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Dallas 38, Philadelphia 33: Great Breaks at the Right Times

Morris Claiborne’s 50-yard fumble return for a score was a key play in the Cowboys’ 38-33 win over the Eagles.

The Cowboys usually begin their nose dive when they reach December. Since 2008, Dallas has won its first game in December only once—an overtime win at Indianapolis in an otherwise forgettable 2010 season.

Since 2006, the Cowboys have an overall record of 13-19 during the months of December and January, including the playoffs.

Thus, when the Cowboys fell behind to the Eagles by a score of 14-3, it was easy to think this did not look good. When the Eagles took a 24-17 lead in the third quarter after the Cowboys had tied the game, things did not look good.

On the final play of the third quarter, the Cowboys faced a 4th and 1. DeMarco Murray ran up the middle, and the original spot was short of the first down.

Bad news.

But Jason Garrett challenged the spot and won. Three plays later, Romo hit Miles Austin on a 27-yard touchdown to tie the game again.

The Dallas defense was poor for much of the night, and the Eagles were able to drive back into Dallas territory. A 43-yard Alex Henery field goal gave the Eagles another lead with less than 10 minutes to play.

The lead did not last. The Cowboys moved right back down field, going 86 yards in 7 plays thanks to long passes to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.

The Eagles had a chance on the next drive, especially once rookie quarterback Nick Foles avoided DeMarcus Ware and completed a pass for a first down on a 3rd-and-8 play.

Bryce Brown had hurt the Cowboys all game. My Facebook post at just before 10 p.m. read:

Combination of: (1) Bryce Brown is really good; (2) this Dallas defense is pathetic tonight.

Moments later, Josh Brent knocked the ball out of Brown’s hand. Morris Claiborne picked up the ball and ran 50 yards for the touchdown.

The game should have ended at 38-27, but the special teams unit somehow gave up a 98-yard punt return. Fortunately, the Cowboys recovered the onside kick, ending the game.

Murray had 83 yards and a touchdown in his return to the lineup. Bryant scored twice, giving him 8 on the season. His 98 receiving yards gives him 978 on the season.

Witten had 108 yards, while Austin had 46. It is possible that Bryant, Witten, and Austin could each finish the season with more than 1,000 receiving yards.

This marks the first time since 2009 that the Cowboys have swept the Eagles. In 2011, the Cowboys only managed 7 points in both losses to Philadelphia. In 2012, the Cowboys scored 38 in both wins.

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This Might Be a Scary NFC East

Three of the four NFC East teams started the season at 1-0.

The Cowboys’ season-opening win on Wednesday may have been a statement that the team can contend for the NFC East title. If week #1 is any indication, this will be quite a race.

In the past decade, Dallas has usually been able to count on the Redskins struggling. That may not be the case any longer thanks to a couple of rookies.

Robert Griffin III started the game against the Saints throwing a series of WR screens. Those screens became downfield throws soon enough, and he finished the game completing 19 of 26 passes for 320 yards with 2 TDs and no picks. That’s a passer rating of 139.9. Drew Brees only managed a passer rating of 70.9 in a 40-32 loss to Washington.

The other rookie is running back Alfred Morris, who was previously best known as a deep fantasy sleeper. He ran hard en route to a 96-yard, 2 TD game.

In Cleveland, the Eagles did not look good all game. Michael Vick threw four picks, and the Browns held a 16-10 lead in the fourth quarter. However, Vick managed to hit Clay Harbor with the game-winning touchdown with 1:18 remaining, giving the Eagles a 17-16 win.

That means that defending Super Bowl Champions are now the only 0-1 team in the NFC East.  On top of that, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Chicago each had strong games, showing that the NFC as a whole looks awfully tough.

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