By Zach Walker
How did it go for those Cowboys?
Whether you’re just coming out of your food coma, or cutting the medical wristband off from your binge drinking away of the memories of what the Cowboys did on Thanksgiving evening, and that’s to say, struggle. Think back, when some Eagles made some very big statements, LeSean McCoy saying that he “owns Dallas,” and when Bennie Logan questioned “what’s so great” about the Cowboys’ offensive line. Well, the talk was laid down and the Eagles completely backed it up, McCoy destroyed the Cowboys’ defense for 159 yards off of a 6.4 yards per carry average, and McCoy didn’t catch a ball, all ground work. As far as Logan’s statements, the entire defensive line seemed to agree unanimously, as they worked over the offensive line of the Cowboys and racked up four sacks and was far more disruptive then a stat sheet would show. It was an all-around egg laid by the Cowboys, but how’d it actually happen?
Darren Sproles would be the discouraging factor early, after converting a third and short for a gain of 13 yards. The next play, LeSean McCoy would run to the right side and expose Rolando McClain’s injury (knee) on the way to a 36 yard gain. On the next third down, only needing 2 yards, Sproles picked up 4 making it first and goal from the 10. After an 8 yard completion to Riley Cooper, Mark Sanchez would take it in from 2 yards out for the first touchdown, but taking the ball 80 yards in 3 minutes was a telling issue.
The Cowboys were very chippy with their first possession, getting good yards from Murray, until the defense forced the ball into the air, and on the third, third down, Bradley Fletcher would hold Dez Bryant’s arm down from being able to make catch. Could have been called, but good fight. The Eagles would take big bites with their plays, three straight plays of over 12 yards gained, followed by an incompletion. Two straight 7 yard shots to Riley Cooper, then the big one, a long crossing pass to Jordan Matthews for the 27 yard score to go up 14 to nothing.
More Murray, twice for 7 yards, then a 16 yard completion to Cole Beasley on third and 3, using a very excellent bubble screen play to get Zack Martin and Travis Frederick in space and in front of him. Two plays later, a shot downfield to Dez Bryant for 38 yards and setting up first and goal at the Eagles’ 4 yard line. After a short run and the second quarter ended, DeMarco Murray walked in for the 1 yard score and cut the lead in half.
Three plays into the Eagles drive, maybe the tide was beginning to turn for the Cowboys, as Tyrone Crawford hit Sanchez and he fumbled the ball, but the guard Andrew Gardner would recover the ball. The next play was a back-breaker, Jeremy Maclin, working against Brandon Carr, caught the ball at the 40 yard line and took it to the Cowboys 20, a gain of 58. But the Cowboys defense would only yield the field goal after Barry Church knocked the ball loose from tight end Zach Ertz on third down.
The Cowboys would go three and out, and the Eagles would make a drive out of it. Actually a methodical drive, with two drive lengthening penalties by the defense, one a crucial holding call on JJ Wilcox, and if he didn’t grab Ertz to keep himself from falling down, Ertz would have been called for offensive pass interference because he just bulled through Wilcox. But after the Eagles got to second and 1 from the 9 yard line, the Cowboys used all three timeouts, on three straight plays, and forced an incompletion on third down when Sterling Moore batted the ball from Riley Cooper to just give up the field goal.
So down 20 to 7, and with 90 seconds, the Cowboys knew that they could score in that time with no timeouts. Unless they turn the ball over. And they did. After a short pass to the left to Cole Beasley, he tried to work towards the sideline and get out of bounds, but Brandon Boykin knocked the ball loose and Nate Allen recovered the football just before the ball rolled out of bounds. The Cowboys had to get another stop, and they did, and forced the Eagles to kick the field goal after taking the clock down to 24 seconds left in the half. So, when the Cowboys got the ball back, they just kneeled the half away.
The Cowboys would move the ball on their first drive of the second half, but were forced to punt. But on the second play of the drive for the Eagles, LeSean McCoy fumbled the ball at his own 13 yard line and Jeremy Mincey would recover. With the score 23-7, a touchdown here would really change the dynamic of the game for the Cowboys. But it just wasn’t the day, Murray would have a great run on first down, with a 9 yard run down to the 4 yard line. Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan would make sure that second down was a negative play, and on third down, Romo would eat the ball, somewhat prematurely, especially for Romo, and would be forced to kick the field goal, making the lead just 13 points at that point.
George Selvie would be penalized for roughing the passer, when he gripped Mark Sanchez’s helmet too well on a failed sack attempt, but if anyone touches a quarterback’s head, auto-yards for the offense. Two plays later, McCoy absolutely joy-sticked entire Cowboys’ defense and scored from 38 yards out. The next drive started with a Romo sack, then a nothing completion to Dez for a single yard, then on third down, needing to get 14 or more yards, Romo floated a ball towards Dez and was picked off, but Cary Williams had held Dez before the throw, so that negated the interception and gave the Cowboys fresh downs. A big run from Lance Dunbar for 14 yards, then DeMarco went for 9, then the Eagles sacked Romo on second down. On third and 8, Romo found Dez on the curl route for the conversion. Three plays later, Romo was intercepted when looking for Terrance Williams, who didn’t do much to prevent the interception from being caught. On all of those throws, Romo looked very strange, just genuinely disconnected from himself, and started to look like the short week matched with the need to push the ball downfield were bothering him, and it wasn’t likely that he was injured, it all just seemed to bother him.
The Cowboys defense just had no answer for the rushing attack of the Eagles, and the Eagles would grab another field goal after a LeSean McCoy fumble was correctly overturned to keep the ball in the Eagles favor. After two completions, Romo looked strange, double-clutching a deep pass to Dez downfield, taking the zip off of the ball, then just over-throwing Beasley on second down, but getting it right and getting to Beasley but not for the full ten yards, and on fourth and 1, running from shotgun formation, Murray was swallowed by Mychal Kendricks for a loss of 6 and the ball over on downs. Three straight three and outs, twice by Philadelphia, and when the Cowboys got it back the second time, first, Dwayne Harris absolutely destroyed Nolan Carroll on the punt coverage, and that was an unnecessary roughness penalty. But after two completions, Romo unraveled, missing Cole Beasley, then going back to him for a 9 yard gain, then Romo had to dance twice in the pocket, and threw the ball for Devin Street and was intercepted and that sealed the game, after picking up two first downs, the Eagles kneeled the game out and sent the Cowboys into a soul-searching tailspin.
The Cowboys flat-out got out everything-ed in the game, offense, defense, and special teams, if the Harris penalty is taken into consideration. The Bears coming up, look a lot like the Eagles, not great in defense, potentially league leading running back, but the Cowboys seem to be the fixer for opposing teams, righting the ship against the Cowboys, so taken lightly, the Cowboys can get a major ride out of the Bears.