Dallas 34, Philadelphia 14: A Long, Long Time Coming
The version of the Dallas Cowboys that has emerged since December 19, 2009 continues to put to rest the concerns that have followed this team for so many years now.
Of course, the team’s drought of playoff wins has come to an end after 13 years. Tony Romo has won a playoff game. Wade Phillips has won playoff game. Jerry Jones has won a playoff game without guys named Aikman, Irvin, and Emmitt.
Beyond all of that, what is most impressive about this team is that the Cowboys aren’t falling apart when faced with adversity. “Oh, no, here we go again” just isn’t happening.
Against the Eagles on Saturday night, Philadelphia clearly needed to get some momentum to erase the effects of the Cowboys’ shutout win last week. Dallas drove the ball in the first quarter but could not punch it in. When Dallas finally got on the board, thanks a pass interference penalty called on Sheldon Brown, the Eagles responded with a 76-yard touchdown pass from Michael Vick to Jeremy Maclin.
7-7. So much for the shutout string. So much for the easy blowout. So much for the momentum.
On the first play after Dallas got the ball back, Romo threw up (not as in vomit, though the thought came to mind) a duck pass that appeared to be picked off by Sean Jones, who returned the ball to the Dallas 14. It looked like the Eagles might snag a 14-7 lead.
But then the oft-maligned Phillips made the most important challenge of his coaching career, and the referees determined that the ball had touched the ground and reversed the call. With new life, the formerly maligned Romo moved the ball 85 yards in 10 plays. Players catching the ball on the drive included Patrick Crayton (18 yards on a 3rd-and-9) and Roy Williams (17 yards on a 3rd-and-7).
A Romo pass to Jason Witten moved the ball inside the Philadelphia 1. One might recall the Cowboys’ short-yardage problems from a month ago. No problem at all, as Tashard Choice ran right behind Andre Gurode and Leonard Davis to score and give the Cowboys a 14-7 lead.
From there, the rout unfolded. Dallas held the Eagles and got the ball back. A pass from Romo to Miles Austin set up a Shaun Suisham field goal. Two plays later, Vick fumbled a handoff attempt, and another oft-maligned player—Bobby Carpenter—recovered the fumble. Three plays after that, Romo hit Austin on a bubble screen, and when Austin ran it in from six yards out, the Cowboys led 24-7.
Flashback to the infamous finale of the 2008 season. The Eagles took a 24-3 lead just before the half. On the ensuing kickoff, with less than 10 seconds remaining in the half, Pacman Jones fumbled the kickoff return, setting up a 50-yard field goal by David Akers. Not that the Cowboys had a chance before that play, but the Eagles put another nail in the coffin with that play.
Flash forward to Saturday night: The Eagles tried to get some points just before the half. However, with 51 seconds left in the half, linebacker Bradie James stripped Pro Bowl fullback Leonard Weaver. Dallas moved the ball to the Philadelphia 30, setting up Suisham’s 48-yard field goal as time nearly expired.
From that point, it was just a matter of watching the clock and hoping the Eagles didn’t come up with some sort of miracle. The Eagles moved the ball into Dallas territory midway through the third quarter, but an Anthony Spencer sack on a 3rd-and-7 play ended the drive. After the Eagles punted, Felix Jones put the Eagles out of their misery by darting right and breaking away for a 73-yard touchdown (video).
From there, the celebration was on. Given that the Cowboys beat the Eagles by scores of 34-10 (1992) and 30-11 (1995) in two previous playoff wins, it was hard not to think back what wins over Philadelphia led to in previous seasons.
Jones finished with 148 yards on 16 carries, while Tashard Choice added another 42. Marion Barber barely played.
Romo continued his red hot play. He completed 23 of 35 passes for 244 yards and 2 TD.
The Dallas defense gave up 340 yards, which was more than normal, but a big chunk of that came on the Maclin touchdown and after the game was out of hand. McNabb had a passer rating of just 68.5, and that was thanks to some stat-padding late in the game.
The Cowboys travel to Minnesota next week to face the Vikings. Dallas lost at Minnesota in the 1999 playoffs but beat the Vikings at home in 1996. This was also a great series during the 1970s. Keep this in mind: in both of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl championship seasons of the 1970s, Dallas beat Minnesota to do so.