Grayson’s Grades: Eagles vs. Cowboys
PHILADELPHIA - The Philadelphia Eagles outlasted the Dallas Cowboys in one of the most exciting chapters in this storied rivalry 28-23. This was a game of inches and nearly every time the Eagles held the Cowboys inches or feet short of their ultimate goal.
The Eagles offense built up a double-digit lead but sputtered out in the second half allowing the Cowboys the opportunities to try and take the lead. But a fourth and goal stand with Reed Blankenship making a tackle inches short of the goal line resulted in a turnover on downs.
Later, Dak Prescott stepped out of bound on a two point conversion attempt just before crossing the goal line keeping it a five-point lead for the Eagles instead of just three. That forced the Cowboys to need a touchdown to win it and on the final play the Eagles kept Cee Dee Lamb three yards short of the endzone to preserve the victory.
The win gave the Eagles commanding control in the NFC East. They lead the Cowboys by two-and-a-half games with the tiebreaker as well. They also remain in sole possession of the top seed in the NFC.
However, at 8-1 there are still a lot of things to clean up and a lot of banged up players that are excited about the bye this week.
Here is the latest edition of Grayson's Grades:
Jalen Hurts - Hurts continues to play with a left knee that is less than completely healthy. He also took a shot low on that knee late in the first half. Somehow he did not miss a play and sprinted out of the locker room after halftime bringing loud cheers from the fans in attendance. Hurts led the team on a 13 play 77 yard touchdown drive on the Eagles first possession. Then with the Eagles trailing 17-14, Hurts led the team on a six play 60 yard drive culminating in a perfectly thrown pass where only DeVonta Smith could catch it in the endzone. That 29 yard strike gave the Eagles a lead they would never relinquish. Hurts ultimately completed 17 of 23 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns. He also carried it ten times for 36 yards and a touchdown.
Brandon Graham - Graham made some big plays in big moments of the game. He was part of two different sacks on back-to-back plays that set the Cowboys back. Graham was also the player chasing Dak and that pressure helped force Dak out of bounds prior to the goal line. Graham finished with 1.5 sacks, two tackles, one tackle for a loss and two quarterback hits.
Reed Blankenship - Blankenship made a big play when he met Cowboys Tight End Luke Schoonmaker at the goal line. His hit forced Schoonmaker's knee to hit the ground before he could move the ball across the goal line. That was on fourth and goal and resulted in a turnover on downs instead of a touchdown. Blankenship finished with seven tackles and two passes successfully defended.
DeVonta Smith - Smith's biggest play was the 29 yard touchdown he caught. He ran a great route and beat his defender preserving the sideline as a safe place for Jalen Hurts to throw the ball. Hurts put it right on the spot and Smith had great concentration to catch it and get both feet in resulting in a touchdown. Smith caught three passes for 51 yards and that touchdown.
AJ Brown - For the first time in seven games, Brown did not have at least 125 receiving yards. He did not even have 100 yards receiving in this game. However, Brown was yet again a big factor and reliable receiver for Hurts. He made a great move on a short pass play in the flat to juke two defenders and score from four yards out. Brown caught seven passes for 66 yards and a touchdown.
Haason Reddick - Reddick has become a guy you can count on for about one big sack every week lately. He is fun to watch because he baits offensive linemen and sets them up for later pass rushes. Reddick is so quick off the line that even when he doesn't get there in time for a sack he definitely affects the play. Reddick finished with two tackles, one sack, one tackle for a loss and two quarterback hits.
Josh Sweat - Sweat is the perfect compliment to Reddick. They both force pressure on the defense just with their presence on the field. Sweat is also quick off the line and tends to be just as much of a nuisance for the opposing quarterback as Reddick. Sweat had four tackles, one tackle for a loss, one sack, one pass successfully defended and two quarterback hits.
D'Andre Swift - I enjoy watching Swift work. The Cowboys did a good job of keeping him from hurting them too much in this game but he still needs his carries. Brian Johnson gave him the amount of touches I have been looking for. Now it needs to be more consistent. While it was not the most productive game for Swift, he still helped move the chains and was a factor in the passing game as well. Swift carried the ball 18 times for 43 yards. He also caught two passes for 31 yards.
Kenneth Gainwell - Gainwell looked to have settled down better. I felt he was pressing over the last few weeks, but he let the game come to him and reacted accordingly with his touches. He made one of them count in a huge way when he found a hole and got into the endzone. For the first time this season, he looked more like the back he was throughout the playoffs a year ago. Gainwell carried the ball three times for 22 yards and a touchdown. He also caught one pass for one yard.
Jalen Carter - Carter continues to be fun to watch. He tends to win his battle off the line of scrimmage which helps to at least start collapsing a pocket or affecting a potential hole for a running back to try and find. Carter did get to Prescott at one point and was credited for half a sack. He finished with two tackles, half a sack and one quarterback hit.
Fletcher Cox - Cox saw a lot of snaps in this game and even left for a bit after getting banged up. However, he did return and I really like the stress Cox and Carter put on a center. Cox tallied two tackles, half a sack, and two quarterback hits.
Zach Cunningham - Cunningham is settling into a solid linebacker for this team. He was flying all over the field and led the team with ten tackles. The entire defense is leaving some open holes over the middle of the field for the opposition to complete some passes but Cunningham is making plays. He finished with those ten tackles, one tackle for a loss and one pass successfully defended.
Nick Sirianni - I thought Sirianni did a good job with his messaging throughout the week. As much as the rivalry drives the city and fan base, he kept his players focused on the importance of this as important as every other game is during the regular season. I like the trust he puts in his offense and the aggressive nature he has, especially when you are looking to set a tone on the opening drive. They went for it on fourth down twice on that opening drive that ended with a touchdown. Sirianni has developed a great connection with his players and respect seems to flow both ways between the staff and the players. My only concern was how stale the offense got late in the game. Those are moments where all they need to do is string together a few first downs and they can help bleed the clock. Sirianni needs to help the offense develop that instinct which in turn will help prevent the defense from having to make so many key plays throughout the fourth quarter.
Sean DeSai - DeSai's defense did make some big plays in this game. There is no doubt about that and they stood tall when they needed to. That being said, there is absolutely no way that an opponent should start a drive on their own 14 with 46 seconds left and no timeouts and threaten to score a potential winning touchdown. There were too many penalties in those moments that helped the Cowboys move the ball without any time coming off the clock. I like the character of this defense. They have now recorded 30 sacks which is fourth in the league. I also do not like how teams seem to have found a hole over the middle of the field that the Eagles are unable to shut down right now. Coaches always do some self-scouting in the bye week and DeSai needs to notice and figure out ways to make those passing windows smaller.
Brian Johnson - Johnson's opening drives are almost always successful. This one went 77 yards over 13 plays and took nearly eight minutes off the clock. There was better balance in this game and I like how many touches he gave D'Andre Swift. However, the offense got stale when it could have helped put the game away. All they needed to do was string together a few first downs on those fourth quarter possessions. After taking a 28-17 lead, the Eagles last three possessions were all three-and-out. They never recorded a first down in the fourth quarter. Coaches always do some self-scouting in the bye week and Johnson needs to fix some of that heading into the second half of the season.
Eli Ricks - Ricks had a rough night. Under no circumstances should he have ever been lined up with Cee Dee Lamb. Yet, he did have to cover him multiple times. Ricks is young and will have to learn on the fly. However, set these young players up for success and don't ask them to cover marquee wide receivers. Ricks is still a little slow to react which tells me he is thinking too much as the ball is snapped. Young players do that. They improve dramatically once they start trusting what they see and reacting to it. Ricks finished with four tackles, but had four passes thrown at him and all four were completed.