Stars align for the Cowboys
The Cowboys have finally broken free from their 8-8 ways, thanks to big seasons from their superstar foursome — Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray and Jason Witten. With a crucial win Sunday over the Eagles, the only question now is how far they can take Dallas.
PHILADELPHIA – Sometimes an NFL rematch can spark a rebirth. It did with the Dallas Cowboys here on Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
Dallas was confident its 33-10 loss at home to the Philadelphia Eagles on November 27 would not define this rematch. With first place at stake in the NFC East, this rendezvous game was big – and maybe the final word in their divisional race.
Dallas won 38-27, and afterward owner Jerry Jones was calling it a “cornerstone” victory. It lifted his team to a 10-4 record and dropped Philadelphia to 9-5. Dallas finishes the regular season against the Indianapolis Colts at home and then at Washington. Philadelphia plays at Washington and then at the New York Giants.
One game up for Dallas with two to play.
Jones was excited, adding: “This game is something that will stay with me.” He said his team is playing beyond his expectations. Yet, he is not surprised.
The real deal here is the Cowboys are giving us a hint of what can happen for this bunch if their December games become January games and their offensive triplets dominate: That would be quarterback Tony Romo, running back DeMarco Murray and receiver Dez Bryant.
Let’s make that a quartet: Tight end Jason Witten, too.
Because these four Dallas playmakers, when on their marks as a quartet complementing each other, can completely change games. They dominated the Eagles as an interlocking quartet.
They looked refined in leadership and in production. They elevated, pushing the Cowboys to a 21-0 lead. After the Eagles won the third quarter 14-7, this quartet led the Cowboys to victory by winning the fourth quarter 10-3.
They did it with flair and they did it in punishing style. Romo threw three touchdown passes, Bryant caught all three. Murray’s 81-yards rushing were more than the Eagles managed (75 rushing yards) as a team. Witten seemed to be everywhere, catching seven passes, converting third downs and creating Eagles mismatches and headaches.
The Eagles defense stopped one of the four some of the time. But it could never stop all four at the same time.
Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said: “Absolutely, they’ve got weapons all over the place. It’s not just Demarco Murray. You know, Dez Bryant is a Pro Bowler himself and Tony Romo is a well-seasoned vet and he was healthy again this time. So we got the best of all of them. They had a better night. The credit goes to them. They outplayed us tonight.”
That was echoed by Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin: “They just did a good job of making plays. Every team in the NFL has the capability of making plays. But you don’t often see top guys make that many plays in one game like that. Just give it to them – they played well tonight.”
If this Dallas quartet is going to play this way onward, Dallas will win the NFC East. If this quartet is going to excel like this, there is no team in the NFC that Dallas cannot beat.
Scoring 38 points will win plenty of games.
And though the Dallas defense is often maligned and considered misfits, it forced four turnovers, made nine tackles for losses and contributed four sacks.
“We know our jobs, we know we are better than people think and we had a hand in winning this game,” said safety J.J. Wilcox, who earned one pick. “We know our roles and we respect our offense. I don’t think Philadelphia had a first down all of the first quarter and while we were building that 21-0 lead.”
He’s right about that. If the offense is responsible for the “21″ then the defense is responsible for the ‘’0″ in that fast Dallas start. The Dallas defense played a complementary role to the Dallas offense. All of it led to resounding victory.
“We’ve got our minds right,” Bryant said.
Romo said as Bill Davis kept changing the Eagles defense, the Cowboys kept tinkering with their offense.
“Bill made some great adjustments as the game went on,” Romo said. “We kept trying to change to make it difficult on him. We are beginning to play some of our best football here now as the season winds down and then hopefully starts again for us. We’ve got a tough, tested team.”
He has a team that won at the defending champion Seattle Seahawks this season. And watched when Seattle arrived here last week and suffocated the Eagles.
Those results had to give the Cowboys extra confidence, extra zest entering this rematch. They looked like a team that believed their best was better than the Eagles’ best.
That is how they played.
“They played a lot harder,” Eagles running back LeSean McCoy said of the rematch.
All led by a quartet of offensive playmakers who, when in sync, are as good at their positions as quartet on any NFL team.
“All four have enough experience now and, clearly, they are the pillar of our group,” Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “They can be very tough when they play well. As a play-caller, it makes it where you don’t have to rely on one guy. You call their numbers feeling good about what they can do.”