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Spagnola: Somehow, Someway Cowboys Overcome Very Long Odds

PHILADELPHIA– Please consider some of this for a moment.

         The Cowboys were here Sunday on the road, not the easiest of places to play in the NFC East.

         They were playing without their Pro Bowl receiver and starting left guard, their backup tight end and maybe best pure pass rusher on the team.

         They were playing without two other potential starters, both halfway through their four-game, season-opening suspensions.

         They lost their starting Pro Bowl quarterback with 9:44 to play in the third quarter.

         They committed a franchise-record 18 penalties for 142 yards, including 15 yards worth for a personal foul on of all guys, the innocent by-standing kicker who thought he was helping but was perceived to be roughhousing at all of 195 pounds (maybe).

         Lost two fumbles.

         Had what appeared to be a Gavin Escobar touchdown ruled down at the one, even if there seemed to be visual replay evidence the ball broke the goal-line plane before his shin hit, all turning into just a field goal.

         They averaged just 3.3 yards rushing per attempt, and that thanks to a 12-yard QB scramble.

They averaged just 6.8 per passing attempt, and just think two of their 34 attempts went for 81 yards, meaning they averaged just 5.8 on the other 32.

Yet still . . . they kicked the ever-lovin' stuffin's out of the Philadelphia Eagles, Cowboys 20, Eagles 10 absolutely no indication of just how dominating the Cowboys were winning their fourth consecutive game here at what's turning into the most friendly confines of The Linc and their 10th consecutive regular-season road game.

So if you think about it, only one of the Cowboys' erstwhile Triplets from last year, Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Murray, was wearing the Cowboys star Sunday afternoon, and Romo departed with 24:44 still left to play. Those of reasonably sound mind would have suggested, no way, right, no way the Cowboys win this game.

But as I've been told many times by those who have been in this league for a long, long time, "There are ways to win these games" when the common-sense odds are stacked so highly against you.

Oh my goodness, over the previous 42 games the Cowboys have only won three times when scoring no more than 20 points, and only once last year. And that took overtime to get to 20, beating the Texans 20-17.

In fact, the Cowboys only scored 17, 17, 17 and 10 in all four regular-season losses last year.

But how 'bout this? Twenty was enough for a change. Talk about perseverance.

Because after two games of evidence, this Cowboys' defense minus Greg Hardy, Rolando McClain and Randy Gregory, came within 1 minute, 21 seconds from going eight consecutive quarters without giving up a touchdown on its own.

That's right, the Cowboys' defense, the one setting that ignominious record in 2013, giving more total yards than the Cowboys ever had given up during a single season and finished ranked dead last in the NFL. The Cowboys' defense, the one improved from 32nd in the NFL to 19th last year, yet finished 28th in sacks with only 28, fewest in a single season since the 24 from 2001 and 2002.

"The story of the day was the defense," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said, even if the story of the day was the Cowboys losing starting quarterback Tony Romo for an estimated eight weeks after fracturing his left clavicle in the third quarter. "They disrupted a very good offensive football team."

Disrupted is being kind. Dismantled might be more accurate. I mean, come on, the Eagles, with DeMarco Murray, finished with seven yards rushing, five less than Romo had with his lone run. Seven now, matching the second lowest opponent single-game output since Pittsburgh went for seven in 1966.

Worse, at halftime the Eagles were in the red rushing, minus-3.

And Murray, he had 13 carries for two yards . . . total, in the game. Two, and now has 21 carries in two games for 11 yards, a .528 per carry average, so far averaging $2 million guaranteed over three years per carry.

 And it wasn't just the Eagles' running game the Cowboys' budding defense stymied. At halftime the Eagles had all of 21 total yards and their only first down coming by penalty, leaving little wonder why they were being shut out at halftime, 6 to naught and were still trailing 13-0 at the end of three.

In fact, if not for that totally officious personal foul on Dan Bailey, as if he was picking on Murray when his former teammate ran into him out of bounds, the Eagles would have never come close enough to kick that fourth-quarter field goal. And had the Cowboys not gone up 20-3 on Brandon Weeden's 42-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams with 4:13 to play, the Cowboys' defense likely would not have pulled back, guarding against giving up a big-play touchdown and allowing the Eagles to eat up the clock while trying to finally score a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the six.

Why 80 of the Eagles' 226 yards came on the late touchdown drive.[embeddedad0]

Linebacker Sean Lee played as if a man possessed, leading the team with 14 combined tackles, registering two of the team's seven tackles for a loss, intercepted a Sam Bradford pass in the end zone and had two more deflected passes.

And for good measure, special teams coach Rich Bisaccia's We-fense, which might as well be defense, came up with a blocked punt (Danny McCray) returned for a touchdown (Kyle Wilber).

Talk about a swarming defense.

 So when you think about it this way, maybe this win that's going to have the Eagles faithful leaping out windows with this 0-2 start wasn't so preposterous after all.

And giving the Cowboys reason not to give up on the season.

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