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The Eagles entered Sunday’s game with the third-rated offense in the NFL, averaging more than 451 yards per game. Meanwhile, both the Cowboys and Eagles ranked among the bottom five defenses.
It was no wonder the over/under for the game was 54.5. Some might have thought one of the teams could score 55 points by itself.
Instead, it took nearly 27 minutes before either team scored a point.
Combined, the teams had averaged 58.2 points per game through six weeks. On Sunday, the teams combined for a total of 20 in a 17-3 Dallas win.
The Dallas defense was going to have to find a way to stop Philadelphia QB Nick Foles, who had been on fire.
By the time the defense knocked Foles from the game at the end of the third quarter, Dallas had a 10-0 lead. A 9-yard touchdown from Tony Romo to Terrance Williams in the fourth quarter iced the game for the Cowboys, who took a one-game lead in the NFC East and now has a 3-0 record in the division.
The Cowboys’ defensive line should have been pitiful without DeMarcus Ware, who missed a game for the first time in his career. The only Dallas defensive lineman with a recognizable name was Jason Hatcher.
Nevertheless, guys like George Selvie (1.5 sacks) and Jarius Wynn (0.5 sacks) made the stat line. Foles only managed 80 passing yards in 3 quarters before suffering a head injury.
Rookie Matt Barkley saw his first NFL action in a regular-season game, but he threw 3 interceptions.
LeSean McCoy had averaged more than 100 yards per game in six previous games. Against Dallas, he only managed 55 rushing yards, including just 12 yards in 8 carries in the first half.
The defense that gave up 51 points to the Broncos just two weeks ago has held two division opponents to a combined total of 19 points in 2 weeks.
We can hope the can’t-stop-anyone defense will rest in peace.
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The radio team of Brad Sham and Babe Laufenberg complained several times that the Cowboys were not willing to run the football.
Playing with rookie Joseph Randle instead of DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys ran the ball 12 times for 38 yards in the first half. Randle had 10 carries for 34 yards, which was not great but was better than McCoy’s 12 yards at halftime.
Randle finished the game with 65 yards on 19 carries. He had more rushing attempts than Murray has had since week 3, when Murray ran 26 times for 175 yards.
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It would seem like the 2013 season includes a quiet farewell to Miles Austin.
He has not caught a pass since the team’s week 3 against the Rams, when he injured his hamstring yet again.
He has played in two consecutive games but has not caught a pass.
Meanwhile, Williams and Cole Beasley have looked very good. They combined for 12 receptions for 124 yards against the Eagles.
Releasing Austin after this season will not be a painless process, though. The Cowboys are reportedly going to be $31 million over the salary cap after this season, and Austin’s large salary does not help matters. He restructured his contract after the 2012 season to help with the salary cap, but releasing him would give the Cowboys more than $10 million in dead money from his salary alone.
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The last time the Cowboys held a team to 3 or fewer points was during the final week of the 2009 season, when the Cowboys shut out the Eagles 24-0 to win the NFC East.
Tony Romo has been the starting quarterback in Dallas during six of the last seven months of November (he was injured in 2010). Heading into Sunday’s game at Philadelphia, Romo had a record of 19-4 during those November games.
Romo played a good part of his 24th November game on his back, thanks to an offensive line that could not give Romo more than three seconds to get rid of the ball. The defense wasn’t helping, thanks to a number of penalties on third downs.
Nevertheless, the Cowboys knocked Michael Vick out the game and held a 10-7 lead at the half.
The Cowboys went three and out to open the second half, however, and rookie QB Nick Foles drove the Eagles into Dallas territory. On 1st and 20, Foles threw a pass into the end zone to a wide open Jeremy Maclin. The touchdown gave Philadelphia its first lead of the game.
The Cowboys went three and out again.
The Eagles drove down and added a field goal.
Philadelphia 17, Dallas 10, and it looked like the story for the game would be an obituary for the season.
With 2:14 left in the the third quarter, Dallas faced a 3rd and 5. Romo once again did not have time to throw the ball. However, he maneuvered in the pocket and bought enough time to find Miles Austin on a 25-yard reception. Three plays later, Romo hit Dez Bryant in the end zone on a deep post. Replay officials confirmed that the play was a touchdown.
No more obituary. From that point, the Cowboys took control.
Former Cowboy Mat McBriar punted with just under 14 minutes left in the game. Dwayne Harris headed towards the left sideline and found a lane. He raced 78 yards for a touchdown, giving the Cowboys the lead once again.
Philadelphia managed to score with just under two minutes left, but Alex Henery missed the extra point. The Eagles held the Cowboys and got the ball back at their own 11 with 53 seconds remaining.
But there was no magic finish for the Eagles. Anthony Spencer sacked Foles and stripped the ball. Jason Hatcher recovered the fumble in the end zone, giving Dallas its third touchdown on defense or special teams in the fourth quarter alone.
The game did not start out especially well for the Dallas defense. Two encroachment penalties gave the Eagles first downs, and Riley Cooper made a great catch in the end zone to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead.
The Cowboys came right back, though, driving 80 yards on 13 plays. Felix Jones took a short pass 11 yards for a touchdown to tie the game.
Both offenses struggled for much of the first half. Romo’s 49-yard pass to Dez Bryant with six minutes left in the second quarter helped to set up a field goal that gave the Cowboys their 10-7 halftime lead.
The Cowboys had good fortune earlier in the day as well. The Giants lost to the Bengals, giving New York a 6-4 record. If Dallas beat Cleveland next week, the Cowboys will be just one game out in the NFC East.