Grayson’s Grades: Eagles vs. Cowboys
PHILADELPHIA - The Philadelphia Eagles kept their playoff hopes alive after a 17-9 win over the Dallas Cowboys. The Eagles grabbed the lead on the opening possession and never trailed in this win. Perhaps the big key to the game was the defense's ability to stuff the run and keep the Cowboys out of the end zone.
The Eagles scored the first ten points of the game and had control of it until late in the first half. The Cowboys managed to claw back to a 10-6 score at the half. A third quarter touchdown run by Miles Sanders gave the Eagles a 17-6 lead. The Cowboys did cut it back to a one possession game and got near the red zone when Sidney Jones managed to break up a fourth down pass into the end zone preserving the victory.
Ezekiel Elliott had five carries for nine yards at the half. He finished with 13 carries for 47 yards. Elliott also caught seven passes for 37 yards. Dak Prescott had some open receivers and missed them. His accuracy was not there. The Eagles defense also managed to rack up some key sacks at the right time and forced a turnover at one point on a fumble recovery by Malcolm Jenkins.
The Eagles will clinch the NFC East with a win at the New York Giants next week or a Cowboys loss to the Redskins.
Here is the latest edition of Grayson's Grades:
Miles Sanders - Sanders turned in another strong performance. He racked up more than 150 total yards in the game. Sanders made some nice cuts to extend gains on the ground and after receptions. Perhaps his most impressive play showed off his maturity and growth as a rookie. On the last play of the game, Sanders broke free through the line of scrimmage and could have scored as he was ahead of the defense. Instead, Sanders slid to the ground sealing the win and allowing the remainder of the time to tick off the clock. He gained 38 yards on the play and could have padded his stats. Sanders carried the ball 20 times for 79 yards and a touchdown. He also caught five passes for 77 yards.
Greg Ward - Ward had another solid game. He is proving to be a receiver that Wentz has confidence in at key moments. Ward made a great catch in traffic on third down to move the chains early in the game. Later, he caught a pass downfield along the sideline for a 38 yard gain to ultimately help setup their third quarter touchdown. Ward remains humble and is clearly embracing the opportunity he has. He caught four passes for 71 yards. He also ran the wildcat and took the snap rushing for a five yard gain. Perhaps we will see more of that.
Dallas Goedert - Goedert was featured prominently in the first half against the Cowboys. He had seven receptions for 60 yards and a touchdown through the first two quarters. Goedert does a great job running a screen. He does a good job reading his blocks to turn those into solid gains. He had a huge catch late in the game and made sure to reach for a first down. The Cowboys had already burned a timeout and that first down essentially iced the victory. Goedert caught nine passes for 91 yards and a touchdown.
Carson Wentz - I thought Wentz performed at an 'A' level. That being said, there were still some plays that could have been made. This was arguably one of the biggest games that he played in at this early stage of his career. It was a must-win and he delivered early helping to take some of the pressure off his teammates. Wentz made some great throws early in this game to help the Eagles move the ball down the field. The Eagles scored ten points on their first two possessions including a nice six-yard touchdown pass to Dallas Goedert. One issue for Wentz was two high throws to Zach Ertz that exposed him to some big hits. Those hits appeared to hurt his ribs and he went to the locker room in the second quarter. Wentz ultimately had a great game completing 31 of 40 passes for 319 yards and a touchdown.
Jim Schwartz - I have definitely been critical of Schwartz in the past, but he deserves a lot of credit for engineering a game plan that essentially shutdown Ezekiel Elliott. The Eagles routinely stacked the box and looked to stop the run as well as confuse Prescott on passing downs. In doing so, Schwartz left his corners on islands frequently and at times exposed. However, those risks paid off as Prescott was unable to hit some open receivers. He was pressured, took some hits and was sacked twice. Schwartz' defense kept the Cowboys out of the endzone and ultimately that was the key to victory.
Fletcher Cox - Cox played a big role in helping to plug up the middle of the line and create limited running lanes for Ezekiel Elliott. Big players need to show up in big games and he did in this one. Perhaps no bigger play was made by Cox than the forced fumble he had on a third-and-one in the third quarter. He knocked it out just before the runner hit the ground and Malcolm Jenkins was able to recover it. Cox finished with three tackles, a forced fumble and a quarterback hit.
Malcolm Jenkins - Jenkins came up with a huge fumble recovery on a third-and-one by the Cowboys. They would have been able to attempt a field goal, but his awareness to quickly pounce on the ball after it was initially ruled down by contact forced a key turnover. Jenkins also did a great job to bat away a pass from a Cowboys receiver early in the game. He also played a big role in run support to help stuff Ezekiel Elliott and keep him from getting going. Jenkins finished tied for fourth on the team with five tackles. He added a pass successfully defended and a fumble recovery.
Sidney Jones - Jones came in due to injuries to Darby and Mills. He made a huge play on fourth down with the game on the line and less than two minutes to go. Jones stayed with his man and batted the ball away forcing it to fall incomplete and sealing the victory for the Eagles.
Boston Scott - Scott was not much of a factor on offense, but turned in several solid kickoff returns. Multiple times he was able to return kickoffs to around the Philadelphia 35 yard line. The Eagles tried to get him involved offensively, but he did not have much room to operate. Scott returned two kickoffs for 63 yards. He had three carries for 12 yards and added six receptions for seven yards.
Doug Pederson - I will start with the positive. Pederson definitely had his team more ready to play than the Cowboys. He also had some good play calls at the right time for solid gains. Now to the negative, Pederson went for it on fourth-and-one in the first half. I did not have a problem with the decision to go for it, but I did have a big problem with the play call. They went out of the shotgun and ran a slant to the third string tight end, Josh Perkins. He was in the game for an injured Zach Ertz. It was a bad play call out of a bad formation. After Jake Elliott missed a 50+ yard field goal earlier in the game, I strongly question choosing to attempt another 50+ yard field goal leading by 11 in the fourth quarter. Those missed field goals gave the Cowboys good field position. Key decisions like that could make or break a win or loss in the playoffs.
Jason Peters - Peters was flagged for a false start on the opening drive. It was his fourth straight game with a false start penalty. Later on that opening possession, he missed a block that resulted in a loss of a few yards on a rush by Miles Sanders. On a big gain by Dallas Goedert, Peters had an illegal block in the back and it was called back. Then later, Peters got beat on a pass block with his man causing a fumble by Wentz that Wentz was fortunate to recover. Jason Peters has had an amazing career and I believe he can still be very serviceable to this team. He just needs to cut down the penalties. This offense is not good enough to routinely overcome penalty yardage.
Jake Elliott - I am not downplaying the difficulty in making 50+ yard field goals, but Jake Elliott missed two of them in this game. The penalty for missing them is giving the other team the ball at the spot of the kick. Twice the Cowboys got to start drives near midfield after those missed field goals. It can certainly be argued that perhaps he should not have been sent out to kick the second one. However, when his number is called he has to make at least one of those two kicks. Elliott did boot a 36 yard field goal on the opening drive.