The offense played an atrocious first half and the Eagles still beat Dallas by four touchdowns on the road.
It’s hard to fathom. It really is. This is one of those big games that the Birds would have totally blown in years past, finding a way to flame out and disappoint on a national stage.
But not this squad!
They seems to have a mental fortitude and knack for adjustment that past Eagles teams just didn’t have.
Down 9-7 at the half, they scored 30 unanswered points to close out the game. Dallas pulled their starters in the fourth. It went from a harrowing nail-biter to a boring blowout in about 45 real-time minutes.
And maybe the most impressive thing was the first half defensive performance. Say what you will about the Cowboys missing two key offensive players, but the Eagles defense really propped up the other two units when they were struggling. How much more manageable is it going into halftime down by two points vs. ten? I think that was probably the key to the game.
The Birds are 9-1 with the NFC East in the bag and home field advantage in sight.
Buckle up, boys and girls.
1) Ronald Darby
The ankle looked fine to me. So much for the “let’s not disrupt the secondary’s chemistry” storyline.
He started with a nice open-field tackle on Dez Bryant on Dallas’ second drive, then followed it up with a strong swat on that Dez end zone fade a bit later.
Honestly, I do think he could have been called for pass interference on that play, but this officiating crew was allowing a lot of contact last night. We really didn’t see too many flags at all.
Darby got one of the three picks on the night:
— NFL (@NFL) November 20, 2017
He gave up 6 completions for 48 yards to Bryant on 8 total targets, with that INT, 8 tackles, and an additional pass defended. That’s a huge assignment for a player making his first appearance since week one, and he delivered.
2) Roll ’em all
Jay Ajayi? LeGarrette Blount? Corey Clement? Kenjon Barner?
All four made contributions on the night, with Ajayi leading the pack at 7 carries for 91 yards on the strength of a 71 yarder that he just couldn’t take to the house. Blount ran it 13 times for 57 yards, and Clement and Barner had the touchdowns, so go figure. The Eagles ran for a season-high 215 yards
I actually thought Ajayi might get a few more snaps, considering the fact that he had two weeks off to learn more of the playbook and become more familiar with the Eagles’ offense. But the Birds are comfortable giving Clement the rock in important situations, which we’ve seen throughout the year.
Reuben Frank can sometimes go crazy with his stats, but to that point above, I think this one really tells the story:
Corey Clement has 10 touches this year in the red zone.
He's scored 7 touchdowns.
— Reuben Frank (@RoobNBCS) November 20, 2017
They’re really spoiled for riches here. Fuck a three-headed monster, it could be four-heads, and I didn’t even mention Wendell Smallwood. Make it five. Five heads. A five-headed monster.
3) Injuries and idiots
Yea, the Cowboys were missing Zeke Elliott, Tyron Smith and Sean Lee.
And the Eagles were missing Jordan Hicks, Jason Peters and Darren Sproles, yet we seemed to hear a lot more about the Dallas injuries in the week leading up to the game.
— Ed Werder (@EdwerderRFA) November 20, 2017
Funny how that works. Could it be that the importance of those players is magnified partly because there’s no depth behind them? That couldn’t be it, right? Seems like the Eagles are getting by with Joe Walker, Big V, and a stable of runners. One team has dealt well with attrition and the other hasn’t.
Anyway, Alfred Morris didn’t have a bad game. 17 carries for 91 yards is solid against this front, but Zeke could have crested 100 and probably taken that first half stretch play into the end zone. The Birds did a nice job overall, but they did get a gashed a few times.
The absence of Lee was obvious. He’s one of the best linebackers in the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE.
And there were plenty of “woof” moments at left tackle for the Cowboys, because of…
4) Derek Barnett
He played his best game in an Eagles jersey, finishing with a pair of sacks and a forced fumble, plus a key hurry on the first Prescott interception, a play where he torched backup Byron Bell.
There was another sequence later in the second quarter when Prescott threw high and out of play on third down with Barnett bearing down once again.
The takeaway for me was how Barnett finished a couple of those plays, starting with the one-arm open field sack:
Derek Barnett sacking Dakota with one arm pic.twitter.com/HSfoKoAtS5
— Patrick (@PatrickMCausey) November 20, 2017
Prescott isn’t as big as Carson Wentz, but he’s still 6’2″ and 227 pounds. The ability to hang on a guy and grip with one hand while pulling yourself back to your feet is wild athleticism.
Similarly here, on the fumble, he’s falling to the ground and almost horizontal with the turf while stretching as far as possible to get a hand on Prescott’s throwing arm:
.@dbarnett25 forces the Dak fumble…
— NFL (@NFL) November 20, 2017
5) Good grades
Here’s an example of Pro Football Focus getting something right.
PFF graded Patrick Robinson with a 92.4 for another stellar performance in the Eagles’ secondary:
Patrick Robinson's incredible season continues pic.twitter.com/87jwCKtWRM
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 20, 2017
He’s quietly made some big plays this season, with a strong second quarter tackle and a key pass breakup on this third down:
Patrick Robinson continues to play out of his damn mind. Heck of a pass break up to force the punt. pic.twitter.com/m33AaJ3wqs
— Patrick (@PatrickMCausey) November 20, 2017
He’s having a great year, for real. I feel like he slides under the radar constantly while always finding a way to step up and contribute on a weekly basis.
6) The rest of the defense
What more can you say?
They held Dallas to three field goals at Jerry’s World.
Dak Prescott had a 30.4 QB rating while throwing three interceptions in a single game for the first time ever.
- 4 sacks
- 5 tackles for loss
- 7 passes defended
- 6 QB hits
- a defensive touchdown
Enjoy it folks. Units like this don’t come around too often.
7) Special teams and weirdness
It seemed like this might be a shit game when the kicker was injured making a tackle on a 60-yard return to begin the game.
Jake Elliott shanked a 34-yard field goal and left the field shortly after to be evaluated for a concussion. That resulted in the Birds trying 2-point conversions from then on, hitting on three of four attempts.
Kickoff duty went to backup linebacker and special teamer Kamu Grugier-Hill, who knocked his first effort to the one-yard line and hit his second into the end zone. Who knew? Dude can do it all.
Which begs the question…
These Kamu Grugier-Hill kickoffs raise an interesting strategic question. If there is a LB or some other special teamer capable of kicking the ball into the end zone, why risk the kicker on most kickoffs in the first place?
— Andrew Kulp (@KulpSays) November 20, 2017
8) Doug’s worst call
The play calling after the first drive left a lot to be desired. There was a shotgun draw play for Blount and a third and 10 draw play near midfield, something from the old Andy Reid “we’re gonna punt anyway” playbook. Not all of the struggles were on Pederson, obviously, as Torrey Smith had a big drop and Carson Wentz simply misfired on a number of throws. I would have tried to get Zach Ertz more involved somehow early on.
Aside from that, the only other thing I can think of is Doug’s decision to put Wentz back in the game with 6:00 left in the fourth quarter. Just place him in the bubble wrap and call it a day.
9) Doug’s best call
I like how Doug went right back to Kenjon Barner on the opening drive and gave him that red zone opportunity after making the big sideline catch. That’s how you reward a guy after a nice play and go with the hot hand at the same time.
Otherwise, I think the way he called the opening drive of the second half really had a ton of purpose and downhill intent:
- Ajayi 8 yard run
- Ajayi 1 yard run
- play action, back across field for Brent Celek 28 yards
- play action, Wentz throws the ball away
- Clement 1 yard run
- Alshon Jeffery 18 yards across the middle
- Clement 8 yard run
- Clement 11 yard touchdown run
- (two point conversion good)
Eight plays, 75 yards, 4:04. They ran it five times for 29 yards and Wentz made a couple of key tosses along the way. QB play was a big reason for the turnaround but they committed to running the football in the second half and ripped off a couple of huge gains on scoring drives.
10) Awful announcing
Cris Collinsworth is kind of dopey, but I don’t think he “hates” Philadelphia like everybody says. I thought he had some nice things to say about Fletcher Cox, Darby, and Wentz. One thing that was weird was the single arm tackle Jalen Mills made on Dez Bryant. Collinsworth praised Bryant for his stiff-arm move when I’m 99% sure Mills made the better play there to get the bigger guy to the ground.
As for Al Michaels, he seemed kind of tired. Sounded like he was gonna fall asleep on the Nigel Bradham touchdown.
I also enjoyed the audio guy playing Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy” going into commercial break after Prescott’s fumble. Not sure if the millennials “got” that joke/troll job.
Earlier on the broadcast, there was a weird shot of a bunch of turkeys at a farm awaiting Thanksgiving slaughter. That made me feel kind of like an asshole and consider veganism.
Also, I’m not at all surprised that dumbo Chris Christie was wearing a Notre Dame sweater while cheering the Cowboys in Jerry Jones’ box. Probably a Warriors fan too. And Duke.
Chris Christie wearing a Notre Dame shirt in the Cowboys owner's suite. He's like some sort of double cop pic.twitter.com/xJFLqsUBM3
— Mike Tunison (@xmasape) November 20, 2017