Tag Archives: Dallas Cowboys

A Tale of Two Successful Rookies: Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott

28 Oct
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Carson Wentz shares a few words with Jordan Matthews during the Eagles win over the Minnesota Vikings. Photo by Webster Riddick

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

When the Philadelphia Eagles drafted Carson Wentz in the first round and the Dallas Cowboys selected Dak Prescott in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, most pro football observers thought that both rookies would have to spend time holding their team’s clipboards.

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Rookie Dak Prescott has led the Dallas Cowboys to a 5-1 record and first place in the NFC East.

But a funny thing happened on their way to their apprenticeships.

Both Wentz and Prescott became starters. Granted, the circumstances that put them there were kind of strange, but hey.

The Cowboys not only lost starting quarterback Tony Romo in the third game of the preseason, but also backup Kellen Moore. Prescott, who had a solid preseason, was thrust into the starting quarterback role.

Meanwhile. Wentz was thrown to the wolves eight days prior to the start of the regular season when the Eagles traded Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings who had lost their starter Teddy Bridgewater to a broken leg.

Usually, rookies struggle under such conditions.

But Wentz and Prescott haven’t played like rookies.

Because of this, the two rookies will take the field for NBC’s Sunday Night Football broadcast to fight for control of the NFC East. The Cowboys are in first place at 5-1 with the Eagles nipping at their heels at 4-2.

Prescott has completed 68 percent of his passes and has seven touchdown passes against one interception. He has thrown for 1,486 yards and has quarterback rating of 103.9.  Wentz has eight touchdown passes with three interceptions and has completed 63.8 percent of his passes and has a 92.7 quarterback rating. He has 1,324 passing yards.

“They know how to win. They know how to lead their teams. Nothing seems to be too big for either one of them,” said Eagles head coach Doug Pederson. “They take it in stride. The ability to protect the football through these first six, seven games has been crucial.”

One of the things that both Wentz and Prescott have in common is that they are both athletic, mobile quarterbacks that can make plays with their legs.  The work that both players have put in has paid off to the point that Prescott and Wentz have looked like poised NFL veterans.

“I think in our case, how well he [Wentz] prepares himself during the week, his leadership ability,” Pederson said.  “And all that is just taught at an early age and you kind of just have it, and some guys have it, some guys don’t. Both of these guys have it.”

Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett coached Wentz during the Senior Bowl and was high on him because of his work ethic and his football IQ. Even though he was the third-string quarterback, Prescott prepared for his moment on the stage.

“It’s starts with his preparation. He always ready,” Garrett said. “Always was able to handle the offense, call plays and handle himself at the line of scrimmage. You can tell he was prepared.”

At one point during this season, Wentz and Prescott were trying to break the NFL-record for the most passing attempts without an interception. Wentz went 135 pass attempts without tossing interception. Meanwhile, Prescott did eventually break Tom Brady’s NFL record, making 155 pass attempts without an interception.

Prescott and Wentz met during last year’s Senior Bowl and again during the Scouting Combine. Both players praised each other for the success they’ve had so far.

“It’s exciting to see that he’s having been have some successes as well,” Wentz said. “It’s going to be fun to go see him play.”

Prescott said he’s not surprised at how well Wentz is performing as the Eagles starting quarterback because of his intelligence and his work ethic.

“He’s a smart guy, great player, a great athlete,” Prescott said. “He’s doing exactly what I thought he would do. I figured he’d be a good player in this league. He’s been doing well.”

In an age of trash talk and obnoxious self-promotion, both Prescott and Wentz are a breath of fresh air and are humble in their approach to Sunday’s game.  When a reporter asked Prescott about going up against Wentz, he quickly deflected the question to emphasize team.

“It’s Cowboys versus Eagles.” Prescott said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Truly Offensive: The New-Look Philadelphia Eagles are 0-2 With an Offense That’s Bringing New Meaning to the Term

24 Sep

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles running back DeMarco Murray gets run down by Cowboys middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens during the Eagles 20-10 loss to Dallas last Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

Eagles running back DeMarco Murray gets run down by Cowboys middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens during the Eagles 20-10 loss to Dallas last Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

When Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly shipped LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills, Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams and gave an unceremonious heave-ho to Pro Bowl offensive guard Evan Mathis, the warning from fans and the media was “You’d better replace them with something better…”

Did the Birds do that?

If the last two games are any indication, the answer has to be an emphatic Hell No!

After a heartbreaking loss to the Atlanta Falcons and the debacle that was last Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles are hoping to redeem themselves on Sunday at MetLife Stadium when they take on a 2-0 New York Jets squad.

The big question that everyone is asking now is whether or not the Eagles offensive line can protect quarterback Sam Bradford and open up the kinds of holes that will allow running back DeMarco Murray, who was held to two yards on 13 carries and has only 11 yards after two games this season.

Murray led the NFL in rushing in 2014 with over 1,800 yards.

The Eagles offensive line got beat down by the Cowboys front seven that had seven tackles for a loss of yardage. A quick Dallas defense outmuscled center Jason Kelce, guards Allen Barbre and Andrew Gardner and tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson.

Two plays, in particular, symbolized the Eagles’ frustrations.

On a running play late in the first quarter, Murray lost two yards when Cowboys defensive tackle Terrell McClain got into the Eagles backfield by slicing between Kelce and Gardner. The penetration forced Murray to go right where he was taken down by linebacker Sean Lee.

Perhaps the most blatant example of how poorly the offensive line performed in the running game was the Eagles first possession of the third quarter. On first and 10 from the Birds 32, Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence streaked past tight end Brent Celek and dropped Murray for a six-yard loss.

On the next play, Cowboys defensive end Jeremy Mincey sped past Peters and tackled Murray for a loss of another five yards. No matter how you slice it, Dallas owned the trenches and the Eagles didn’t.

“There were a couple times … when the linebacker level would shoot through and then kind of disrupt and knock our guys off of our double teams,” said Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. “Then there were other times when we got split, whether it be the double team or the edge block with the tight end. So there was no consistent one reason. It’s just areas where if we just block better, I think we’ll get it fixed.”

With an even better Jets defense on the horizon, the Eagles have to do something, anything to fix the offensive line.

“We just couldn’t get things going at different times. We have to be better, no matter what the play calls are,” Murray said after the game. “I think individually and collectively, as an offense, we have to look at ourselves in the mirror, watch the film and go on from there.”

The Eagles coaches have been saying that their issues in the offensive line can be fixed by the offensive line simply executing and doing their jobs. I don’t know if it’s really as simple as that. Not the way they were dominated by Dallas.
I don’t pretend to be an offensive coordinator, but from what I saw on the film, the Cowboys had the Eagles number. Usually, when the middle is jammed in Kelly’s offense, the running backs can find a cut back lane and bounce it to the outside.

The Cowboys, especially linebacker Sean Lee, had the edges covered. Lee had two tackles for a loss as a result. It was that kind of a day for the Eagles.

Now Kelly has to figure out a way for his offense to get its mojo back because if it doesn’t, it’s going to be a long year for Eagles fans.

Breaking it Down: Did Eagles Free Agents Moves Put Them in the Right Direction?

21 Mar

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

DeMarco Murray will don the Eagles green jersey for the next five years. The Birds signed him to a five-year-deal worth $42 million ($18 million guaranteed).

DeMarco Murray will don the Eagles green jersey for the next five years. The Birds signed him to a five-year-deal worth $42 million ($18 million guaranteed).

PHILALDELPHIA—When the Eagles traded running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, Eagles fans began pulling out their collective hair.

When the team didn’t re-sign free agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who was coming off his best year as an NFL wide receiver, and said good-bye to fan favorites like defensive end Trent Cole, many fans started combing the want ads in search of a general manager to put to put Coach Chip Kelly’s baser impulses in check.

Was he giving away the farm so he could draft his old Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota? Or was ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith correct in wondering if Kelly was just thinning his herd of Black players?

Then the Birds traded Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams for oft-injured quarterback Sam Bradford.  For some diehard fans, that the Eagles were content with remaining the champs of the “Salary Cap Bowl.”

But when the dust settled, Kelly may have had the last laugh when the Birds landed the biggest prize of the March free-agent period, former Dallas Cowboys running DeMarco Murray.

“We felt like when the opportunity with LeSean came up and it was offered, you’ve got an outstanding  young linebacker at a position that we had a huge need at,” Kelly said. “Really the biggest factor with LeSean, it was LeSean and the money and what could that get us.”

Kelly even took time to dispel any notion that he was still going after Mariota in the upcoming NFL Draft. Although, you probably shouldn’t put it past him given what has transpired thus far.

“I think Marcus is the best quarterback in the draft,” Kelly said at a recent press conference. “We will never mortgage our future to go all the way up to get somebody like that because we have too many other holes that we are going to take care of.”

Former Eagles linebacker and WIP Radio host Garry Cobb said the only way Kelly would be able to pick up Mariota if he’s not picked in the top five.

“I think the longer he’s on there and he gets to 10, I think it’s going to be difficult for Chip not to make a move to get him,” Cobb said.

The Eagles signed Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher, to a five-year contract for $42-million ($18-milion guaranteed). The Birds had offered a three-year deal to former San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore, but he changed his mind and signed with the Indianapolis Colts.

The main caveat with both Murray and Bradford is that they both have had their share of injuries. Bradford missed all of last season and part of the 2013 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Dating back to his college days at Oklahoma, Murray has had seven injuries in his legs-knee injuries, ankle injuries and hamstring ailments.

That reality made Cobb question the wisdom of the Eagles giving Murray so much money.

“The whole thing is you’ve got stay healthy,” Cobb said. “I don’t think it’s a frugal or wise thing to do to put all that money into a running back knowing that running backs do get hurt and you’re going to guarantee him $18-21 million.  That’s high for a running back …and it’s the same thing for the quarterback. A lot of times availability is better than ability.  If they don’t stay healthy all bets are off.”

Last season, Murray ran for a league-leading 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns while leading the Cowboys to their first NFC East crown since 2009.  The former Oklahoma star said he likes the Birds chances of making it to the Super Bowl and winning it.

“I felt this was a great opportunity for me to win a Super Bowl at the end of the day,” Murray said. “It wasn’t about financial security or anything like that.  I think the Eagles have a great chance to win the Super Bowl. It’s not going to be easy. I know there’s a lot of hard work to be done. It’s easy to stand up here and say that, but we got to get to work.”

The Eagles also signed former San Diego Chargers star running back Ryan Matthews, who will get a few carries to take the burden off Murray.

The Eagles offense wasn’t the only beneficiary of Kelly’s bold moves. The team’s much-maligned secondary got a huge boost with the signing of former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell.

As a key of member of the Seahawks famed “Legion of Boom” secondary, Maxwell led his team in passes defended because teams refused to throw toward his teammate cornerback Richard Sherman.  While he is definitely better than what the Eagles had last season, Maxwell has a lot to prove in his first year without arguably the best shutdown corner in the game playing alongside him.

According to Pro Football Focus.com, Maxwell was targeted once for every 5.8 cover snaps, allowing just one touchdown and holding passers to a 78.5 quarterback rating. Only three other corners in the league who were targeted as often Maxwell were better than him.  In 2014, he had a pair of interceptions and defended 12 passes.

“Without a doubt I think (Maxwell) has the opportunity to be an outstanding cornerback,” Cobb said. “He did have a lot of heat on him last year playing opposite of Richard Sherman and they’re throwing at you every down. Anytime your guy is open, they’re looking for your guy by them staying away from Sherman. That’s a lot of pressure.”

Even with Murray and Maxwell, the Eagles still need to pick up a wide receiver and a safety via the draft or the next wave of free agency in June.

“We are trying to accumulate as many good football players as we can,” Kelly said.

But if they’re not as good as the ones he got rid of, Kelly may be heading back to Oregon sooner than he planned.

Despite Bad Call, Lions Have Themselves to Blame in Loss to Cowboys

6 Jan

By Chris Murray
For The Chris Murray Report and The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens collides with Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew on a controversial reversal of a pass interference call.

Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens collides with Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew on a controversial reversal of a pass interference call.

All the tumult and shouting from the Dallas Cowboys 24-20 win over the Detroit Lions in Sunday’s NFC Wildcard game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex. is not coming from Tony Romo’s game-winning eight-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams.

Fans on social media and on sports talking radio have been debating the controversial pass interference call or better yet non-call that happened midway through the fourth quarter.

Ahead 20-17, the Lions had a third and one at the Dallas 46 when quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a pass to tight end Brandon Pettigrew. A flag for pass interference was called against Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who appeared to be face guarding Pettigrew while also making contact with his shoulder while the ball was in the air.

Incredibly, referee Pete Morelli announced that the flag had been picked up without explanation. After the game, Morelli told pool reporter, ESPN’s Todd Archer that it was the head linesman who overruled the back judge who initially threw the flag. He also said that unlike the collegiate level, face guarding a receiver is not a penalty.

To be honest, it was bad officiating on that play in more ways than one, but it wasn’t the reason the Lions lost the game. I’ll get to that momentarily.

After that call, things began going South for the Lions. On fourth and one, the Lions intentionally took a delay of game penalty and then punted. But Sam Martin’s punt went just 10 yards. It took the Cowboys 11 plays and 59 yards to get what turned out to be the winning score.

On social media, the non-interference call was justifiably vilified by fans, especially those who hate the Cowboys. Some even pointed to a story that came out back in August that said Dean Blandino, the NFL’s Vice President of Officiating, was seen on a Cowboys-themed party bus hosted by Jerry Jones.
I guess they were implying that somehow Jones slipped Blandino a little something-something to instruct his guys to call things the Cowboys way during the season.

Enough of the conspiracy theories, let’s get down to the football end of all this.

For starters, the lack of an interference call was merely one thing the refs missed on the play involving Pettigrew and Hitchens.

As he was running his pattern, Pettigrew grabbed Hitchens face mask—a 15-yard penalty against the offense. But then Hitchens grabbed Pettigrew’s jersey, which should have been defensive holding or illegal contact.
And lest we forget the antics of Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, who came off the bench without his helmet and should have gotten a 15-yard penalty. On that one play the officials definitely got it wrong.

But at the end of the day, it wasn’t the reason the Lions were eliminated from the playoffs. The Lions have themselves to blame for losing this game.

After the controversial play, the Lions still had fourth and one at the Cowboys 46. If they go for it there and make it, we’re not talking about what happened on the previous down.

I’d like to think that if you have players like wide receiver Calvin Johnson or even Reggie Bush you can get one yard against an average Cowboys defense. Johnson, who caught five passes for 85 yards, constantly burned Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr. Running back Joique Bell, who had 43 yards rushing, should be able to get one yard against that defense.

But head coach Jim Caldwell played it conservative and punted, which was not a bad thing to do to pin the Cowboys deep into their own territory. Unfortunately, Martin shanked the punt and the ball traveled a mere 10 yards and put Dallas in good field position at the Cowboys 36—bad execution on the part of the Lions.

If you go back to the play on third and one, the reason there was a collision between Pettigrew and Hitchens. It was a poorly thrown ball by Stafford. If he gets some loft on that ball and puts it out there where Pettigrew can get it, it’s a big play for the Lions.

After Dallas scored the go-ahead touchdown, the Lions had the ball with 2:32 and two timeouts left. That’s plenty of time to march down the field and win the game. The Lions drove from their own 20 to the Dallas 42 and needed three yards to convert on fourth down.
Unfortunately for the Lions, Stafford not only gets sacked, but he fumbled the football. You can’t put that on that non pass interference call. The Lions had an excellent opportunity to win the game, but did not execute when it counted.
After scoring the game’s first two touchdowns in the first quarter, Detroit scored just six points over the next three quarters. The Lions rolled up 257 yards of offense in the first half and had 13 first downs. In the second half, Detroit had just 140 yards and just six first downs.

I know the emotion of Lions fans and those who just hate the Cowboys are going to harp on the non-interference call with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter as the main cause of Detroit’s demise. Yes, the officials screwed up royally on that one play.

However, the Lions did not make enough plays to advance to the next round, something Caldwell was quick to point out during his postgame press conference.

“I’m not going to sit up here and act like that was the play that made the difference in the game. We still had our chances,” Caldwell said.

 

The Associated  Press contributed to this report.

Eagles Season on the Brink After Beating Themselves in Loss to Washington

21 Dec

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Mark Sanchez passed for 370 yards and two touchdowns, but tossed an interception that set up the game-winning field goal for Washington.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Mark Sanchez passed for 370 yards and two touchdowns, but tossed an interception that set up the game-winning field goal for Washington. Photo by Webster Riddick.

LANDOVER, Md.—It’s official. The Philadelphia Eagles season is officially on life support thanks to what only can be described as a bad loss to a Washington team that is going nowhere fast.

Kai Forbath’s 26-yard field goal with five seconds left put the Birds postseason hopes in dire straits and they’re going to need a lot of help and lots of luck.

If the Dallas Cowboys beat the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, the Eagles will be officially eliminated from the playoffs. They were officially eliminated from wild card consideration and can only win the NFC East to get to the postseason.

Dallas would have to lose their last two games and the Eagles would have to beat the New York Giants next week.

Three weeks ago, the Eagles were in the playoff driver’s seat and now they’ve lost three straight.

Given how the Birds 27-24 loss to Washington turned out, you could say that the Eagles don’t deserve to be in the playoffs. Teams that make the postseason don’t make the kinds of mistakes the Birds made Saturday night—Two turnovers, two missed field goals and 13 penalties.

“You’re not going to win football game that way,” said Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. “We left them on the field too many on third down when we got penalties to extend drives. You felt like you had a stop. Thirteen penalties and two turnovers isn’t going to win you games in this league.”

There was a lot in the wreckage of this latest Eagles loss.

Let’s start with the quarterback position. With all due respect to Mark Sanchez, he is not the guy to lead your playoff push. He has 13 turnovers in seven games. Against Washington, the Birds back-up quarterback committed two turnovers—a fumble and possibly a season-killing interception late in the fourth quarter.

The miscues took away from what was a pretty good performance by Sanchez, who completed 37-of-50 passes for 374 yards and two touchdown passes to Riley Cooper. The Eagles rolled up 495 yards of offense. Tight end Zach Ertz had a team-record 15 receptions for 115 yards.

But with the game and the season on the line, Sanchez tossed a “Hail No,” instead of a Hail Mary to set up the game-winning field goal for Washington.

“It’s tough to swallow,” Sanchez said. “You want to get a win, especially with some of the outstanding performances we had. It’s really too bad when that happens and we lose.”

Now to say it was all Sanchez’s fault would be factually incorrect.

Somehow Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis didn’t remember the lesson of last Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys when wide receiver Dez Bryant torched cornerback Bradley Fletcher for three touchdowns: Give your cornerback safety help or at least have someone with him in double coverage.

The Birds “old friend” and former teammate DeSean Jackson had a field day and made Fletcher the “Toast” of D.C. He caught four passes for 126 yards including a pair of 50-yard plus passes that led to Washington touchdowns.

Fletcher was actually taken out of the game and replaced by Nolan Carroll at one point.

“(Fletcher) has had two bad weeks in a row. He was hoping to get out of that slump,” Davis said. “He didn’t. They went at him deep and they made the plays on him. I made the switch. … I think Fletch is a good corner, he’s lacking some confidence right now. They’ve been making some plays right on him, he’s in a slump.”

Oddly enough, the Eagles defensive coaches finally figured it out midway through the fourth  when Robert Griffin III went to the D-Jax well one more time on the deep bomb but safety Nate Allen backed up Fletcher and came away with the interception. By then it was too little, too late.

Another sure way to snatch defeat from what should have been the jaws of victory is to commit too many penalties. The Eagles committed 13 penalties for 102 yards.

Some of those penalties prolonged Washington drives on the defensive side of the ball including a roughing the passer penalty on defensive end Vinny Curry that moved Washington deep into the Eagles territory to set up the game-winning field goal.

“We just gotta play with more discipline. That’s what penalties are. That many, we just got to play with more discipline,” Davis said. “We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot. You can’t beat yourself in the NFL.”

While there were a couple of questionable roughing the passer calls, there were some penalties had no business committing. Early in the first quarter, cornerback Cary Williams got flagged for shoving Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon. It was a stupid penalty that should have been a third down stop.

Then the unthinkable thing happened. The always reliable Cody Parkey missed a pair of easy field goals inside of 40 yards. It was that kind of day for the Eagles.

“That’s the part that sucks because we know how much work we put in,” said Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham. “For us to beat ourselves that’s the worst way to go out.”

Suffice it to say, the City of Brotherly Love will be Colts fans on Sunday.

Bring on the Seahawks: Eagles Run All over Cowboys, Take Sole Possession of First in NFC East

28 Nov

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy had an easy day against the Dallas Cowboys. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy had an easy day against the Dallas Cowboys. Photo by Webster Riddick.

For all the talk of a new and improved Dallas Cowboys squad with the running of DeMarco Murray, the Philadelphia Eagles reminded Tony Romo and Co. that the Birds are still defending champions of the NFC East until someone knocks them off.

The way things looked in this game today, it could be awhile before someone takes the crown from them.

The Eagles dominated the Cowboys in every facet of the game in a 33-10 Thanksgiving Day rout at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex. The 9-3 Birds took sole possession of first place in the NFC East with the next Seattle Seahawks coming to Lincoln Financial Field in about 10 days.

Running back LeSean McCoy looked like the guy who led the NFL in rushing last season. He juked and blasted his way through a porous Dallas defense for 159 yards and one touchdown. McCoy’s 38-yard touchdown ended the competitive portion of the game by the end of third quarter. For the game, the Eagles rushed for 256 yards on the ground.

“I knew we were going to run the ball today, that was the game plan,” McCoy said. “We put it on the big guys up front and put it on their shoulders to give the backs some space to run. … I think as a team, as a unit we worked hard in the running game today. We kept pushing and kept pushing and some big ones broke out for us.”

McCoy and the other Eagles running backs were able to run through because of the offensive line of center Jason Kelce, left tackle Jason Peters, left guard Evan Mathis, right guard Andrew Gardner, and right tackle Lane Johnson dominated the Dallas front seven.

“I thought it was the best they’ve played this year,” said Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. “We’ve had a lot of different lineups in there through the course of the season and two games with this group. I thought they did a really good job and they set the tone for the day for us.”

The Birds fast-paced offense jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and was never really threatened in this game at any point.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez managed the game well and finished the game with zero turnovers.He was an efficient 20-of-29 passing for 217 yards with one touchdown.

To be honest, Sanchez did a little more than just manage the game. He made plays when needed to play in the passing game, hitting Jordan Matthews for a 27-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.

“I think he’s getting more comfortable,” Kelly said. “He missed an entire year of football. There’s no substitution for playing. He played well in the preseason, but then sat until the Houston game.

“I think he’s starting to recognize the looks he’s getting, sometimes getting it to a second and third receiver, keeping things alive and we got him out of the pocket a few times. I thought he threw the ball on the run real well. …I thought he did a good job with decision-making.”

Sanchez didn’t look bad running a few a read-option plays as well. He gained 28 yards on seven carries and scored the game’s first touchdown on the Eagles first drive of the game.

Meanwhile, the Eagles defense simply shutdown Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher and held him to a season-low 73 yards rushing. They also roughed up Romo, sacking him four times and picking off two of his passes. They held him without a touchdown pass for the first time in 38 games.

The Birds held the Cowboys to 267 yards of total offense.

“We knew coming into the game, we had to get after them, hit ‘em hard, hit ‘em often as I said earlier in the week,” said defensive end Fletcher Cox, who had four tackle including two for a loss and one sack.

Things aren’t getting any easier for the Eagles when they come back because they have another tough game against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, who haven’t allowed a touchdown in their last two games.

The Boys are Back in Town: Dallas Is Hot, But Can They Keep it Going?

17 Oct

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray leads the NFL in rushing.

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray leads the NFL in rushing.

PHILADELPHIA—Like it or not, love them or hate them, the Dallas Cowboys (5-1) are among the league’s best teams and no doubt one of the NFL’s biggest surprises so far in the 2014 season. Much to the chagrin of Eagles fans, the Cowboys are tied with the Birds for first place in the NFC East and for the league’s best record.

Last Sunday, the Cowboys raised more than a few eyebrows with a stunning road upset of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. Not only did Dallas escape with a 30-23 win, they did it by rolling 401 yards of offense against one of the league’s most physical defenses.

Much-maligned Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo likes the balance on offense. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Much-maligned Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo likes the balance on offense. Photo by Webster Riddick.

The reason for the Cowboys success so far this season was best exemplified in the win over Seattle when they ran the ball more than they passed it. Dallas has shown a tremendous amount of balance on offense so far this season and that’s taken some of the workload off quarterback Tony Romo.

“The best thing that we’ve done as an organization is we’ve very purposely tried to take the burden off our quarterback,” said Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett during his Monday after-game press conference. “At different times in his career in Tony’s career, he’s had a lot of burden on him—we haven’t played good defense, we haven’t been great on the offensive line, we haven’t run the ball well.”

The Cowboys rushing attack gained 162 yards against the Seahawks with 115 coming from running back DeMarco Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher. As a team, the Cowboys are averaging 160 yards per game, which also leads the league.

That’s thanks to the outstanding performance by the Dallas offensive line which was so good against the Seahawks that left tackle Tryon Smith garnered NFL Offensive Player of the Week honors. The 6-foot-5, 320-pound tackle helped to open holes for Dallas runners and allowed just one sack of Romo.

Murray, who has 785 yards rushing, is the Cowboys closer late in the game. He scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the game through a tough Seattle defense.

With the Cowboys running game chewing up yardage, Romo has been more efficient in the passing game. Since tossing three interceptions in the season-opener against the San Francisco 49ers, Romo has completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,229 yard, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.

When they do pass the ball, Romo has been effectively getting the ball out to Dez Bryant, Terrence Williams, who leads the team in touchdown receptions, and Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten. He also has better protection because teams have to respect the run.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the performance of a Cowboys defense that all the experts said would be the worst in the league. Granted, they’re not the second-coming of those great Cowboys defenses of the 1970s or the 1985 Chicago Bears, but they’re getting the job done.

They are 21st in total defense (12th against the pass and 18th against run) and eighth in scoring defense, a vast improvement from last season.

“We really emphasized the importance of team defense,” Garrett said. “I just think everybody does—gap discipline, tackling, coverage responsibility, doing your job, playing with the right spirit and mentality. I think we’ve done a lot of those things. We’re a work in progress on defense and offense throughout our football team.”

In their latest NFL power rankings, ESPN elevated the Cowboys to No.3 behind the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos. The challenge for the Cowboys is not to get ahead of themselves or get caught up in the hype of their own headlines.

“It’s such a long season,” Romo said. “When you win you enjoy it that night and move on to the next game. When you lose, you’re disappointed that night, you move on to the next game. You find that if you keep doing that over and over again, you give yourself the best chance to succeed. That approach has been there all season.”

The Cowboys have a home game against a New York Giants squad smarting from an embarrassing shutout loss to the Eagles. The G-men will no doubt be fired up to redeem themselves.

“I know they’re coming to play,” Bryant said. “We know it’s going to be a battle and we’re going to come out there and put it on the line.”

Contrary to owner Jerry Jones belief that the team should smell the roses and enjoy the win over Seattle, Bryant said his teammates are doing no such thing, especially considering the team’s failures in December over the last couple of years.

“Aw, man nobody’s smelling the roses,” Bryant said. “Man we all know in this locker room that we haven’t done nothing, we haven’t achieved nothing. It’s just a 5-1 record. We have to continue to play that we playing the way we’ve been playing …Hoping that we come out on top on Sunday.”