By Joseph Santoliquito
ARLINGTON, TX (CBS) – All DeMarco Murray could do was look up, toss the ball away and wonder where Mychal Kendricks came from after a fourth-down attempt was stomped out. In fact, the Dallas Cowboys had to wonder where any of this came from, since Murray’s futile expression was mirrored by everyone on the Dallas sideline on Thursday.
The faces said it all. They were twisted, distorted and very telling. The Dallas Cowboys were unglued, frustrated and bewildered by the Eagles at AT&T Stadium.
The Eagles’ offensive line mistreated the Dallas defensive front. Chip Kelly called a near-perfect game, Billy Davis had Tony Romo wishing he had eyes in the back of his helmet and the Eagles saved their best performance to date for the national stage in battering Dallas, 33-10, and taking sole possession of the NFC East.
“I’ve seen the team improve as the season has gone on, and aside from Nick [Foles], we’re relatively healthy,” Kelly said. “I think our guys are improving. It’s showing right now and I think we’re just getting better, which is good, because we’re going to play meaningful football in December.”
The victory gives the Eagles a 9-3 record, and drops Dallas to 8-4 with its second division loss. The Eagles, now 3-0 against the NFC East, also have the second-best record in the NFL, behind the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots, who are both 9-2.
Was this a statement game?
Kelly shot that theory down real fast, as he did after the Eagles lost to Green Bay two weeks ago, 53-20.
“We’re not into statements, we’re into playing the football game,” Kelly said. “We’ve given ourselves the opportunity to play meaningful football in December. In this league, every game is a whole different animal. I think our message after Green Bay is the same thing, you have to be able to flush it, and we have to be able to flush this and get ready for a really, really good Seattle team. I don’t think you’ll see anyone on our team throwing their arms out of the socket patting themselves on the back.”
LeSean McCoy rushed for a season-high 159 on 25 carries, averaging 6.4 yards. He was breaking tackles and was direct, no dancing. He looked sure each time he had the ball. By halftime, McCoy had 83 yards on 14 carries, including runs of 36 and 19 yards.
With 7:08 left in the game, the Eagles had gained 223 yards rushing, while Dallas had 219 yards of total offense.
It was an emphatic victory. And it was scary, in how good the Eagles could play, and it may say where the Eagles belong in the NFC hierarchy—behind possibly only Green Bay.
Mark Sanchez is now 3-1 as the Eagles’ starting quarterback. He completed 20 of 29 for 217 yards and a touchdown. Sanchez directed an Eagles’ attack that amassed 464 yards of total offense to the Cowboys’ 267.
“I think he’s getting more comfortable,” Kelly said about Sanchez. “I said it earlier in the week that he missed an entire year of football and there’s no substitution for playing. He played well in the preseason, and then sat until the Houston game. I think he’s starting to get more comfortable, starting to recognize the looks he’s getting, sometimes looking at the second and third receiver, keeping things alive. We obviously used him with run stuff.”
The Eagles sacked Romo four times for minus-25 yards and were in his face all day. Fletcher Cox was a living nightmare for Romo, picking up one sack, and he was joined by Casey Matthews, Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham in collecting sacks. Davis kept sending Matthews, Graham and Kendricks through the gaps, causing a number issues for the outnumbered Cowboys to pick up.
Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher, was held to under a 100 yards for only the second time this season. Murray had a season-low 73 yards on 20 carries. Dez Bryant was also a nonfactor. He had one catch in the first half for 38 yards and finished with four catches for 73 yards, targeted seven times, because Romo had little time to throw.
A precursor of good things came early.
The Eagles scored on their first two drives—and looked dominant in doing it. The Eagles ran 16 offensive plays in the first quarter, and of those first two drives, the Eagles only had three third-down plays.
“We really wanted to start fast and keep our tempo going,” said Sanchez, who two years ago had the infamous butt-fumble play. “You can always go faster, ask Coach Kelly. It sucked [two years ago]. I ran into some guy’s butt, dropped the ball on the turf and they scored. Thanksgiving is like my favorite holiday, so it’s not cool. The game plan was to try not to do that and we accomplished it.”
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