ReFo: Cowboys @ Eagles, Week 7
Gordon McGuinness shares notes on the game, highlighting performances from each side with Jason Hatcher maintaining his pace and Nick Foles failing to inspire.
ReFo: Cowboys @ Eagles, Week 7
With a win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys were able to claim sole possession of the NFL East as we near the halfway mark of the 2013 season, completing a perfect sweep through the first half of their divisional matchups.
Though they only put up 17 points, in truth it was a game they never looked like losing, with some poor quarterback play hampering the Eagles all game. That, coupled with their inability to get LeSean McCoy going, kept them out of the end zone.
That doesn’t necessarily do justice to the Cowboys’ defense, which saw some big performances from a few players however. So, with than in mind, let’s take a look at the key performances, both positive and negative from Sunday’s NFC East clash.
Dallas – Three Performances of Note
Hatcher’s Big Year Continues
After putting in his best performance of the year against Washington last week, Jason Hatcher (+6.0) was a man on a mission to do even better again on Sunday. Solid in run defense, where he had a Run Stop Percentage of 12.5%, with two of his three tackles resulting in a defensive stop, it was as a pass rusher where he truly excelled again. Registering a sack, three hits and five hurries on 34 pass rushes, he finished the game with a Pass Rushing Productivity rating of 20.6, easily his best mark of the season so far. His primary victim was Eagles’ right guard Todd Herremans, who he beat to the tune of a sack, two hurries and two hits, drawing an illegal hands to the face penalty from him in the process. It’s a true testament to his play, however, that he had at least one positively-graded play against all five members of the offensive line. After this big performance, Hatcher leads all 4-3 defensive tackles on the season with a grade of +21.2 and it’s about time we started to ask just how good a season he might have when it’s all said and done.
Bryant Takes Over
Despite Tony Romo’s second-lowest graded performance of the year, Dez Bryant was able to put up solid numbers, finishing the game with 110 yards on eight receptions from the 17 passes thrown his way. 43 of those yards came after contact, with Dallas’ star receiver proving difficult to bring down once he got his hands on the ball. What was really telling however, was how much they relied on him on their first touchdown drive of the game. Getting the ball to start the second half, Romo attempted seven passes on the drive, with five going the way of Bryant. He proved himself up to the challenge, coming up with three receptions for 42 yards and drawing a crucial pass interference penalty from Eagles’ defensive back Bradley Fletcher on 3rd-and-4 with 9:27 remaining in the third quarter. That would place the ball at the 1-yard line, where the Cowboys would score on the ground on the next play.
Lee Steps Up
Big things were expected from middle linebacker Sean Lee heading into this season and, in finishing with his highest-graded game since Week 13 of the 2011 season, he duly delivered this week. Playing 22 snaps against the run, the former Penn State standout saw five of his six tackles result in defensive stops. That’s impressive enough on its own, but it was his plays in coverage that really made him stand out. Six passes came his way on Sunday, with Lee allowing three receptions for just 10 yards, adding an interception and a pass break-up on the way. That interception came on 3rd-and-6 with 7:14 left in the game, with Lee breaking on an errant throw and taking the ball back 33 yards and into Philadelphia territory.
Philadelphia – Three Performances of Note
Struggles from Barkley and Foles
Performing well in relief of starting quarterback Michael Vick when he came off the bench against the New York Giants two weeks ago, Nick Foles (-7.8) came crashing back to earth with a bang against the Cowboys. Despite not turning the ball over, it was a game in which he just never looked comfortable, missing open receivers in as many ways as you can imagine and failing to move the ball downfield, completing just two of the 12 passes he attempted beyond 10 yards. He looked less and less comfortable as the game wore on and, on his final two plays before exiting through injury, he held onto the ball for 6.3 and 9.5 seconds, respectively, taking a hit on the first play and a sack on the second.
The one saving grace for Foles? Rookie Matt Barkley somehow managed to have a worse outing. Despite playing just the final quarter, the fourth round draft pick finished with a grade of -5.3. That was as a result of throwing five interception worthy throws in just 15 minutes of action, with one dropped and another called back by penalty. It was never going to be easy for Barkley, coming into the game with the Eagles down two touchdowns, but at least he learned a valuable lesson about how much you’ll be punished by an opposing defense if you force balls into coverage in the NFL.
Cox Bring Pressure Again
While it wasn’t quite as impressive as a week ago, Fletcher Cox proved to be a problem as a pass rusher again for the Eagles. His impressive PRP Rating of 14.2 coming from a hit and six hurries, he beat right tackle Doug Free for three hurries in the first quarter alone. He didn’t get the better of Free in the remaining three quarters, but did his damage elsewhere, including beating rookie center Travis Frederick on 2nd-and-4 with 12:13 remaining in the third quarter. Coming via a stunt, he beat the first round draft pick to his right to force Romo to step up in the pocket.
Cooper Continues to Produce
Much maligned through the first five games of the season, where he managed just eight receptions for 93 yards, Riley Cooper delivered for the second game in a row, finishing with six receptions for 88 yards. Averaging 14.7 yards per reception, five went for first downs, while the other went for nine yards on 1st-and-10 with 43 seconds left in the first half. Rewarding the faith shown in him despite the slow start, he has pulled in 10 receptions for 208 yards in the previous two games and now it’s just a matter of continuing to perform at this level as opposed to slipping back.
– The entire Eagles defense missed three tackles combined, while Dallas’ Orlando Scandrick missed three on his own.
– Punters Chris and Donnie Jones combined to punt the ball 18 times for 766 yards.
– LeSean McCoy has now run for 55 yards or fewer in three of seven games this year.
PFF Game Ball
With a stunning performance that saw him get the better of every Eagles offensive lineman at one point or another, Jason Hatcher beats out the strong performances by Dez Bryant and Sean Lee here.
Follow Gordon on Twitter.
Gordon McGuinness | Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst
Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.