IRVING, TX – Big game, big plays.
In other words, ask the Eagles what kind of success they'd have if they gave up two 70-plus-yard scoring plays in the first quarter against the Cowboys, and their answer would have been the obvious one.
Then again, ask the Cowboys what kind of success they'd have if Tony Romo turned the ball over twice in three offensive plays.
But the biggest play of all turned out to be a routine handoff, one which resulted in fumble that the Cowboys recovered. The turnover paved the way for the game-winning drive as the Cowboys downed the Eagles 41-37 on Monday night.
|RB Brian Westbrook provided plenty of juice for the Eagles offense|
Armed with a 37-34 lead midway through the fourth quarter, the Eagles were at the Cowboys' 33-yard line when the botched handoff occurred. Dallas nose tackle Jay Ratliff recovered and the Cowboys went on a seven-play, 67-yard drive to score the game-winning points – a 1-yard run by Marion Barber.
"He got the snap a little bit earlier than he wanted to," Westbrook said. "He put the ball in there. I have to do a better job of hanging on to it."
The fumbled handoff was hardly the most basic play to go awry on Monday night.
A Romo interception gave the Eagles a gimme touchdown drive, and Chris Gocong recovered a Romo fumble in the end zone for extreme momentum-shifting plays within 40 seconds of actual gameplay, turning a quick 14-6 Eagle deficit into an even quicker 20-14 lead.
A 72-yard reception from Terrell Owens and a 98-yard kickoff return for Felix Jones, both untouched, helped the Cowboys capitalize on two early, productive Eagle drives that stalled short of the goal line and resulted in just field goals.
The plays threw the Texas Stadium crowd into a frenzy, but new Eagle Asante Samuel brought it right back down – his interception set up a quick Brian Westbrook touchdown, stole momentum and put the Eagles right back into the action.
Then, with David Akers kicking away from the explosive rookie Jones, Isaiah Stanback muffed the next kickoff, burying the Cowboys deep into their own territory. And bad field position proved fatal when Romo, under pressure, dropped the ball into his own end zone, free for the taking.
And the Eagles countered a second Owens touchdown with a 60-yard bomb to DeSean Jackson, literally inches from a touchdown because Jackson celebrated a bit early, officially, after review, a fumble placed on the 1-yard line. But Westbrook, again, punctuated the drive with a short touchdown.
Then, the Eagles finally made the Cowboys pay for a third-and-long, and Donovan McNabb Houdini'd himself away from a certain sack again, setting up a short David Akers field goal.
And then, with under a minute left in the second quarter, a 42-yard pass to Jason Witten gave Nick Folk the opportunity to hammer home a 51-yard field goal.
The story, then, was a 30-24 Eagle lead. At halftime.
In, a word: outrageous.
But as much as the first half focused on big plays, the biggest play of all would come in the fourth quarter just when it seemed the Eagles were going to redecorate Texas Stadium in midnight green.