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Scout's Eye: One Team Showed Up; Shame The Other Didn't

1. From my days as a scout in this league, when I sit down and study a team for several games, more often than not I can come away with a good idea of what it's going to take for one team to win over the other. In this matchup with the Eagles, I came into the week thinking that if the Cowboys were going to win this game they would have to turn it into a 60-minute fistfight. My expectations were that they needed to be physical on both sides of the ball and take this game from the Eagles. It was not going to be with scheme, but with old-fashioned brute force. I was interested to see how the Eagles would respond to an opponent that hit them straight in the mouth. As good as my plan sounded on paper, the reality was it was the Eagles that took this game to the level of that fistfight, and the Cowboys did not have an answer with the top spot of the NFC East on the line. Give Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and his squad all the credit. They were the ones who came to play this Sunday afternoon and the home team did not. They were the more physical team and did a better job of executing on both sides of the ball. They did not allow the Cowboys a breath and were hammer down from the opening snap. The bottom line was that one team showed up and put all the distractions behind them. It's a shame the other didn't.

2. I am sorry, but I am not buying into this thought that the short week and his back had anything to do with the way that Tony Romo played in this game. Just from my experience of how practice operates, when the team works in no pads with just hats and jerseys, Romo doesn't make many throws during the practice. Matter of fact, I remember days when Romo would take snaps and just go through the throwing motion without actually throwing the ball. These practices were more mental than they were physical and Romo was going to be rested as much as possible coming off a Sunday night game. The bottom line is that the Eagles had a great plan for him and it was a bad day at the office.

3. To steal a line from Jason Garrett, I am going to have to take look at the tape and see what happened with this Cowboys offensive line and identify the problems they had up front. Of all the many matchups in this game, the one that I had the most confidence in was how the offensive line would play against this Eagles defensive front. Of all the negative things that happened to this Cowboys offense, how the line struggled was the biggest surprise. From my seat in the press box, it appeared that Ronald Leary didn't have one of his better outings.  

4. There is a reason that I work for and am not a football coach in this league, but I really thought that the team's offense could have taken a page out of the Cowboys' 1990s playbook and throw the ball on early downs to set up the run later. But offensive coordinator Scott Linehan stayed true to what he is and continued to run the football despite being down multiple scores at several points in the game. Linehan might have done it to try to protect the Cowboys defense that was struggling badly to get off the field with a stop. In my humble view, running the ball against this Eagles front was going to be more difficult than passing it, especially against Philly's corners. Just felt like there were some missed opportunities.

5. Mark Sanchez upped his record this season to 3-1 as a starter while filling in for Nick Foles. Chip Kelly's scheme is very quarterback friendly, but it also shows me that no matter how poor you think Sanchez might be as an NFL quarterback, if as an organization you put talented players around him, there is an outstanding chance that he will have success. Skill-wise on offense, this is the most talented team that this Cowboys defense has faced, and that includes the 49ers and Seahawks. The Eagles offense just puts your defensive scheme in such bad spots when you try to match up with them, which was evident throughout the majority of this game.

6. I was on the field at the end of the game when Dwayne Harris received his personal foul penalty for the block that he threw in trying to protect the ball from being downed inside the 5-yard line. It has always been my understanding, and Jason Garrett's as well, that as long as the returner did not signal for a fair catch, he was allowed to protect the ball.  Garrett told the media in the postgame press conference that they would turn the play into the league for review. What I do remember from being on the field is that it appeared that referee Clete Blakeman made a signal to Garrett that Harris used his elbow in the contact to draw the flag.

7.  Bright stat of the day for Cowboys: They had 167 yards on returns, the Eagles only with 32. Nice job by Rich Bisaccia's units covering kicks against one of the best groups in the league.

8. I am usually not a big fan of Mississippi State defensive linemen in the draft, but defensive end Fletcher Cox is a player that I should have given more consideration to. It appears he is starting to become the player that the Eagles thought he would be. There were snaps in this game where he initially appeared to be unblocked, but when I saw the replay, he was beating a block and was on his way to the ball. His four tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and a quarterback hurry was an outstanding day and a huge factor in the way the Eagles defense was able to contain the run and also keep pressure on Tony Romo.

9. I am interested to see how much zone coverage defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli played in the two halves, and if the adjustment in the second half was to play more man or with the big lead did the Eagles not expose this defense further? This game film will give me plenty of answers.

10. This Cowboys defense is different when linebacker Rolando McClain is not healthy. It appeared that he was dealing with a knee injury during the game and that hurt his effectiveness in the way that he comes down hill and attacks the ball. It also hurts his ability to work laterally in making those plays where he knifes through the line for tackles behind the line of scrimmage. This defense will need his power and pop when dealing with the Bears running game and Matt Forte.

11. Here is a stat that doesn't happen often: The Eagles won the time of possession battle 30:25 to 29:35. They managed to hold the ball for 11:18 in the 4th quarter alone.[embeddedad0]

12. Happy Thanksgiving to you all this evening. Thankful for the opportunity to cover this team – good or bad.    

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