The Dallas Cowboys were in a giving mood on Thanksgiving Day as they graciously allowed the Philadelphia Eagles offense and defense to carve them up for a delicious 33-10 victory and sole possession of their division.
The Eagles feasted on Cowboy miscues, an unexplained collapse of what had been a formidable Dallas offensive line, poor play calling, a porous defense and just about every conceivable calamity you could think of. DeMarco Murray was throttled by a stifling Philly defense that held him to 73 yards on 20 carries. The worst pass defense in the league held the Cowboys vaunted receiving corps – Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Terrance Williams – to a combined total of seven catches for 119 yards. For the first time all season, the NFL’s leading rusher was held to below 4 yards per carry. His counterpart, and the NFL’s second leading rusher, the Eagles LeSean McCoy, had a spectacular afternoon. He carried the ball 25 times for 159 yards and one spectacular touchdown run.
Eagles Coach Chip Kelly has transformed Philly into a quick strike offense that does not like to waste any time when they have the ball. That philosophy was in full throttle on their first two drives, that not surprising, led to two touchdowns. The Philadelphia leads the NFL in first quarter efficiency by outscoring their opponents 85-31. Quarterback Mark Sanchez took over the offense three weeks ago when started Nick Foles cracked his left collarbone in a game against the Houston Texans. He was expected to be ready for the playoffs if Philadelphia makes it that far. Judging from the team’s dominating performance against their division rivals, who were 6-1 on Turkey Day with Romo as QB, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Electing to receive the ball after winning the coin toss, a rejuvenated Sanchez quarterbacked the team down the field with sufficient ease. Sparked by a running game that featured McCoy and the Eagles’ other triple-threat option, Darren Sproles, it took the team just three minutes to race 80 yards to the end zone were Sanchez elected to take the ball himself the final three yards for the score.
The Cowboys, who up to this point had become a well-oiled machine when it came to their own opening drives, looked like they would return the scoring favor. Unfortunately, the offense sputtered and punted the ball to the Philly 12 after a promising start. On second and 20, Sanchez found a hole in the Dallas secondary were he threw a perfect strike to receiver Jeremy Maclin he was virtually standing alone. He caught the tight spiral and proceeded to race 59 yards downfield to the Dallas 29. Two plays later, tight end Jordan Matthews hauled in a picture perfect pass strike from Sanchez for a 27-yard touchdown. It had only taken Philadelphia two minutes to cover the 88 yards.
The Cowboys, sensing the game slipping away in the first quarter, finally mounted a significant assault on the Philadelphia defense. With Murray driving the ball on the ground, it gave Romo time to find Dez Bryant for a 38-yard reception. It led to the Dallas tailback’s easy 1-yard plunge that cut the score in half. Unfortunately, the four-minute second quarter drive would be the final glimpse for fans of the real Dallas offense before it lapsed into a comedy of errors.
The lack of performance by this formidable offensive machine was puzzling to say the least. A lot of that has to do with offensive coordinator Scott Lineham. When Romo’s favorite target, All-Pro tight end Jason Witten, only has one reception the entire game, something is severely amiss. Add the frustration that Bryant and Williams had to deal with getting their hands on the ball against the worst secondary in the NFL, and you have severe dysfunction permeating the entire offense. Though the Cowboy defense has able to shut down the Philly Express to just 10 points in the second half, the 23 they surrendered before the end of the first half was the real tale of the tape in this game.
Whether or not this game was a fluke will be determined Dec. 14 when the Cowboys visit Lincoln Financial Field to face the Eagles one last time to determine the fate of the NFC East. Dallas is hoping to travel to Philadelphia with the only unbeaten road record in the NFL providing the Chicago Bears do their part and fold like a che0ap suit this week on Thursday night.
– David Huff
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