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Eatman: Style Points Out The Window With Backs Against Wall

Posted Nov 11, 2012

PHILADELPHIA – When you’re stomach is growling, you might be a little picky what you eat. When you’re downright hungry, you don’t complain about the meal.

And when you’re simply starving to no end, you’ll pretty much eat anything.

The Cowboys might not have been a desperate team, but they were certainly starving for a win after losing two straight and four of five.

No, it wasn’t the prettiest game ever. It had plenty of mistakes, penalties and other miscues. But at the end of the day, the Cowboys found a way to put away the Eagles Sunday afternoon with a 38-23 win at Lincoln Financial Field that certainly had its moments of ugliness, on both sides of the ball.

It was a game between two teams reeling at 3-5, with coaches and quarterbacks both on the hot seat. With the second half of the regular season underway, you just knew the loser of this game would be counted out completely, while the winners have a glimmer of hope.

So credit the Cowboys for getting out of Philly Sunday night as the latter – a team that is now 4-5, and while there are plenty of problem areas, they can at least try to address them with another win in their pocket.

Let's not forget what kind of week it was for the Cowboys. A former head coach, who is still very well respected within the organization and is considered one of Jason Garrett's mentors, recklessly took shots at the team, organization and then dug up a 20-year debate about power controls from the 1990’s era.

We don't have to use this space today to figure out who's right or wrong, and I'm not suggesting Jimmy Johnson's comments fueled anyone's fire here in Philly. But it certainly wasn't a distraction.

The Cowboys simply did what they had to do on Sunday with their backs firmly against the wall - they won. They beat the Eagles on the road, something that is never easy - and it wasn't on this day. The final score looked like the Cowboys had control from start to finish, but that was anything but the case.

Just think what it took to win this game by 15 points.

  • Michael Vick getting knocked out of the game in the second quarter, replaced by rookie Nick Foles.
  • A 78-yard punt return by Dwayne Harris, who was never touched by an Eagles defender on the play.
  • An interception returned for a touchdown by Brandon Carr.
  • A missed extra point by Philadelphia.
  • A recovered onside kick by Jason Witten, who had eight catches but this was probably his biggest grab of the game.
  • A fumble recovery in the end zone by Jason Hatcher for another touchdown.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying the Cowboys didn’t have something to do with a lot of those moments. They made the plays – Carr with a pick and nice return, the punt return team walling off the side of the field so Harris could scamper in, and Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware smashing Foles to force a fumble that was recovered in the end zone by Hatcher.

The Cowboys were fortunate to win this game, but they made their good fortune, too.

Skeptics will harp on Vick’s injury – which was definitely a turning point in the game. Foles was simply outmatched, especially when the Cowboys were applying pressure.

That’s why Harris’ punt return was huge on many levels. It didn’t just give the Cowboys a much-needed 24-17 lead, but it put the pressure on Foles to rally the offense. And that’s when Rob Ryan and the Cowboys’ defense is at its best – able to pin the ears back and attack.

We always talk about guys like Ware and Spencer making plays when it counts the most, and they were doing that in the fourth quarter. Spencer had a great interception taken away by a penalty on Morris Claiborne, but they couldn’t take away the sack on Foles that led to a fumble and Hatcher’s touchdown.

If there has been a knock on the defense this year – it’s the inability to close out games. The Cowboys let Baltimore drive down for a crucial fourth-quarter touchdown and the Falcons did the same last week, getting a field goal after chewing up most of the final five minutes.

This week, the Cowboys did allow the Eagles to score after they led by 14, but when they held an eight-point advantage in the final minute, they closed the door.

Again, it wasn’t a thing of beauty. And yeah, the Cowboys caught a break with Vick going down

But who is actually healthy these days? The Cowboys are without their starting tailback and center, along with their heart-and-soul middle linebacker and strong safety.

So there won’t be any apologies for beating a Vick-less Eagles team or taking advantage of an inexperienced rookie.

And if you’re thinking the Cowboys shouldn’t be too excited about this win because the Eagles are bad … well get used to it.

That’s the main reason why the Cowboys, even at 4-5, have a chance to do something. Again, it’s a chance. But the schedule is filled with games like this against teams like the Eagles, if not worse.

Of the final seven games, only Pittsburgh (5-3) has a winning record at the moment.

The Browns and Redskins are coming to town in the next 11 days – I know we’re not supposed to look ahead, but this team doesn’t just have a chance to be 6-5 – they should be 6-5.

Even after that, it’s the Eagles again at home, the Bengals on the road, the Steelers and Saints at home and then and Redskins on the road. I’m not saying one of those games will be easy, because this team doesn’t know how to do anything easy.

But they simply have a chance to do something. And they have that chance because of what happened Sunday in Philly.

 

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