Monte Kiffin’s Dallas Cowboy defense became the first defense to ever hold a Chip Kelly scoreless in a half. Ever. That’s right, the depleted Dallas defense, which was ranked 30th in the league in total yardage and 21st in points allowed per game at full strength, shut down the high-flying Eagles and their no. 1-ranked rushing attack.
The defensive effort was impressive enough to forgive a slow start from Bill Callahan’s offense and make a 17-point output stand up. Tony Romo became the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards through the first 100 career starts, as he amassed 316 yards and a score in the 17-3 win.
A breakdown of the 14-point victory, including the positives, the negatives, and a glass-half-full outlook:
Dallas held the Eagles to just 278 total yards on Sunday. And despite the Eagles missing their starting quarterback in Michael Vick, that is quite the accomplishment. Second-stringer Nick Foles entered the game having completed 67 percent of his passes in relief of Vick, who was injured in week 5 against the Giants.
It was an Eagles offense that came into the game averaging almost 450 yards per game, including a 425-yard output with Foles at the helm in week 6. Those 425 yards were the fewest for the Philadelphia offense this season.
But against the ‘Boys, Foles played like a second-stringer (to be generous). More on that later.
LeSean McCoy, the NFL’s leading rusher, gained just 55 yards on the ground and a season-low 81 total yards. Regardless of whether or not the Foles/Barkley combination was an embarrassment to quarterback play everywhere, the Cowboys deserve credit for shutting down one of the game’s best offensive weapons.
Kiffin’s defense not only spoiled Foles’s bid for the Eagles’ starting quarterback job, but also put a damper on the NFL debut of Matt Barkley. The former USC star who torched Kiffin defenses in his college days, threw two interceptions on his first 11 attempts – not including an INT that was called back on an offsides call – and threw three picks on his three drives Sunday.
The offense got off to a slow start, punting on its first five drives. But where it deserves credit, and why it finds itself in the “positives” category, is the adjustments the offense made. Dez Bryant ended up with 16 targets, and that is a pretty darned good strategy for getting the offense going. Bryant finished with eight catches and his third 100-yard game of the year.
Terrance Williams now has 24 catches on 28 targets after a six-catch, 71-yard performance Sunday. He has for all intents and purposes replaced Miles Austin as the no. 2 wide receiver threat, as Austin hasn’t recorded a catch since Sept. 22.
Romo didn’t light up the scoreboard, but he ran an offense that was effective enough to win the time of possession battle and earn a win on his record-setting day.
This is a Cowboys analysis piece. It’s a weekly installment that, as you may have noticed, breaks down a game by focusing on the positives and negatives of the Cowboys and their game plan.
But this week, Nick Foles was that special brand of terrible, and he deserves his own spot on this “negatives” portion of my First Response.
Foles completed less than 38 percent of his passes, missed several open receivers, and appeared to be in an almost constant state of confusion. He threw one near-interception on a blown throw to Jason Avant, who was wide open in the endzone. It was ruled that the ball hit the ground, though, and Foles stayed out of the turnover category, a minor miracle in itself against a Dallas defense averaging two takeaways per game.
Foles left the game in the fourth quarter to be checked for a head injury. Frankly, it appeared he entered the game with a head injury with how bad his decision-making was. After undergoing the league’s mandatory concussion testing, Foles was likely sent to the doctor’s office to be tested for a rare and serious allergy to the starting quarterback position.
We’re waiting on confirmation of that report.
Barkley’s three interceptions on three possessions were a comical finish to the quarterback play in Philly, as Vick’s job is more than secure the instant he deems himself healthy enough to compete.
As far as the Cowboys go, the offense presented a couple of concerns. We’ve already discussed the offensive adjustments that quelled the lackluster offensive start. But the fact that the game plan ever features an aerial attack that isn’t Dez-heavy is a bit alarming.
Dallas converted just 5-of-16 third downs, and did not show much balance in the offensive attack. Romo attempted 47 passes, compared to only 26 rushing attempts in the game. But, whatever works, I suppose.
Joseph Randle managed just 3.4 yards per carry while filling in for DeMarco Murray. He did, however, average almost five yards per carry in the second half on a steady dose of carries. The Oklahoma State product showed signs of being a serviceable – or even effective – back if Dallas needs to continue to lean on him in the ground game.
In the Eagles’ corner, they can view Barkley’s three picks as a positive, since punter Donnie Jones didn’t have to reach double digits in punts. Jones punted nine times, including each of the first seven Philadelphia possessions.
And at the end of the day, it’s Dallas who sits atop the NFC East with a win over each division foe thus far.