The Cowboys came into this game with their NFC East rivals as heavy favorites, mainly because the Eagles were seemingly on life support, playing without their top quarterback, running back and receiver.
In this season of 2012, however, nothing is every easy for this Dallas squad. And at this point, who cares? A win is a win, no matter how you get it, the Cowboys sending 81,851 fans home happy with a come-from-behind 38-33 victory.
The difference in the game, just as it has been many times before, was that the Cowboys had Tony Romo at quarterback and the Eagles simply didn't. Under pressure throughout most of the night, he pulled his team out of the doldrums, the offense, in the end, doing what it needed to do and carrying a banged-up defense.
Romo finished the game by completing 22-of-27 passes for 303 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. The first of those scores marked the 166th of his career, moving him into first place on the Cowboys' all-time list for touchdown tosses, passing Hall of Famer Troy Aikman.
His primary receiver in the game was tight end Jason Witten, who caught six balls for 108 yards with receiver Dez Bryant also grabbing six for 98 yards and two scores. Miles Austin added the other touchdown, one of his two catches on the night.
This also marked the return of running back DeMarco Murray and he delivered with a tough 83 yards on 23 carries with one touchdown, the Cowboys finishing with 123 yards overall on the ground.
On the other side of the ball, the Dallas defense came into the game with five original starters on the sideline: Bruce Carter, Barry Church, Kenyon Coleman, Sean Lee and Jay Ratliff. And, for most of the game, they were dearly missed. Eagles running back Bryce Brown rolled to 169 rushing yards with two touchdowns, although both of those scores and 107 of his yards came in the first half. He also had a costly fumble late in the game, which all but secured the Dallas win.
Rookie quarterback Nick Foles was efficient if not spectacular, totaling 251 yards with one touchdown on 22-of-34 passing. He and Brent Celek were busy, the tight end pulling in a game-high seven catches for 73 yards.
Behind Foles and Brown, the Eagles showed early on that despite their woes, they were up to the task against this wounded Cowboys bunch. On their second possession of the game, the visitors marched 66 yards in 10 plays, Brown doing most of the damage with three carries for 37 yards. He provided the capper as well, going around the left end untouched from 10 yards out for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Dallas responded with a lengthy drive of their own, starting at their own 20 and reaching the Eagles' 8-yard line. But their red zone troubles came back to haunt them again as a holding penalty pushed them back 10 yards, which was followed two snaps later by a sack. On fourth-and-18, the Cowboys settled for a 39-yard Dan Bailey field goal, the score 7-3 with just under three minutes gone in the second quarter.
Before long, though, Philadelphia hit paydirt again. Starting at their own 27-yard line, the Eagles' again turned to Brown, who broke loose for a 39-yard scamper around the right end into Dallas territory. That was followed two plays later by a Foles to Maclin pass for 21 yards down to the Cowboys 12-yard line. Brown then did the honors shortly thereafter, running the ball off right guard for five yards and the score, Philadelphia up 14-3.
Fortunately, the Cowboys were ready to make a game of it, but again, as has often been the case this year, clock management came into question. Taking over possession on their own 25-yard line with 6:07 remaining in the half, Dallas picked apart the Eagles defense and worked its way into enemy territory. Romo found Witten four times for 61 yards, the tight end catching a 28-yarder wide open over the middle and being taken to the ground at the Philly 1-yard line.
But, with first-and-goal and 45 seconds on the clock, Dallas called their first timeout. Presumably it was to allow the replay officials time to see if Witten did indeed get into the end zone. Instead, after Murray scored on the next snap to narrow the score to 14-10, all the timeout really did was give the Eagles plenty of time to get into field goal range.
And that they did. Taking over with 35 seconds on the clock. Brown went around the left end for 20 yards, which was followed two snaps later by Foles hitting receiver Jason Avant on the left sideline for 29 yards to the Dallas 34-yard line. Alex Henery soon came on to split the uprights on a 43-yard field goal with three seconds remaining, the score at the half, 17-10.
The Cowboys offense caught more life after the break, though. On their opening possession of the third quarter, the club went the distance, driving 80 yards in seven plays, the score coming when Romo scrambled to his right, then threw back to his left to Bryant underneath. The receiver then showed his burst, darting into the end zone for the 23-yard score, the game now tied, 17-17, with Romo now atop the record books.
But while the offense was finding some rhythm, the Cowboys defense certainly wasn't. Again, they just had no answer for Brown, who touched the ball five times for 33 yards. To complete the same 80-yard drive, Foles connected with Riley Cooper in the right corner of the end zone from 15 yards out, the score seesawing back to Philadelphia, 24-17.
Fortunately, the offense was able to pick up the slack, as the game was beginning to have all the makings of one of those "whoever gets the ball last wins" type of affairs.
On their very next series, Dallas ate up 6:46 of clock as they ticked off the third quarter and opened up the fourth with another 80-yard drive, this one taking 12 plays. The team received a scare when on fourth-and-1 at the Eagles' 39-yard line, they decided to go for it. The initial ruling was that Murray was stuffed for no gain, Philly taking over possession.
But head coach Jason Garrett threw the challenge flag and upon going under the hood, the officials gave Murray the needed yard, first down. Three plays later and Romo hit a streaking Austin over the middle who slipped into the end zone for a 27-yard score, the game again tied, 24-24.
Of course, back came the Eagles, their possession lasting 10 plays and driving 54 yard, although this time the Cowboys were able to keep them out of the end zone. The visitors finally settled on a 43-yard field goal, taking the lead again, but perhaps leaving the door open for Dallas with 9:51 remaining in the game.
And take advantage the Cowboys offense did. With Romo and Co. starting at their own 14-yard line after a holding penalty on the kickoff return, the quarterback soon hit Bryant on a 35-yard pass to the Philadelphia 43, found Witten two plays later for 36 yards to set up first-and-goal at the 4, and then put up the points with a short pass to Bryant on the right side, Dallas taking their first lead of the game, 31-27, with just over five minutes left on the clock.
Then the beleaguered defense came through when it was needed most. Philadelphia had worked its way out to its own 41-yard line when Brown powered up the middle only to have nose tackle Josh Brent knock the ball loose. Right there to scoop up the prize was cornerback Morris Claiborne, who proceeded to speed untouched 50 yards for the touchdown, giving Dallas an insurmountable 38-27 advantage.
But as previously stated, nothing is ever easy with this Cowboys' team. After the Cowboys stopped the Eagles on fourth-and-13 to take over possession, they couldn't do anything with the ball themselves and so were forced to punt it away from their own 35-yard line. Return man Damaris Johnson took the boot from his own 2-yard line, broke out of the pack and to the right sideline, going the distance for a 98-yard punt return.
With the score at 38-33, the Eagles then elected to go for the two-point conversion, and though Foles had Brown wide open underneath for an easy score, the quarterback instead elected to try and connect with Avant in the back of the end zone. The pass sailed wide, incomplete.
Philadelphia then gave it one last gasp, but Witten came down with the onside kick, Romo taking a knee to secure the win.
With the victory, the Cowboys improved their record to .500 once again on the year, sitting at 6-6 with their playoff hopes still alive and all eyes on the division rival Giants-Redskins game on Monday night.