The Dallas Cowboys took a huge step towards securing the top spot in the NFC East and their first playoff appearance in five years after another win away from home, beating the Philadelphia Eagles 38-27 with a great performance from both Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, although they almost let it slip away from them.
The Cowboys opened a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter after Romo connected with Bryant twice and DeMarco Murray, once again held to under 100 yards (81 yards on 31 carries) ran for one himself. The Eagles responded by scoring 24 consecutive points, coming through three rushing touchdowns (two by Chris Polk and one by Darren Sproles) but except for that offensive outburst, failed to generate the fast pace that gave them the 33-10 win in Dallas.
The Cowboys bounced back after getting that jolt of losing their lead, responding with another combination of Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray to open a two-possession lead, something they never let go of again. It wasn’t difficult keeping the Eagles away for the second time as Mark Sanchez put on his worst performance since becoming the team’s starter. He threw two interceptions and was sacked four times. Brent Celek and Josh Huff both fumbled the ball with the Eagles losing the turnover battle 4-1.
Romo completed 22-of-31 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns, making it 40 consecutive road games with a touchdown. The Cowboys are 7-0 on the road this season and handed the Eagles their first division loss of the season. Dez Bryant was his favorite target in the game, catching the ball six times for 114 yards and three touchdowns. Jason Witten in a season that’s showing he is clearly on a steep decline, caught seven passes for 69 yards. Romo connected on 6-of-8 passes to Bryant, averaging 13.9 yards of target depth when trying to get the ball to him compared to 8.2 with the rest of his receivers.
Romo was perfect when throwing the ball 10 or more yards downfield to Bryant and 6-of-8 overall, compared to Sanchez, completing just 4-of-12 when targeting the same distance, both of his interceptions coming on those throws. LeSean McCoy who did so well against the Cowboys in their previous encounter didn’t get the same chances to run through the tackles, finishing with 64 yards on 16 carries, not shouting anything about being the best in the league this time.
Thanks to the turnovers, the Cowboys had a very easy time cementing their dominance with the ball, holding on to it for more than 41 minutes, while the Eagles managed to run just 53 plays in the time they had on offense, way too low for the offense Chip Kelly likes to see and execute. It’s the kind of loss that might derail the work of an entire season as the Eagles, at the moment, fall out of the top six teams that go into the playoff, now forced to wait for the Cowboys to stumble.
Dallas at 10-4 and the only undefeated away record this season have two games left: At home against an Indianapolis Colts team that has clinched the AFC South and still has a shot at earning a bye, followed by playing in Washington against the broken Redskins, who actually shocked the Cowboys when they visited Jerry’s world. Not bad, and not something the Cowboys should stumble with, but anything is possible. The Eagles, now with five losses, two road games against the Redskins and Giants might prove to be a nice rebound. They’ll need either Dallas to lose once, or for other teams like the Packers, Lions, Seahawks and Cardinals to slip up once or twice.