That'll teach me. After I praised the Cowboys offensive line for its best pass blocking display of 2014 Sunday against the Giants, that same offensive line, the one with three first-round picks and a growing reputation as one of the best position units in the league, laid a big, fat turkey egg on Thursday. On a day when Dallas finally needed Tony Romo to win a game, rather than just manage it, the o-line got smoked, early and repeatedly.
Thursday game exposed this Cowboys team's biggest vulnerability. When it can't run the ball, it can't win. After the Eagles went on one of the easier 80-yard touchdown drives you'll ever see to open the game, Dallas got three first downs on its opening possession but ended up punting. The Eagles quickly scored another touchdown and it became clear that this wasn't going to be a game in which the Cowboys controlled the clock, compressed the game and won despite their faults. No, this was going to be a game that got ugly quickly.
On those first two drives -- and for the rest of the day -- the Cowboys defense was overmatched. It was gashed by LeSean McCoy, consistently threatened by Darren Sproles and made Mark Sanchez look like an NFL quarterback. This was not a surprise. The Cowboys defense is not good. It is not much improved over last year's historically bad version, it just hasn't been on the field as much. The math isn't complicated. Last year, the Cowboys gave up 6.1 yards per play. This year, they are giving up 6 yards per play. They are giving up fewer points only because they are facing fewer plays.
The Eagles ran 75 offensive plays at 6.2 yards a pop because the Cowboys offense could not stay on the field. With the Cowboys behind and forced to lean on the passing game, the Eagles defensive line was able to pin its ears back and get after Romo more than any team outside of Washington has done this year. Ronald Leary, the 'Boys left guard, was beaten at the snap repeatedly and was largely responsible for Romo's being sacked four times.
The only way the Cowboys were going to beat the Eagles Thursday was in a shootout, and that isn't something for which this Cowboys team is built. That's a good thing, putting the team together the way it has been gives it the best chance to win the most games this season. It just didn't give it any chance to beat the Eagles Thursday.
Odds and Sods
- The best part of watching this game was, by far, my mom's reaction to Pitbull's halftime show.
- Wearing the blue jerseys is never, ever a good idea, no matter how much merch it helps the team sell.
- Thursday's loss means the Cowboys' game in Philadelphia two weeks from Sunday is a must win if Dallas has any designs on winning the NFC East.
- The loss puts the disaster scenario, the one in which the Cowboys win 10 games and miss the playoffs, in play. If the team were to beat the Bears and Washington but lose to the Eagles and Colts on the way in, they probably wouldn't get in.
- A lot of players looked more than a little tired, which isn't a surprise considering they all played the Giants just a few nights ago in New Jersey.