First and 10: Eagles Bury the Cowboys
(973espn.com) — So much of the hype leading up to Sunday night's game between Philadelphia and Dallas surrounded the two quarterbacks, Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott.
For much of the contest, however, the two second-year quarterbacks looked like well two second-year QBs, struggling to throw the football with any consistency.
Ultimately, however, the now 9-1 Eagles had enough going for them to pull away for a rather easy 37-9 win after a very sluggish first 30 minutes coming off their bye week.
Philadelphia and Wentz were actually really good on their first drive of the night, going 75 yards on eight plays before a brilliant toe-tapping catch by Kenjon Barner set up a four-yard run by the team's fourth-string running back.
That was it for the first half, though, as the Eagles amassed a total of 40 yards over their next seven opportunities and actually trailed the Cowboys 9-7 due to three Mike Nugent field goals.
Doug Pederson's team restored order from there outscoring Dallas 30-0 in the second half, taking the opening kickoff to see-saw back in front with a Doppelganger to its first drive, eight plays and 75 yards before another back, Corey Clement took it in from 11 yards out.
The game was essentially over when the Eagles got the football back again as Jay Ajayi busted through the left side for a 71-yard run, his second monster run in two games since being acquired from Miami at the trade deadline. Moments later Wentz hit Torrey Smith for an 11-yard score and a two-point conversion made it a 23-9 game, almost insurmountable for a moribund Dallas offense without the suspended Ezekiel Elliott and injured left tackle Tyron Smith.
With the win, the Eagles have a four-game lead over the Cowboys with just six to play and a game advantage over both Minnesota and New Orleans in the conference.
Wentz finished 14-of-27 for 168 yards and two TDs, finishing with a more-than-respectable 95.9 passer rating thanks to the solid second half. Prescott, meanwhile, has his worst game as a professional, finishing 18-of-31 for 145 yards with three interceptions for a 30.4 passer rating.
AND 10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
-The Eagles were without kicker Jake Elliott for most of the game after he was forced to make a tackle on a poor opening kickoff in which Ryan Switzer returned for 63 yards. He stayed around for a bit but after missing a 34-yard field goal badly and delivering another poor KO, he was ruled out with a concussion and special teams star Kamu Grugier-Hill served as the emergency kicker doing a pretty good job on a few kickoffs. The Eagles, however, went for it on fourth down deep in Dallas territory, resulting in a 17-yard Wentz to Alshon Jeffery TD and also went for two points after all TDs, going three-of-four.
-With Wentz struggling the Eagles run game was the story, amassing 215 total yards. The plan was to allow the overaggressive David Irving to take himself out of the play and then trap the Dallas defense to death and it worked like a charm at times. Ajayi finished with seven carries for 91 yards while LeGarrette Blount had 57 yards on 13 totes and Clement had 50 on six carries.
-While all the talk around Dallas was the complaints about Elliott's suspension and Smith's groin and back problems the fact that the Cowboys' best defensive player, Sean Lee, was also out because of a hamstring injury may have been the bigger deal. Lee has had a host of injuries over the years and Dallas generally wins when he's on the field (12-3 over his last 15 starts) while things become much more difficult when he's not (7-9 in last 16 games without Lee).
- Ronald Darby returned to the starting lineup after missing the previous eight games with a dislocated ankle suffered in the season opener at Washington. The Eagles persevered well in Darby's absence thanks to the play of Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson and Rasul Douglas and Mills was kept at left corner as a reward for how he played at the position while Darby was out. Darby was very good on the right side despite Dallas testing him early and often, registering a team-high eight tackles and an interception.
-Robinson continues to be s difference maker in the slot, flashing amazing short-area quickness while both starting safeties, Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins, picked off Prescott.
-While much was made of Smith's absence for the Cowboys, the national media is largely ignoring the fact that the Eagles lost their left tackle, Jason Peters, because Halapoulivaati Vaitai has been very effective as his replacement and that continued in Dallas.
-Rookie Derek Barnett continues to break out as a pass rusher, registering two sacks against Byron Bell, including a strip sack that Nigel Bradham returned 37 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Barnett has a really impressive bend around the edge as Lane Johnson noted all the way back in OTAs.
-Jeffery was listed as questionable with a troublesome ankle but played his usual role as the team's WR1, catching four of seven targets for 67 yards and the TD.
-The rest of the Eagles' receiving corps wasn't all that effective as Zach Ertz had just two catches for eight yards and Nelson Agholor snared only one of his five targets for minus-five yards.
-Veterans Dannell Ellerbe and Will Beatty, who were signed earlier this week as depth at linebacker and offensive tackle respectively, were both inactive as was running back Wendell Smallwood, the odd man out in the rotation now that Ajayi is here.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen