Grayson’s Grades: Eagles at Cowboys
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - The Philadelphia Eagles went to Texas and left with the NFC East basically locked up. The Eagles improved to 9-1 and still have the best record in the NFL. They looked sloppy in the first half, but exploded for 30 unanswered points in the second half and turned a 9-7 deficit at the half into a 37-9 victory.
Carson Wentz made some big throws in the second half to help put this one away. He got some help with some nice grabs by his receivers including a great catch by Alshon Jeffery in traffic for a touchdown. The defense did its job forcing four turnovers. One of them was a scoop and score on a sack-fumble in the fourth quarter by Nigel Bradham.
The Eagles lost Kicker Jake Elliott early in the game. Without a kicker, the Eagles converted a fourth down for a touchdown. They also converted three out of four two-point conversion attempts. Kamu Grugier-Hill handled kickoff duties and did very well as an emergency kicker.
Without further ado, here is the latest edition of Grayson's Grades:
Carson Wentz - Wentz was well on his way to a 'D' at halftime, but he stepped up in a big way and put the team on his back in the second half. Wentz was making all kinds of difficult throws. He bought time to hit his receivers, he moved well in the pocket and threw into some tight windows for completions. Wentz started the game by completing his first four passes for 49 yards on the opening touchdown drive. That included a 22-yard strike beautifully thrown down the sideline to Kenjon Barner. After the opening possession, Wentz looked shaky. He did not step up into the pocket and looked uncomfortable. He made some bad throws. Wentz completed just three of his final 14 pass attempts in the first half for 31 yards. He came out like a man possessed in the second half. Wentz completed seven of nine passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. He also completed two passes for two-point conversions.
Offensive Line - The offensive line tends to get the blame but never really the credit. I thought they played very well in this game, especially in the second half. They blocked so much better. The line opened holes for the running game and gave Wentz some room to throw. All of that was exactly the opposite in the first half. Credit Haalapoulivaati Vaitai, Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson for doing their jobs very well in the second half. The Eagles rushed for 215 yards in the game with 180 of those yards coming in the third and fourth quarters.
Doug Pederson - Pederson started the game with a great opening script. The Eagles marched 75 yards down the field on eight plays to score a touchdown. It was a well balanced drive using four pass plays and four run plays. The wheels came off the offensive wagon after that. The offense failed to convert a third down throughout the entire first half. The run game was not working and the passing game looked sloppy. Whatever happened at halftime, it worked. Pederson went back to the run and saw both Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount break off some long runs. The passing game clicked in a big way too. All in all, Pederson made adjustments at the half that helped shed the bye week rust and the Eagles left Dallas with a big win.
Kenjon Barner - Barner got going early with a great catch down the sideline to get both feet in bounds. It put the Eagles inside the red zone. He followed it up with a touchdown run on the very next play from four yards out to give the Eagles a 7-3 lead. Those two plays were big for the Eagles to answer an opening possession field goal by the Cowboys.
Jay Ajayi - Ajayi struggled in the first half carrying the ball three times for seven yards. He busted out in the second half breaking a 71-yard run in the third quarter. He got caught from behind at the 15. Ajayi finished the game with seven carries for 91 yards. He also caught one pass for ten yards.
LeGarrette Blount - Blount also struggled in the first half. He carried the ball just three times for nine yards. He also got going a little more in the second half. Blount broke a big 30-yard run early in the fourth quarter. He finished with 13 carries for 57 yards.
Alshon Jeffery - Jeffery made some great catches in this game. Perhaps none was bigger than the one he brought in as he was going to the ground by the endzone. Wentz fit it into a small window and Jeffery secured it for the touchdown. He made some other nice grabs throughout the game as well. Jeffery finished with four receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Corey Clement - Clement had a really nice run fighting through contact to score on the Eagles first possession of the second half. He followed that up with a nice reception on a two-point conversion attempt to give the Eagles a 15-9 lead. Clement has been a pretty consistent contributor. He now has six touchdowns, which ties him with Hal Giancanelli for the most touchdowns by a rookie running back in franchise history. Don Johnson holds the record with seven. Clement carried the ball six times for 50 yards and a touchdown.
Ronald Darby - Darby saw his first action since week one when he got hurt. His return was a solid one. He did a great job to close on Dez Bryant on a quick pass. Bryant had a touchdown if Darby didn't make the tackle. He followed that up with a heck of a play in the corner of the endzone to break up a pass holding the Cowboys to another field goal. Darby was covering the pass that was deflected and eventually intercepted by Rodney McLeod. Darby also picked off a pass in the second quarter. He led the team with eight tackles and two passes defensed.
Nigel Bradham - Bradham has been having a solid season and that continued in this game. He picked up a fumble by Dak Prescott and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Bradham also added six tackles in the game.
Derek Barnett - Barnett made sure he introduced himself to Dak Prescott several times in this game. The rookie has been steadily improving as the season is progressing and had his best game of the season against the Cowboys. Barnett recorded two sacks including a forced fumble on one of those sacks. It was scooped up by Nigel Bradham and returned 37 yards for a touchdown. Barnett also recorded three tackles and three quarterback hits. He applied the pressure on Prescott that forced him to throw it higher than he wanted to downfield and into the arms of Ronald Darby for an Interception. This was a really impressive game for the first-round pick.
Malcolm Jenkins - Jenkins played well against the Cowboys. The veteran made a huge play on fourth down to pick off a pass in the endzone and prevent the Cowboys from getting a touchdown. It preserved a no touchdown game for the defense. Jenkins' versatility on defense really allows the Eagles flexibility to do different things. He can play near the line of scrimmage as well as deep in coverage. Jenkins recorded four tackles, an interception and had two passes successfully defended.
Brandon Graham - Graham recorded a sack in this game when he came around the end and chased Prescott down from behind. He finished the game with that sack as well as four tackles, a tackle for a loss and a quarterback hit. Graham continues to be a key part of this strong defensive front.
Jim Schwartz - I thought Jim Schwartz had a pretty good game plan. The defense kept Dez Bryant in check until late in the game when they had a big lead and gave him a big cushion. However, I did not like the way they got gashed for some big run plays. Alfred Morris broke off several runs including a 22-yard gain on the ground to help move the chains. He finished with 17 carries for 91 yards. It was uncharacteristic to see the Eagles give him running room like he had at times. All in all, he got his defense to get in Dak Prescott's face and deliver some hits on him. They forced four turnovers and frustrated the Cowboys offense repeatedly.
Tim Jernigan - Jernigan had a great bye week receiving a contract extension during his time off. He kept playing right where he left off. Jernigan combined with Fletcher Cox really provides stability and a firm middle of the defensive line. Jernigan tallied a sack in this game as well as three tackles.
Torrey Smith - Smith caught the first two plays of the game for the Eagles totaling 17 yards. He added one more reception later in the game that was a nice catch for a touchdown. Smith had a brutal drop that would have moved the chains. The Eagles had to punt two plays later. He finished with three receptions for 28 yards and a touchdown.
Rodney McLeod - McLeod did a great job to stay with a tipped ball and eventually pull it in for an interception in the first half. It gave the Eagles the ball inside the Red Zone. However, Jake Elliott missed the field goal resulting in no points off the turnover. He added three tackles and a pass successfully defended.
Jalen Mills - Mills has played well this season and that continued in this game. He broke up a pass early in the game on third down to force a field goal by the Cowboys. Mills was second on the team in tackles with seven. He ended up on Dez Bryant a few times and stuck with him to hold him to minimal gains until later in the game when the Eagles had a big lead and softened their cushion on receivers downfield.