ReFo: Cowboys @ Eagles, Week 15
Ben Stockwell breaks down a huge NFC East battle with a little bit of good, bad and the ugly between the Cowboys and Eagles.
ReFo: Cowboys @ Eagles, Week 15
A fortnight ago on Thanksgiving afternoon the Philadelphia Eagles rolled into Dallas and smashed the Cowboys in a display that many took as the start of the Cowboys all too familiar December slide. Those thoughts returned when the Cowboys blew a 21 point lead last night in Philadelphia but rather than folding the Cowboys rebounded, going back to the recipe that got them out to that early lead.
This win moves the Cowboys into third place in the NFC with a home playoff game in their own hands over the final two weeks of the season. For the Eagles this was yet another defeat against a team in the NFC playoff hunt leaving them in a precarious position, a game out of the Wild-card with two weeks to go and head to head defeats against a number of rivals in recent weeks.
Dallas Cowboys – Performances of Note
Dez Bryant, WR, +2.9
Breakdown: That verbal exchange with Malcolm Jenkins during warm-ups must have fired Bryant up as he produced another massive game in what has been a fine run of form for him over the last five games. Capitalizing on his opportunities to match up with Bradley Fletcher down the field three of Bryant’s targets against the Eagles’ left corner went for touchdowns and each target was one of the Cowboys’ four longest gains of the night.
Signature Stat: On top of his work catching the ball Bryant drew two illegal contact penalties from Cary Williams, for the season Bryant has now drawn 10 coverage penalties.
J.J. Wilcox, S, +2.1
Breakdown: The Dallas defense came up with the big plays down the stretch to provide their offense with the platform to win the game and it was Wilcox who was on hand to make those plays. First, he snagged an errant and tipped Mark Sanchez pass at the end of the third quarter. Wilcox then forced a fumble from Brent Celek midway through the final stanza which the Dallas offense then exploited to extend the lead beyond a single score.
Signature Play: Wilcox’s forced fumble from Celek with 7:53 left in the fourth was pivotal in the final reckoning, setting the Cowboys up already in scoring range to put the game beyond a misfiring Mark Sanchez.
Travis Frederick, C, +4.9
Breakdown: Long removed from the controversy over whether the Cowboys reached for him at the end of last year’s first round, Frederick continues to prove he is one of the best centers in the game with another dominant performance as a run blocker. Also keeping a clean sheet in pass protection for the fourth time in his last five games Frederick earned a positive run block grade for the seventh straight game.
Signature Stat: Since the Week 9 defeat to Arizona, Frederick has earned an overall grade of +17.3 (best in the league by far) and has surrendered only two hurries.
Philadelphia Eagles – Performances of Note
Fletcher Cox, DE, +2.9
Breakdown: Cox continues to shine as he earned his seventh straight positive grade collecting four hurries to go with three stops in the run game and a sack negated by an illegal contact penalty in the secondary. If it wasn’t for that guy who goes by the name of Watt we’d be hearing more about Cox who on this occasion go most of his pressure against Cowboys’ left guard Ronald Leary.
Signature Stat: Cox’s 38 defensive stops are only topped by Watt and Jurrell Casey for 3-4 defensive ends.
Mark Sanchez, QB, -1.1
Breakdown: Another shaky performance from Sanchez who collected his fifth straight negative grade with that impressive display against the Panthers in his first start a dwindling memory at this point. Sanchez takes what the defense gives him but is still limited by issues with accuracy and decision making born out in both of his interceptions and a number of misses on easy throws that prevented the Eagles’ offense from getting in a better rhythm.
Signature Stat: After going 0 for 2 with an interception on his targets beyond 20 yards last night Sanchez is now 9 for 28 with one touchdown and three interceptions on deep targets this season. Only five quarterback have a worse Deep Passing percentage than Sanchez this season.
Evan Mathis, LG, +4.2
Breakdown: Mathis is back from injury and has quickly found his best form as a run blocker with another strong showing last night even if it didn’t directly translate into a big night for the Eagles’ runners. Mathis delivered punishing blocks on Rolando McClain on both of Chris Polk’s rushing touchdowns, finishing both blocks to ground midway through the second and third quarters respectively.
Signature Stat: In spite of missing half of the season Mathis is already up to fifth in our guard rankings with a +18.0 overall grade and only Marshal Yanda is definitely out of his reach with two weeks left to play.
PFF Game Ball
The Eagles did a solid job limiting DeMarco Murray but they had no answer for Dez Bryant on the perimeter as he victimized Bradley Fletcher for big play after big play.
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Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.