Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo didn't have the best game of his career. But in a big-time setting—prime time, nationally televised game, against a division opponent on the road—he was better than his counterpart, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.
Late in the fourth quarter, Romo (21/34 307 yards 1 TD 1 INT) found wide receiver Miles Austin streaking down the sideline for the go-ahead touchdown and the Cowboys slipped past the Eagles 20-16 Sunday night, moving into sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
The play was set up with a nasty double move on Sheldon Brown, and Romo laid it in there perfectly for a 49-yard score. Austin (49 yard 1 TD) improved on his league leading yards-after-catch, racing past the Eagles safeties who had come over to help.
After the touchdown, Romo seemed to point to offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, basically saying "good call."
That wasn't the only good call Garrett made, as his gameplan and playcalling were excellent against the overly aggressive Eagles defense.
Although Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson—one the greatest defensive minds of our time—sadly passed in the offseason, his successor, Sean McDermott, basically took over with the same mentality.
McDermott had the Eagles blitzing all night long, and for the first time as the Cowboys offensive coordinator, Garrett had a counter.
Teams with great secondaries who blitz often, have absolutely owned the Cowboys in recent years. So No. 5 in my keys to victory over the Eagles was a protection scheme involving short drops and quick passes.
Garrett had his offense execute this exact game plan, and Romo and Co. had it working to perfection.
Romo's favorite target on the night was Roy Williams (5 catches 75 yards), who has been in the news all week . They looked in sync in all but a couple of plays.
That connection was needed, because the Eagles blanketed Austin and tight end Jason Witten for most of the night. McDermott said that he wanted to take those two out of the game, and that is what they did.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, Williams and receivers Kevin Ogletree (2 catches 38 yards) and Patrick Crayton (2 catches 74 yards) all made big plays that led to points.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys pressured McNabb (16/30 227 1 TD 2 INT) for most of the night, sacking him four times and intercepting him twice.
The Cowboys' linebackers had some trouble with tight end Brent Celek (3 catches 39 yards 1 TD), but I think the focus was on stopping Desean Jackson from beating them with the big play. With Jackson only having two catches for 29 yards, they were successful.
While the Cowboys only ran the ball 23 times for 76 yards, Garrett used the wide receiver slip screen with Ogletree and other screens to offset the constant blitzing of the Eagles defense.
Other than a few long screen passes and a couple good runs by rookie LeSean McCoy (5 catches 61 yards, 13 rushes 54 yards), the Cowboys' defense played lights out. They only allowed one touchdown, and even stopped the Eagles on a crucial 4th-and-inches.
As great as the defense was, it was Romo who stole the show.
When the Cowboys needed a first down to ice the game, a confident Romo performed under pressure, hitting Jason Witten on a quick out, moving the sticks and sealing the victory.