Cowboys vs. Eagles 2014 final score: Dallas takes control of NFC East
With two weeks left, the Cowboys have the easiest path to a division crown.
Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey opened the game by kicking the ball to about the Philadelphia 15-yard line. Unfortunately for the Eagles, nobody but deep returner Josh Huff decided to make a play on the football. Dallas’ coverage team managed to get to it before Huff could, inadvertently stealing a possession. The Cowboys promptly scored on a DeMarco Murray touchdown run.
Dallas followed up the score by forcing a three-and-out from Philadelphia’s offense. The Cowboys then moved methodically down the field, resulting in a Dez Bryant touchdown. They added another score before the Eagles offense woke up and responded. Behind the anonymous Chris Polk and the explosive Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia pulled ahead late in the third quarter.
But the lead didn’t last long. Before the fourth quarter was three minutes old, Murray and Bryant had produced their second touchdowns of the evening, giving the Cowboys a 35-24 advantage. Philadelphia would never pull ahead, and Dallas took over control of the NFC East.
Three things we learned:
1. Chip Kelly’s offense isn’t Mark Sanchez proof
A week ago, the Seattle Seahawks defense tore apart Mark Sanchez. He was held to just 96 yards and 50 percent completion, tossing two touchdowns a pick. Coupled with a bad day for LeSean McCoy, the offense produced only 14 points, though many dismissed it at the time due to the opponent.
Well, against a considerably lesser Dallas defense, Sanchez had another mediocre performance. He completed 17 of his 28 passes for 252 yards, zero touchdowns and two picks, including a game-ending interception on the Eagles’ final drive. Sanchez also didn’t do his offensive line any favors, holding the ball too long on several of his four sacks.
Though Sanchez played better than he did against Seattle, it was likewise not enough to net the victory. The former Jet is a capable backup, but it appears increasingly likely that Philadelphia will turn to Nick Foles if/when he can return from a fractured collarbone. Foles isn’t a great quarterback by any means, but he’s been successful in Kelly’s offense and could provide the push the Eagles need for January.
2. Dallas defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is a magician
Take a look at the depth chart for the Cowboys and one thing is abundantly clear — there is not a lot of defensive talent in Dallas. Their starting defensive linemen would be backups for most teams, and only Rolando McClain stands out positively amongst the linebackers.
Still, under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, Dallas held the prolific Eagles offense in Philadelphia to just 10 first half points and 27 overall.
To some degree this shouldn’t be a surprise. Marinelli had a similar affect as defensive coordinator of the Bears. Chicago regularly produced top 10 defenses despite a slow secondary and a front seven that relied primarily on players in their 30s. Once Marinelli left, the Bears fell apart, ranking in the bottom 10 in most defensive categories each of the last two years.
If Dallas can add some playmakers to its defense next year, especially in the trenches, Marinelli should be able to produce performances like Sunday’s on a more regular basis.
3. The Cowboys are still alive for the No. 1 seed in the NFC
By winning Sunday, the Cowboys gave themselves a shot at the top seed in the playoffs. Now 10-4, they stand just a game behind the Arizona Cardinals for NFC supremacy.
The Cowboys’ path to the No. 1 position isn’t easy. First, they need to win each of their final two games against the Indianapolis Colts and Washington. Given that the Colts are 10-4 and feature Andrew Luck, a win for Dallas won’t be easy. After that, the Cowboys either need the winner of the NFC West to finish with 11 wins or for the Seahawks to take that division with an equal record. They would also need the winner of the NFC North to finish with a worse overall record.
Those are long odds, but Dallas can still hope