ARLINGTON, Texas – This game had huge plays on offense, defense and special teams. We saw a fourth-quarter Hail Mary, a long kickoff return, an interception for a score and a game-winning touchdown in overtime.
But like always, there were several difference-making plays that went unnoticed. And here are a handful that changed this game.
Another chance for interception – The Cowboys' lack of turnovers this year has been well-documented, but it's not because opportunities haven't been there. Another one came and went near the goal line in the second quarter when Sam Bradford's pass hit Josh Huff in the hands and went straight into the air toward the Cowboys secondary. But none of the defenders could rally to the floating ball in time before it fell incomplete. The Eagles would then score to tie the game on a fourth-down run by Murray.
Williams drops deep ball –While it would've been a nice grab for the third-year receiver, that's a play Terrance Williams has to make and he didn't. The Cowboys haven't taken many shots down the field since Tony Romo's injury, but when they occur, especially against single coverage, they have to be converted. Williams stopped his route and had the chance to make the catch, only for the ball to go straight through his hands on third down, forcing a Cowboys punt. A catch there puts the ball at least inside the Eagles' 40-yard line.
Sack erases FG opportunity – While the offensive pass-interference call on Williams will be debated for days, the plays that occurred after it also took potential points off the board. The Cowboys had rallied back into field-goal range after the penalty, but on third down from the 33-yard line, Cassel was sacked and fumbled, which he recovered at the Eagles' 40. The Cowboys chose to punt the ball and didn't get any points despite having possession at one point in the drive at the Eagles' 29.
Sean Lee's injury – The Eagles weren't able to do much against the Cowboys in the first half, and linebacker Sean Lee seemingly had DeMarco Murray's number once again. But after he suffered a head injury, it appeared to open up the defense for Philly, which marched 95 yards. A defensive holding penalty on Morris Claiborne extended the drive and the Eagles scored the go-ahead touchdown on a run by Ryan Mathews against a defense that wasn't set up properly before the snap.
Sturgis drills long FG – Usually we don't put scoring plays in here, but in a game that saw a lot of fireworks in the final minutes and then in overtime, oftentimes a field goal can get overlooked. But Caleb Sturgis boomed a 53-yard field goal with 1:51 to play that could've changed everything. Obviously, anything over 50 yards is far from a gimme. And if he misses that, the Cowboys take over at their own 43 with two timeouts and needing only about 20 yards to get into field-goal range.
Bonus: Murray gets Eagles out of hole – Since the game went into overtime, let's add another play to the mix. The first official play of overtime began at the Eagles' 15-yard line after a false-start penalty. Momentum had shifted to the Cowboys, but it changed on first down when Murray caught a short pass and turned it into 14 yards. At their own 15 in overtime, it has to be somewhat conservative for the Eagles' offense, but it still managed to find a play to get most of the first-down yardage. The Eagles again converted a second-and-14 in overtime and flipped the field position. The drive ended with the game-winning touchdown, but had the Cowboys limited the Eagles on first down and eventually forced a third down, the chances of getting the ball back around midfield seemed plausible.
Nick Eatman is the author of the recently published ****If These Walls Could Talk: Dallas Cowboys***, a collection of stories from the Cowboys' locker room, sideline and press box, with a foreword written by Darren Woodson.*