FRISCO, Texas – It’s not just that the Cowboys won. We’ve seen three other wins this season, so it’s not like that’s unfamiliar territory.
It’s the way this team won that made this game so enjoyable – not just at the time, but when re-watching it, as well.
Whether you want to talk about a dominant ground game or an inspiring performance from these young Dallas defenders, there was just a lot to like from this effort in Philadelphia on Sunday night.
Without further ado, this is what jumped out to me when I re-watched this one:
· What a pair of perfectly executed blocks by Tyron Smith and Xavier Su’a-Filo to get Ezekiel Elliott in space on his long run where he jumped over Tre Sullivan. The line took advantage of no Fletcher Cox in the game to create a massive hole. Dak Prescott’s fake held Josh Sweat in place and Geoff Swaim also got a key block downfield on Rasual Douglas, which allowed Elliott to set up Sullivan the way he did. It was a shame he couldn’t retain his balance on the run because he would have likely scored had he not gone to the ground.
· Tip of the cap to Jaylon Smith and Byron Jones for the coverage they had on the Randy Gregory sack of Carson Wentz. Jeff Heath passed Zach Ertz off to Smith across the field, and that took away an option for Wentz. In appeared initially that Wentz was loading up to throw the ball all the way across the field to Golden Tate, but Jones was step for step with him. Gregory did a nice job of redirecting in the pocket to not allow Wentz to step up to make the throw.
· It’s not often you get to write about a quarterback sneak, but what movement by Zack Martin, Joe Looney and Xavier Su’a-Filo on Fletcher Cox, Michael Bennett and Malcolm Jenkins on the goal line right before the end of the first half. Both Cox and Bennett were knocked sideways on the play, while Looney drove Jenkins two yards deep. Prescott extended the ball over the top, but it really wasn’t necessary. He could have just fallen forward and he was in. It was a powerful finish to a drive that had several nice plays along the way to put them in position for the points.
· We all realize what a tremendous play it was by Leighton Vander Esch to tackle Cory Clement for a five-yard loss to set up a fourth down stop by Jeff Heath. But it was also tremendous effort and hustle by Jaylon Smith and Maliek Collins to also get in position if Vander Esch somehow missed the tackle. Both Smith and Collins were flying from the inside and their angles carried them just beyond Vander Esch, which put them in great position to clean up just in case.
· This is something I don’t say often, but Jamize Olawale and Rico Gathers both made key blocks that allowed Ezekiel Elliott to cut the ball back inside behind Tyron Smith and Xavier Su’a-Filo for a huge gain early in the third quarter. Olawale trapped Jordan Hicks to the inside, while Gathers was able to turn Brandon Graham to the outside. There was no chance that Elliott was going to let Rasul Douglas tackle him in the hole, and once he made that move it was clear sailing up the field. We’re starting to see the coaches having more confidence in Rico Gathers as a blocker in those situations.
· DeMarcus Lawrence doesn’t get enough credit for the way he plays against the run. He is the primary reason that the defense was able to get that fourth and short stop on Josh Adams. Lawrence destroyed Halapoulivaati Vaitai at the point of attack, which allowed both Jaylon Smith and Jourdan Lewis the necessary space to finish the play. Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor tried to block those two, but neither were able to accomplish that as Smith and Lewis were right on top of the play.
· What quick hands by Dak Prescott to catch the rocket snap from Joe Looney on the third down speed option call with Ezekiel Elliott. That play had disaster written all over it if Prescott hadn’t fielded that ball -- especially with Elliott moving to his right. There would have been nobody in position to make the recovery with Fletcher Cox getting up the field. Prescott read Chris Long perfectly for the pitch and La’el Collins and Geoff Swaim got two key blocks to get Elliott around the corner to secure the first.
· Maliek Collins got hurt in the game and had to miss some time, so what did the coaches do? They took their starting right defensive end, Tyrone Crawford and put him back inside at under-tackle in Collins’ place. Crawford then proceeded to outwork Brandon Brooks with a spin move to capture Carson Wentz for a sack as he attempted to slide forward in the pocket.
· What a play by Xavier Woods to knock the ball out of Corey Clement’s hands on the throwback screen. Doug Pederson made a great call at the time and the play was set up perfectly with multiple blockers in front and plenty of field to work with. Woods read the play correctly and was able to defeat the block of Isaac Seumalo, arriving just as the ball got to Clement. Woods was able to rake it out with his left hand to save the play.
· Doug Pederson tried to hit Nelson Agholor on the same play down the middle of the field in Cover 2 that the Titans did last Monday night. Instead of putting Agholor on the right side to run him between the safeties, he put him on the left side. Jaylon Smith had it read the entire way and was even with Agholor as they worked up the field, putting Smith in perfect position on the coverage. The coverage was so tight that there was no window for Wentz to fit the ball in, and Jeff Heath drove from the hash and almost came up with another interception for the defense.
· I am not sure if it was a smart design by Keith O’Quinn and the staff or Jeff Heath taking the fake punt where he did, but running the ball behind Jamize Olawale proved to be the right move. Olawale is use to blocking in tight spaces, whereas it’s Damien Wilson’s job to tackle ball carriers. Olawale drove Kamu Grugier-Hill to the inside and Justin March-Lillard turned LaRoy Reynolds to the outside, which created a nice little crease for Heath to power forward for the first down.
· I tend to be very critical of the officials during games, but John Parry’s crew missed more than a few calls on the Eagles in this contest. The biggest one might have been on first down, when the Cowboys attempted to run out the clock, Ezekiel Elliott was face masked by Brandon Graham while in clear sight of both Parry and the umpire. I understand letting the players decide the game, but when it’s a clear foul that needs to be called with player safety in mind. Fifteen yards and a fresh set of down would have no question ended the game for the Eagles at that point.