IRVING, Texas – A quick glance at the stat sheet suggests the Cowboys' secondary played a fantastic game in limiting the Eagles' passing attack on Sunday.
It's not a hard argument to make. Mark Sanchez threw for just 252 yards on the night, and he tossed two interceptions. Philadelphia's receivers were largely limited during the course of the night, as the Eagles didn't score a touchdown through the air.
The word "largely" can't be ignored in that sentence, though. Perhaps the Eagles' most memorable play of the night came against the Dallas secondary – specifically Brandon Carr. The Eagles spurred their third quarter comeback bid partially thanks to a blown play that saw Carr gamble on a third down throw to Jeremy Maclin. With no safety help, he dove to bat the ball down and missed wildly. The pass was thrown from the Philadelphia 27-yard line, and it saw Maclin zig-zag his way to the Dallas goal line.
Maclin finished his night with 98 yards – 72 of which came on that gaffe.
"Unfortunately, he's been involved in a couple of plays each of the last few weeks within the game that gives them a big play," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "He does make the gamble on the one. If he had a chance to do that over again, you probably would not have made that decision and would have tackled the guy for a 13-yard gain."
That play came one game after Carr matched up with Chicago's Alshon Jeffery, who tallied six catches for 95 yards and a touchdown in the Cowboys' 41-28 win against the Bears.
The criticism Carr has received has been enough that reporters asked Garrett on Monday if he had considered making a change at the position. Sterling Moore has performed well as the Cowboys' No. 3 corner since Morris Claiborne was placed on injured reserve, and Tyler Patmon has enjoyed a successful rookie campaign.
Faced with that question, though, Garrett backed Carr and didn't give much indication he had considered that as a possibility.
"He's done a really nice job in coverage. I think he's tackling better, and I think he's showing up more as a physical guy just like the rest of our defense," Garrett said. "We've got to do a better job of preventing some of those big plays."
Garrett said the Eagles accounted for 180 of their 294 total yards on five explosive plays – the result of blown coverages and bad tackling, and not just on Carr. Rookie receiver Josh Huff burned the Cowboys for 44 yards after breaking tackles from Orlando Scandrick and Barry Church.
"We've got to find ways to make sure we don't give up those kinds of plays," Garrett said. "The best defenses do a really good job preventing those big plays, so that's an area we have to improve."
Carr was brought up again Tuesday morning, when Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones did his usual radio interview with 105.3 The Fan. Asked if he was concerned by Carr's play, Jones also stood by his man and added that the Cowboys' secondary could use some help from its front seven.
"It's a tough position today in the NFL, and candidly, I think Brandon Carr is fighting through the challenges that we have back there," Jones said. "We need some more pressure – we're getting a little more pressure, but we need more pressure. The more pressure, then our secondary will, in my mind, make more plays."
Jones added: "I know Brandon – no one hates it more, no one works any harder, no one is more conscientious, no one has a higher expectation of him on this team than Brandon Carr does. You add all that together, and it magnifies the play when it doesn't go your way."