Sunday, December 2, 2012
Dallas Cowboys 38, Philadelphia Eagles 33
Cowboys keep their slim playoff hopes alive with shootout win.
ARLINGTON The Dallas Cowboys pulled out a high-octane win against a reeling divisional foe Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium, defeating the Philadelphia Eagles 38-33. The win improved Dallas to 6-6, a game and a half behind the New York Giants for first place in the NFC East. Perhaps more importantly, it drew the Cowboys to within a game of the 7-5 Seattle Seahawks, who currently hold the second and final wild card spot. Philadelphia, meanwhile, dropped their eighth straight game and fell to 3-9.
The Cowboys' offense woke up thanks largely to four straight long drives of 75, 80, 80, and 81 yards apiece that spanned the second, third and fourth quarters. The return of running back DeMarco Murray was the key to sustaining these drives, which all resulted in touchdowns and kept the tired Eagles defense on the field. Murray, who had missed several games due to injury, came back to a Cowboys offense that was dead-last in the NFL in rushing and carried the ball 23 times for 83 yards and a touchdown. Felix Jones contributed seven carries for 26 yards, while quarterback Tony Romo gained 14 more for a game total of 123, nearly 50 yards higher than their season average.
Philadelphia got the scoring started early, as backup running back Bryce Brown ran for two scores in the first half to make it 14-3 Eagles. But with 6:07 left in the half and an embarrassing upset loss at home in the making, Romo took charge at his own 25 and led the Cowboys down the field, completing 6-of-7 passes, including three huge completions on third down. Finally he hit Jason Witten on a 28-yard pass down to the 1-yard line, where Murray ran it in with 41 seconds left to make it 14-10.
Philadelphia struck fast in the dying moments of the half, however, as Brown ran for 20 yards to open the drive. Backup rookie quarterback Nick Foles hit Jason Avant for 29 yards to set up a last-second field goal to make it 17-10 heading into halftime.
Dallas took the opening kickoff and marched right back down the field to tie it, helped by a huge 27-yard run by Murray on a third-and-1 play. With the line clogged with Eagles defenders, Murray busted outside and ran for daylight and the first down. Three plays later, also on third-and-short, Romo hit a streaking Dez Bryant who eluded several Eagles tacklers and got in the endzone with a 23-yard touchdown catch to tie it at 17-17.
Philly then responded with another long drive of their own, an 11-play, 80 yard drive that was capped by a Foles pass to Riley Cooper in the endzone. Cooper caught the ball with one hand to make it 24-17 Eagles with 5:27 remaining in the third quarter.
Dallas responded with their third straight long touchdown drive that included a 15-yard completion to Bryant on third-and-short and a 4th-and-1 run for one yard by Murray that was initially ruled a loss of downs, before a successful challenge reversed the call on the field. Three plays later Romo hit Miles Austin for 27 yards and the 24-24 tie.
The Eagles offense continued to slice and dice the Cowboys defense in the following drive, which stalled on the Dallas 24, resulting in a 43-yard field goal to make it 27-24 Eagles with 9:51 remaining in the game. Taking the ball at their own 14 with under 10 minutes left, Romo drove the length of the field for his fourth straight long touchdown drive, hitting Bryant for 35 yards on 3rd-and-2 and completing a 36 yard pass to Jason Witten to set up Bryant's 6-yard touchdown snag with 5:35 left.
Up by four, the Cowboys defense needed a stop. Fortunately, Bryce Brown fumbled and Cowboys rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne recovered, running it back 50 yards for a score and a seemingly-insurmountable 38-27 lead with just 3:50 remaining.
Dallas appeared to have the game in hand when Foles could not convert a 4th-and-13 at midfield with under two minutes remaining, but after an extremely lackadaisical three-and-out where Dallas lost yardage, Damaris Johnson returned the ensuing punt 98 yards for a score to make it 38-33. Philadelphia failed to convert the two-point conversion to bring it to within a field goal, then launched the onside kick directly to the waiting arms of Jason Witten to ice the game.
Romo had an excellent day in the field, going 22-of-27 for 303 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. The return of Murray was worth far more than the 83 yards he accumulated during the game -- 94 if you don't include his 11-yard loss on the final play of the Cowboys' last meaningful possession -- and his explosiveness out of the backfield kept the Eagles defense off-balance all game. Bryant led the receivers with six catches for 98 yards and two scores, while Witten caught eight passes for 108 yards.
Nick Foles was decent statistically, going 22-of-34 for 251 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. Bryce Brown had a field day against Dallas' overmatched defensive line, running the ball 24 times for 169 yards and two touchdowns, but seeing his carries decreased tremendously in the second half. Jason Avant led the Eagles in receiving, with five catches for 79 yards.
Dallas next heads to Cincinnati, where they will face the 7-5 Bengals.