Cowboys vs. Eagles: 5 Things We Learned in Philadelphia Eagles' 34-7 Win
On a night when the Eagles honored two of their greats from their past, their present team showed they are just as good as we once we thought they were.
The Eagles dominated every single statistical category including time of possession, rushing yards and red-zone efficiency. This was the type of effort the people of Philadelphia expected to see from their team following a very successful offseason.
With the New York Giants heading into a very brutal six-game stretch against several Super Bowl contenders including the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots. And with the Washington Redskins moving backwards at an incredibly fast rate the NFC East appears to be a two-team race.
If so, the Eagles just got a mighty fine start against their hated rivals.
A Tale of Two Completely Different Offensive Lines
When the Eagles hired legendary offensive line coach Howard Mudd, you knew he would have a major impact on the line. You just didn't know how soon.
The biggest difference in Sunday night's game wasn't the play of Michael Vick or the lack of plays from Tony Romo, it was the difference between each team's offensive lines.
The Cowboys offensive line struggled to give Romo time to find open receivers early in the first half and Dallas got behind in a hurry. They never established the run and never were able to set up much in the screen game.
The Eagles offensive line dominated the Cowboys front. They executed to perfection on screen passes and paved the way for LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick to rush for 235 yards. They allowed the Eagles to dominate the time of possessions as well, holding the ball for over 42 minutes.
This was the first week that the Eagles projected starting offensive line was together. Danny Watkins didn't start right away, and Jason Peters has missed the previous two games. Peters is now healthy, and Watkins is now thriving after he struggled to grasp both the offense and the speed of the game.
The offensive line appears to be both the biggest strength for the Eagles and the biggest weakness for the Cowboys. They will be key for both team moving forward in the final nine games of the season.
Big Impact for Eagles Tight Ends
Michael Vick has figured out how to incorporate Brent Celek into the offense after a second straight solid game from Celek. He finished with seven receptions for 94 yards and one touchdown.
With Sean Lee taken out of the game after suffering a wrist injury on a tackle, both Cowboys middle linebackers Bradie James and Keith Brooking looked lost trying to cover Celek down field, opening up the Philly offense.
The Cowboys safeties were playing back about 20 yards to prevent any big plays from DeSean Jackson, and it left their linebackers vulnerable against the Eagles tight ends and slot receivers all night.
Jackson was never able to break off any big plays, but he didn't need to. The middle of the field was wide open all night. Jason Avant took advantage as well with five receptions for 74 yards. Clay Harbor also had one catch for 11 yards.
Defenses will continue to keep their safeties back and try to prevent DeSean Jackson from making his trademark big plays. Brent Celek, Clay Harbor and Jason Avant should have ample opportunities to make catches in the middle of the field all season long.
Eagles Cornerbacks as Good as Advertised
The Eagles' Pro Bowl trio of cornerbacks, Asante Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromarite came up big Sunday night as they held Miles Austin and Dez Bryant to just six catches for 55 yards and no touchdowns.
All three corners are now being utilized properly and realizing their full potential within this defense. Each corner has their own unique skill set they bring to this defense, and it paid off in a big way against the Cowboys receivers.
Neither Bryant nor Austin had a catch in the first half, and Bryant didn't touch the ball until midway through the fourth quarter.
Next week, the Eagles corners will go up against the likes of Roy Williams, Devin Hester and Dane Sanzenbacher. Last season, Jay Cutler lit up the Eagles secondary for four touchdown strikes, but he was going up against cornerbacks Dimitri Patterson, Joselio Hanson and Trevard Lindely.
Lindley and Patterson are gone, and Hanson is strictly playing in the slot where he is best suited for. Expect the Eagles corners to continue impact games by containing wide receivers to short to intermediate routes.
Eagles Run Defense Has Improved but Still Needs Work
The Eagles run defense held their second straight team under 100 yards rushing, but it wasn't always pretty. Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray carried the ball just eight times for 74 yards Sunday night.
It wasn't so much the Eagles run defense that contained the Cowboys ground game, but the Eagles rushing offense which dominated the time of possession.
Jamar Chaney had one of his best games of the season with six tackles and played his best game against the run all season. Brian Rolle and Moise Fokou each added a tackle as well.
Clearly their run defense isn't where it needs to be yet, but it's getting there. Holding a running back who is coming off a 253-yard performance to just 74 yards is a good start.
The Eagles Exorcised Old Demons: 0 Turnovers and 4 Red Zone TDs
The Eagles have had major issues with turning the ball over and failing to convert inside the 20.
Both areas were non-issues as the Eagles did not turn the ball over at all and scored a touchdown on four of their six red-zone trips with the other two being Alex Henery field goals.
The Eagles went through a rough two-game stretch against the Giants and the 49ers where they converted just three red-zone trips out of 12 into touchdowns.
Both those games could have been won with better red-zone efficiency, and Andy Reid showed he is capable of improving in the red zone as the Eagles scored on two LeSean McCoy runs, a Jeremy Maclin screen pass and a nine-yard strike to Brent Celek.
Michael Vick had his first turnover-free game in quite some time. Vick had 11 turnovers coming in with eight interceptions and three lost fumbles. He protected the ball on both runs and while in the pocket and was never close to throwing a pick.
If the Eagles can continue to protect the football and be efficient in the red zone, we will continue to see the offense we expected to see from the Eagles from hear on out.
It looks like the Eagles are finally on the right track and have things turned around, but as Andy Reid said in the press conference, "we don't have a winning record."
Clearly, there is more work to do, but you have to feel good about the Eagles right now.