The Dallas Cowboys have saved their season for another week. On Sunday afternoon, they finally played some inspired football en route to a 38-23 whipping of lousy division foe, the Philadelphia Eagles.
In this game, the Cowboys got 3 TDs from other places besides their offense, as Dwayne Harris returned a 78-yd punt for a TD, Brandon Carr would pick off a Nick Foles pass and run it in for a score, and then Jason Hatcher would recover a Nick Foles fumble in the end zone to salt the game away for Dallas.
The Cowboys started off slow and sluggish, and didn’t have much of a running game in the second half. As a matter of fact, early in the 4th quarter, they had only had 82 yards of second half offense, yet they had scored 21 unanswered points in 2:35 to turn a 17-10 deficit into a 31-17 lead.
The Eagles got the scoring started as Michael Vick, the usual Eagles starter, connected on a 2-yd pass to Riley Cooper. The Cowboys would answer with a surprising rushing attack, culminating in an 11-yd gallop by Felix Jones that tied the game at 7-7. They’d then add a FG in the second and take a 10-7 lead into the half.
But that wasn’t even the story of the first half. The story belonged to Michael Vick getting concussed on what, in all honesty, appeared to be a late hit by Dallas LB Ernie Sims, that wasn’t called as such. So enter Nick Foles, who struggled a bit. But after halftime, he would connect on a 44-yd strike to a wide-open Jeremy Maclin to give the Eagles a 14-10 lead. They’d pad it on their ensuing possession with an Alex Henery FG to make it 17-10.
And then, just like that, the Cowboys woke up.
Tony Romo led the Cowboys on an 8 play, 80 yard drive to conclude the 3rd quarter, ending in a 30-yd TD pass to Dez Bryant. The Eagles would punt on the very next possession, which started the 4th quarter, and that’s when Dwayne Harris went 78 yards to paydirt, reclaiming the lead for the Cowboys; a lead they’d never relinquish. The next Eagles possession saw Brandon Carr intercept Foles on a tipped pass, and he would return it 47 yards to pad the Dallas lead.
All 3 of those Dallas TDs happened in a span of 2:35, which is the best I have ever seen the Cowboys perform in any span of time, let alone that short of a span. They truly rose to the occasion in this one.
The Eagles weren’t done yet though, as Foles would lead the Eagles down the field and Stanley Havili would run it in from the 1-yd line. However, Henery missed the extra point, and so the Eagles trailed by 8 instead of 7. When they’d get the ball back, Anthony Spencer, who had a pick 6 called back earlier in the game due to a Morris Claiborne holding penalty, would force a fumble in the end zone, and Jason Hatcher would fall on it, icing a 38-23 victory for Big D.
There are many positives to take away from this game, but also a few negatives. The first positive is that the defense came to play. They made tackles, they forced turnovers (albeit against a rookie QB with no NFL experience), and they kept the Cowboys in it, even when the offense was struggling. Another positive is that the blocking on special teams was better, enabling Dwayne Harris to pick up chunks on punt returns, including his return TD.
The negatives though are that the offense sputtered, and the offensive line failed to protect Romo. Romo was elusive, slipping out of 4 potential sacks on one play during the 80-yd scoring drive, but even then he was still sacked 3 times in this game. The running game disappeared for a spell in the second half, and Miles Austin was relatively quiet all game, catching only 2 passes.
For the Cowboys, they need to have a crisp offense going forward. They finish with 5 of their last 7 at home, and while the next 2 games seem like gimme games (2-7 Cleveland and 3-6 Washington), this is the NFL, where anything can happen. Next week, they have a chance to straighten out a lot of their offensive issues against a bad Cleveland team, and even though they should win, this team has lost winnable games already this season.
The win does save the Cowboys season momentarily. They improve to 4-5, and are within striking distance of the Giants, who dropped their second game in a row in a huge loss to Cincinnati. With the 6-4 Giants off next week, if all goes as it should, a Dallas win over Cleveland will make them 5-5 and only one game behind in the division. So there is still hope in this division for the Cowboys, and even in the Wild Card, as they are also a game and a half back on the 6-4 Seahawks for the 6th seed. But that hope stems from winning next week.
If they execute the way they did in this game going forward, especially on defense, the rest of this season could be a fun ride.