:14 LEFT, 3RD AND 6 FROM THE DALLAS 37 YARD LINE – Down two scores, the Eagles were in last gasp mode with a rookie quarterback. On this drive, you could almost get a feel for the bait being put out there by the defense. An earlier interception was nullified by a penalty so the die was cast. Barkley completed his next two passes to get into Dallas territory. His next completion would be to the wrong team as Sean Lee, playing perfect zone coverage stepped in front of a gift wrapped interception to all but close any hope of a comeback attempt on this day. Game over. Drive home safely.
From week to week, it seems like the Cowboys are getting by having one side of the ball dominate. This team has really only put together one complete game and yet, here they are with a division lead and an unbeaten record within the conference. This was a much-needed effort from the defense and one that if it can be replicated in the coming weeks against potent offenses like the Lions and Saints could have them running away with a playoff spot. Clearly, the defense and the offense both have high gears they can switch too, the question will be whether or not they can do it in the same game.