Eagles Are One Step Away, Stifle Cowboys
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Christmas came early in South Philadelphia as the short-handed Eagles suffocated a dismal Dallas offense en route to a 17-9 win that puts Philadelphia a win away from the NFC East title.
The Eagles defense stymied the Cowboys No. 1 ranked offense which was dealt a significant blow last week when Dak Prescott suffered an AC joint shoulder sprain against the Los Angeles Rams.
The Dallas quarterback was not able to throw in practice until Friday and rarely had any zip or accuracy on the football during the game despite Philadelphia offering up plenty of opportunities with a revolving door outside at cornerback.
Ronald Darby left the game with a hip flexor and didn't return while Jalen Mills also left for a bit with an ankle injury before returning. Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones stepped in and the latter moved from left corner to the opposite side when Douglas was beaten badly by Tavon Austin down the field, a mistake erased by one of those poor Prescott throws.
That card played by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz proved prudent when Jones broke up a fourth-down pass late in the game headed to Michael Gallup in the end zone.
"We just played our style of football," defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. "Honestly, I think we did simple better. This week we just stayed consistent and everybody played mistake-free ball today."
Philadelphia beat the Cowboys for the first time in six tries when Ezekiel Elliott was on the field and the star back was held to 47 yards in 13 carries and tapped out in a key 4th-and-1 in the third quarter which turned into a Tony Pollard fumble.
"We had to stop the run," defensive end Brandon Graham said. "We had to stop [Elliott]. You know that was number one. Today we got what we wanted."
The Eagles weren't exactly an offensive juggernaut either as they continued their late-season run with backup playmakers but did more than enough to distance themselves with a pair of touchdowns, a first-quarter slant to Dallas Goedert off a fake bubble screen and a one-yard plunge from Miles Sanders at the end of the third frame which effectively buried the listless Cowboys.
"It was just a stick-nod," Goedert said of his TD. "It's what we call an out and up. Carson [Wentz] placed a beautiful ball right over the safety's hand and I just went up and made the play."
If Philadelphia beats the New York Giants next Sunday up the Jersey Turnpike the Eagles win the NFC East and will be the fourth seed in the conference bracket with a home game to open the playoffs. An Eagles loss to the Giants coupled with a Cowboys win over Washington would send Dallas to the postseason.
Wentz was steady if unspectacular, completing 31-of-40 passes for 319 yards and a 108.2 passer rating.
Sanders was again the offensive star with 156 scrimmage yards -- 79 rushing and 77 receiving -- while Goedert caught nine passes for 91 yards and Greg Ward had four receptions for 71. Zach Ertz left for a bit with a rib injury but returned and caught four passes for 28 yards.
"They were keying on me a lot," Sanders said. "I was just trying to grind out the whole game."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen