Everything finally came together for the Cowboys Sunday in Philadelphia. Dallas scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams en route to a 38-23 victory over the Eagles.
Here are my thoughts on the Cowboys’ fourth win of the season.
1.) Jason Garrett finally got the complete game effort he was seeking. The offense, defense and special teams weren’t flawless by any stretch of the imagination but they each made valuable contributions. Garrett didn’t want to call his team desperate last week. Instead, preferring to say that they were “urgent.” That urgency showed its face at critical times Sunday. If the Cowboys had plans of salvaging their season in the second half, this was a great way to start. 2.) Consider the opponent. A win over a division foe is always important but don’t get too carried away. That 3-6 Eagles team was performing like one of the worst in the league entering Sunday, and after Michael Vick was lost to a concussion they found a way to get even worse. This was a matchup between two of the league’s biggest underachievers and the Eagles showed why they unquestionably deserve the title. It’s shocking to see all of that talent producing such a poor product on the field. There was no better example of how bad the Eagles are than when they allowed Dwayne Harris to return a punt untouched 78 yards for a touchdown. The Cowboys have had problems in the return game all year, ranking 19th in the NFL at 7.5 yards per attempt. Harris’ biggest play of the season was not only the first return TD for the Cowboys but it was also the game-winning score.
3.) Still too many penalties. I’m not sure how a team can commit 13 penalties and still win but the Cowboys accomplished it Sunday. The infractions came in a variety of ways and on both sides of the ball. Defenders were offside six times (Morris Claiborne 2, Jason Hatcher 2, Josh Brent 1 and Anthony Spencer 1). Claiborne had arguably the worst game of his rookie season. On top of the offside calls, he was flagged for holding twice and pass interference another time. Orlando Scandrick also had a holding call. The offense picked up the other three flags all on false starts (John Phillips 2 and Doug Free 1). Nothing new for one of the league’s most penalized teams.
4.) An offense that has struggled to construct touchdown drives all season produced two and committed no turnovers on Sunday. That’s a significant step in the right direction. Entering Sunday, the Cowboys ranked 27th in red zone scoring percentage with touchdowns coming only 44 percent of the time. While they didn’t improve greatly, the Cowboys finished with a touchdown and a field goal on their only two red zone trips. The offense looked extremely shaky at times and managed only four first downs over a seven-possession stretch. But they did just enough against the Eagles, and getting DeMarco Murray back can only help.
5.) Could this be the spark? The most winnable portion of the Cowboys schedule has arrived. The next four games include home matchups with Cleveland, Washington and Philadelphia before a road trip to Cincinnati. Now is the time to for the 4-5 Cowboys to capitalize. As bad as they have played this season, the window might not be completely closed. It also doesn’t hurt that the division-leading New York Giants have lost their last two games and don’t play again until Nov. 25 when they host the Green Bay Packers.