This was an ugly win, but against the Cowboys, even the ugliness feels good.
Dallas needed a 79-yard kick return, two horrible defensive pass interference calls on Byron Maxwell at the end of regulation, a field goal that banked in off the post, and an insanely lucky TD pass from Matt Cassel to Dez Bryant to even stay close.
Cassel narrowly evaded a sack, then basically shut his eyes and threw a Hail Mary to the end zone with 11 minutes left in the game. The fact that Dez Bryant grabbed it before any of the nearby Eagles, and scored a lucky/brilliant touchdown, doesn’t change the fact that it was a terrible throw.
That pass was so crazy that it made #4 on SportsCenter’s wacky play highlight reel.
The Eagles, on the other hand, didn’t do anything fancy. They just kept plugging away until they wore Dallas down. Several Cowboys went down with injuries, a marker of the hard-fought game, and only one (to Byron Jones, who returned after missing one play) was probably faked to help them catch their breath.
Here are my six favorite bits of grit from this win:
1. Pounding DeMarco Murray right back at Dallas
DeMarco Murray was not brilliant, flashy or fast. He was relentless, pummeling away until the Cowboys were gassed and, in several cases, injured. Ryan Mathews again earned more yards per carry, and Murray was still slow going around the corner, but he is the guy you want on fourth and goal at the one. (He scored in exactly that situation tonight.)
Dallas continues to talk a big game about not missing Murray, despite losing Lance Dunbar to injury and waiving underwear thief Joseph Randle. But it was psychologically wounding to pound them with their former star, and by the end of the game he was getting around the corner on his exhausted former teammates.
The Birds also flaunted Miles Austin, who is chewing up more of Dallas’ salary cap this year ($5.1 million) than Philadelphia’s ($2.25M). He caught a 27-yard pass and drew a defensive holding call for another first down.
The turnaround in the running game this year is phenomenal, and not talked about enough. Carolina leads the NFL with 144.0 rushing yards per game so far this year. In games one through four, the Eagles managed only 70. Since then, they’ve averaged a dominant 173.25 per game.
While the offensive line is much better, the biggest improvement has come from Murray himself. He averaged a mere 12 yards in the first four games, missing one entirely due to injury. In games five through eight, he has piled up more than 85 per tiff — and the Eagles have won three of those four contests.
Tonight, the three backs totaled racked up 172 yards. Murray added 78 receiving yards to his 83 on the ground.
A lot of people think Chip’s Oregon offense was pass-based, and that’s just wrong. It was always pounding run after run at tempo, with an occasional pass to break it open and keep the defense honest. In fact, a lot of the “passes” in the system, like the bubble screens and swing passes, are really more like runs than passes. The ball getting to the receiver/runner should be automatic, and the result depends on the defense’s ability to tackle in space. Continue Reading