PHILADELPHIA -- The Dallas Cowboys' ability to defuse the Eagles explosive offense in their 17-3 victory Sunday bodes well moving forward, as long as Monte Kiffin and his crew can find some semblance of consistency.
Without the services of the defense's best player, DeMarcus Ware, the Cowboys improbably put the brakes on the Eagles in a way no defense has this season, allowing Philadelphia 278 yards.
At times, NFL leading rusher LeSean McCoy looked like a young colt stuck in a corral with no way out. He carried the ball 18 times for just 55 yards; the Cowboys effectively turning the home-run hitter in to an easy out. His longest run of the day was 10 yards.
Defensive line coach Rod Marinelli said discipline and effort were the keys. He had to be particularly pleased -- five-of-the-eight defensive lineman suiting up Sunday weren't even on the Cowboys roster at the start of training camp.
Call them the "no name guys," or the "next up boys" if you'd like, but they allowed Kiffin to get the best of Eagle head coach Chip Kelly's offense -- a scheme that torched Kiffin on a few occasions when the two squared off in the college ranks.
“I heard stories about him at USC struggling with that particular offense, but when you sprint to the football, I mean, it makes things a lot easier,” defensive tackle Jason Hatcher said. “We got 11 guys sprinting to the football and that’s what we did.”
Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee said he remembered well McCoy running for 185 yards the last time he played against him (in 2011), and took it as a personal challenge to make sure there was no repeat.
“He ran all over us," Lee said. "So I knew coming in he’s an unbelievable player, one of the best in the NFL. It was an extreme challenge for us, but we stepped up and did the job.”
The secondary played well, too, with cornerback Brandon Carr leading the way.
Cowboys fans know exactly how lethal Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson can be. But Carr - along with Orlando Scandrick, on occasion - clamped down on Jackson, allowing him just three catches for 21 yards.
They certainly got an assist from Nick Foles in that regard -- the swirling winds and the Cowboys pressure had the second-year signal caller's head swimming. Bad decision making and off-the-mark throws were commonplace, but the Cowboys certainly had something to do with that.
"Our guys played their tails off," Kiffin said. "Up front, you could feel the quarterback felt the pressure."
This is the same unit, though, that's just two games removed from giving up 68 points in six quarters.
It's a given that Peyton Manning and the Broncos (who lit up the Cowboys for 51 points) would skew any stat line, but don't forget the Cowboys defense also made the Chargers Phillip Rivers look like Manning in the second half of their game in San Diego.
But that sunny afternoon on the West Coast seems like eons ago. Now, this defense has to show it can end the week-to-week ebb and flow.
It seems to be heading in that direction, coming off a sound effort against Washington and Robert Griffin III, then validating that with a dominant performance in Philly.
Kiffin seems to be getting a better handle on which coverages suit his personnel best.
He made his name with the vaunted "Tampa 2," but the Cowboys played far more man-to-man coverage on the outside against the Eagles than they did zone. It allowed the front seven to slow down the run and the defensive backs responded by refusing to surrender the big play.
"When you become a good defense, you play fast and you know what you're doing," Kiffin said.
The Cowboys certainly played that way Sunday. Now let's sit back and see how long it lasts this time.