Old college rivals matched wits again and this time it went to Kiffin...
So much for the Chip Kelly mystique...
Monte Kiffin knew what Chip Kelly was going to run on offense before the play was called...
Too bad for the Eagles, because they wasted their best defensive effort of the year so far, with Bill Davis calling pressures like an artist formerly known as Jim Johnson.
Tony Romo threw for 317 yards and one touchdown, a banged-up Dallas defense shut down Chip Kelly's prolific offense and the Cowboys overcame a sluggish start to beat the Philadelphia Eagles 17-3 on Sunday to take sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
Turns out the Cowboys didn’t need DeMarcus Ware on the way to a 17-3 victory over the Eagles as the defense finished an overturned replay away from its first shutout since 2009.
Chalk up this near-shutout to great effort...and film study by Monte Kiffin.
“We’re just a bunch of guys with no names,” tackle Jason Hatcher said. “We want to go out there and play great for each other. It’s a special feeling when you can bring guys together and play as one.”
Maybe the Cowboys wanted to play as one, but when Eagles quarterback Nick Foles dropped back to pass, it must have seemed to him as if there were 14 or 15 Cowboys on the field. There was nowhere for the Eagles to throw, nowhere to run...at least not anywhere he could see, which is partly on Foles.
Starting for an injured Michael Vick, Foles managed to complete only 11 of 29 passes for 80 yards. The Cowboys never let him get comfortable in the pocket, sacking him three times.
His final nine passes fell incomplete before Foles was knocked out from the game on a sack by George Selvie and Jarius Wynn on the final play of the third quarter. Backup Matt Barkley came on and threw three fourth-quarter interceptions.
Foles never posed a threat — and that was a big part of the defensive success by the Cowboys. He wasn’t Michael Vick in an offense built for a quarterback with Vick’s skill set.
“Foles is a good athlete,” safety Barry Church said, “but he’s not Michael Vick. With Michael Vick out there, you have to defend the run as well as the pass. When Foles ran that read-option, we knew it was going to be a pass. Michael Vick’s added dimension would have made it a lot harder.”
But even without Vick, the challenge was great. The Cowboys needed to slow the NFL’s leading rusher (LeSean McCoy) and one of its best big-play receivers (DeSean Jackson) to survive Philadelphia and take control of the NFC East.
They succeeded on all counts.
The Cowboys played more man coverage than usual, giving Brandon Carr the assignment of shadowing Jackson. That allowed coordinator Monte Kiffin to bunch his safeties closer to the line of scrimmage to create more eight-man fronts to confront McCoy.
“The last time I came up here and played two years ago, McCoy ran for 185 yards,” Lee said. “He ran all over us. 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.”
Lee and Church seemed to make it their personal mission to deny McCoy any daylight. They combined for 16 tackles in the game and half of them came on McCoy runs. He managed only 55 yards on 18 carries — 50 yards below his average.
But a perfect Dallas afternoon was spoiled when Tony Romo threw an interception that linebacker DeMeco Ryans returned 36 yards to the Dallas 30 late in the third quarter. It was one of the few visits by the Eagles to the Cowboys’ half of the field all day.
On the third play of the series, Foles threw a pass to a sliding Jason Avant in the end zone, but the ball popped out of his hands into the air where rookie J.J. Wilcox grabbed it for an apparent interception. That would have preserved the shutout.
But after reviewing the replay, referee John Parry ruled the tip of the ball touched the ground before Avant could corral it, so the pass went as an incompletion instead of an interception. Seven plays and only seven yards later, the Eagles scored their only points on an Alex Henery field goal.
And there went the shutout. But not the effort.
“We want to shut everyone out,” Church conceded. “But this is the NFL. It’s hard to shut anyone out. These offenses are pretty good. We did our best today and it turned out to be good enough.”
I thought while watching this game that Dallas had gained access to our playbook. Of course that's not true, but how much tape and film did these guys have to watch to know every nuance of the Eagles' game plan on offense?
"Obviously, our defense was outstanding," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "That offense challenges you in so many ways. They have a really good scheme. Our defense played sound, played together. They were physical and our tackling was outstanding."
Two teams that averaged a combined 58.2 points per game and allowed a combined 55.2 totaled 13 punts in a first half that ended with Dallas (4-3) leading 3-0. It was more two inept offenses than two dominant defenses.
I was really proud of Eagles' defensive coordinator Bill Davis who consistently called controlled pressures that kept the Birds in the game.
The Eagles (3-4) have lost a franchise-worst nine straight games at home. Their last win at the Linc was over the New York Giants on Sept. 30, 2012.
Dallas played without four-time All-Pro defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who missed the first game in his nine-year career because of a quadriceps injury. Anthony Spencer, the end opposite Ware, is out for the season after knee surgery. Four-time Pro Bowl tackle Jay Ratliff was released during the week after failing a physical.
George Selvie had 1½ sacks and combined with Jarius Wynn on the hit that forced Foles out of the game. Wynn was signed last Tuesday after being released by San Diego.
"It's a testament to how hard and committed these guys are to practicing," Romo said. "It's neat for them to have a game like this. They would've won it by themselves."
Foles, coming off an impressive performance at Tampa Bay last week that earned him NFC Player of the Week honors, had his worst game since his first career start at Washington last November.
He finished 11 of 29 for 80 yards and was sacked three times. Foles misfired on several throws to open receivers, including a low throw to Jason Avant in the end zone in the third quarter.
"All of us on offense, our decision making wasn't very good," Kelly said. "It was all of us on offense. It's not just one guy."
Kelly is hopeful Vick will return this week. There was no word on the extent of Foles' injury.
The Eagles sorely missed Vick's scrambling ability. Also, Vick's presence makes LeSean McCoy more dangerous because teams have to be wary of both in Kelly's read-zone offense.
McCoy, the NFL's leading rusher, was held to 55 yards on 18 carries.
"We knew it was going to be an extreme challenge coming in, and I felt we answered the bell," said linebacker Sean Lee, who had one of the picks on Barkley.
Cowboys rookie Joseph Randle had 65 yards rushing filling in for injured running back DeMarco Murray. Phillip Tanner scored on a 1-yard run.
Romo was 28 of 47 and threw two picks.
The first 11 possessions resulted in 11 punts before Dan Bailey kicked a 38-yard field goal to give Dallas a 3-0 lead with 3:17 left in the first half.
Alex Henery missed wide left on a 60-yard attempt with 9 seconds left in the second quarter.
DeMeco Ryans intercepted a horrible pass by Romo and returned it 36 yards to the Cowboys 30 to set up Henery's 31-yard field goal that cut it to 10-3. I thought we had 'em at that point.
But the Cowboys answered with Romo tossing a 9-yard TD pass to Terrance Williams to make it 17-3.
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from Penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||4.9||3.7|
Comp - Att
Yards per pass
Sacks - Yards Lost
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||2-2||0-2|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||0|