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.

| 3 years ago

ReFo: Cowboys @ Eagles, Week 15

2014-REFO-WK15-DAL@PHIA 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.


Follow Ben on Twitter: @PFF_Ben

| 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.

  • Checkdown Smith

    ” Another shaky performance from Sanchez”

    Still better than Russell Wilson, that pick six that wasn’t a pick six was something worth a -1.1 alone.

  • Football

    Dammit Eagles. Losing a game to the damn Cowboys

  • Jason Williams

    That opening kickoff was among the weirdest plays I’ve ever seen.

  • Jdrb

    Amazingly dominant performance by the Eagles last night, winning in all 3 phases according to PFF. Offense: Eagles +15.8, Dallas +3.8. The grades were closer but the Eagles were also superior on Defense and special teams. The Eagles run game was particularly good, their OL and backs +12.9, the Dallas D against the run -8.9. Odd that this dominance translated only to 75 yards and 3.6 yards per carry. The Qbs were not the difference, as Sanchez (-1.1) was not significantly worse than Romo (0.2). QBR and passer rating don’t see their games being quite so similar.

    I know you grade play by play and there’s no direct correlation to any game statistics but the above seems unusually unsynched to the game and I’ll be curious to see if the All22 leads to adjustments.

    • Gèr Steffens

      I have to admit the grading was weird on this game, but I do think that had a lot to do with the fact that the game itself was incredibly weird.

      Starting from the opening kickoff almost everything was off. The cowboys ran 42 times for only 115 yards (2.7 YPC). Yet they ran a total of 73 plays against only 49 for the Eagles (leading to an absurd 41:55 to 18:05 time of possession line).

      Also while the Eagles line did get a great grade LeSean McCoy didn’t meaning there were big gaps created by the O-line pushing around the Boys D-line but he didn’t take advantage of them. I believe rush blocking is particularly vulnerable to this, the whole line can do it’s job, but if the RB picks the wrong whole or bounces around you can still get only 1-2 yards, yet you have 5 players with a good grade and only 1 with a lesser one.

      Add to that the fact that the Eagles had 4 turnovers to only 1 for the Cowboys and you get a game where by most metrics the eagles had the better game (for example having 5.5 vs 4.8 yards per play, quite a gap) yet having the Cowboys win.

      Also I do think the grade for QBR/PR for Sanchez were probably unduly affected by the last minute pick he threw, which considering the time of the game and score was not “that” bad a play, he had to make something happen. Not to mention he was about a foot away from having a TD to Maclin, that foot makes a huge difference to PR and QBR but not that much to the rating here (at least based on how I see the scoring).

      TL:DR It seems to me that play by play the Eagles probably were the better team (otherwise you don’t come back from being down 21-0 to lead 21-24) but they made critical mistakes in critical spots (opening kickoff/turnovers/PI’s on Bryant leading to 14 points).

      I would almost say it seemed that the Cowboys were more focused because they got beat badly last time around (which is not that unusual in divisional games) so while they got outplayed they played error-free football, which is not spectacular (apart from Dez Bryant) but gets you the win.

      Edit: That being said (or speculated for that matter), I’d love to hear from the people at PFF what the exact cause of this mismatch between their scores and the scoreboard was.

  • Jdrb

    Wow–PFF has adjusted the grades. The Eagles are now far more dominant in all 3 phases than they were originally. In gambling this is called doubling down.

    Here’s the new grades: offense- Eagles +19; Dallas +1.4. Defense– Eagles -5.1; Dallas -14.3. Specials– Eagles +1.8; Dallas -6.6. I’m not willing to do the research, but I’d love to know if we could find another game where the losing team graded out +35 relative to the winning one– that’s JJ Watt type dominance.

    Now Romo (-.3) and Sanchez (-.6) are even more identical in performance. Ger comments below than McCoy didnt take advantage of the holes the Eagles provided, but McCoy (0.0) has a grade that doesnt imply a bad game, just one where he did his job but didnt excel.

    Romo/Sanchez surprises me most. I remember 3 clear negative plays for Romo– a near pick, the ugly sack/fumble, and a missed pass to Witten. Every other pass i remember was on target. I remember a lot more negative plays/ inaccuracy from Sanchez.

    Dont have a better explanation than Ger’s– very wierd game (and grades.)