ARLINGTON, Texas – It hasn’t been the case often this season, but the Cowboys found a way to play their best football in the fourth quarter Sunday night. They scored 21 points during that 15-minute stretch and outlasted the division rival Philadelphia Eagles 38-33.
Here are my five thoughts on the Cowboys improving to 6-6 on the year.
1.) The Cowboys have not traditionally played well in December under Tony Romo. The Cowboys quarterback, who improved to 9-13 during the month, took advantage of all of his weapons Sunday night against the Eagles. Romo was nearly flawless, finishing 22-of-27 for 303 yards and three touchdowns, and that’s still despite a below average offensive line. The Cowboys playoff window is small, but to keep it open, Romo has to play at the same mistake-free level he did in front of a national TV audience at Cowboys Stadium. It’s fitting that he set the team’s franchise touchdown passing record in this game.
2.) It’s hard to believe Doug Free is going to be one of the highest-paid tackles in the NFL over the next two seasons. His disastrous season continued with his NFL-leading 13th penalty. He also allowed Eagles third-year defensive end Brandon Graham to record 1.5 sacks. Graham had 4.5 career sacks entering Sunday night’s game. If Jerry Jones could have one contract back, it would have to be the four-year, $32 million deal he gave Free last year.
3.) I guess that’s what the offense can look like when everyone’s healthy. Sure, the Eagles aren’t good. I’m not saying the Cowboys offensive weapons showcased their talent against the NFL’s best. But there’s upside with a focused Dez Bryant and a healthy DeMarco Murray. Bryant has certainly quieted the critics over the last four games, totaling 475 yards and six touchdowns along the way. Combine those youngsters with Miles Austin playing four quarters and the usual steadiness of Jason Witten and the Cowboys make you think: What could have been?
4.) What a difference Murray makes. Not only does he punch in scores, run out clock and break-off big runs, but Murray gives the Cowboys running game hope in short-yardage situations. Murray, who suffered a sprained foot in Baltimore on Oct. 14, played Sunday for the first time in seven games. He carried 23 times for 83 yards and a score against the Eagles. More importantly, the Cowboys improved to 8-0 when Murray carries at least 18 times.
5.) Aside from a few plays, there wasn’t a lot to be excited about with the Cowboys defense. Even against a team that has lost its last eight games and is riddled with injuries, the Cowboys defense allowed 423 yards. Rob Ryan’s group have had more than their share of injuries but I can’t see them being pleased with how they played against Philadelphia.