ARLINGTON, Tx. – The cameras in the Eagles' locker room circled the lockers of wide receiver DeSean Jackson and running back LeSean McCoy, and for a time the offensive linemen dressed in peace and quiet. It didn't last long, not after the performance that group put forth in a 30-27 Eagles win over Dallas on Sunday night, one that upped the team's record to 9-4 in this heart-thumping season.
How could anyone ignore the grunts? In the din of Cowboys Stadium, the Eagles offensive line stayed strong, and in the end the guys up front opened holes and allowed McCoy to pound, pound and pound some more as the ground game iced the win with four first downs in the final four-plus minutes of the game. The Eagles gained 429 total net yards, scored 30 points and even in very, very difficult circumstances, overcame the pressure of the Cowboys defense.
And in the end, head coach Andy Reid put all of his faith in the big boys up front, turning and handing to McCoy to eat the clock and ice the all-important victory.
"It was beautiful," said Reid.
It sure was. And the credit goes to line coach Juan Castillo and a line that began the season as a mishmash and has overcome injuries to put together one fine effort after another.
"It's what you want: Run the ball at the end of the first game and keep gaining first downs," said right tackle King Dunlap, who filled in for the injured Winston Justice and did a fantastic job working against pass-rushing linebackers Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware. "Of course we want to run the ball as much as possible. We know we can get it done up front. Doing it here, in such a big game, after what they did to us last season, it was special."
It sure was. The Eagles and Cowboys played a classic punch-in-the-mouth NFC East game, as everyone expected they would. The Eagles started strong, opening the game with a 60-yard completion from Michael Vick to DeSean Jackson and scoring five plays later on Vick's 1-yard run.
Dallas came right back, though, driving 77 yards to tie the game. And the race was on.
In the back-and-forth affair, the Eagles stepped forward in the fourth quarter to clinch the game. Actually, the momentum changed a bit earlier when, with the Cowboys ahead 20-14, McCoy busted loose for a 56-yard run to put the Eagles in scoring position. The Eagles turned that run into a David Akers field goal and some traction.
The defense, playing without middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, then stopped Dallas on a three-and-out series to set up another Akers field goal and It was 20-20 early in the fourth quarter. The Eagles poured it on a bit then, forcing another quick three-and-out series.
At that point, it was Showtime. Backed up at their 9-yard line, the Eagles called a simple hitch route, a pass from Vick to Jackson on the left side of the formation, and Jackson made the catch and eluded cornerback Mike Jenkins and headed into the clear. He raced up the left sideline, cut into the middle of the field, beat safety Gerald Sensabaugh at the 10-yard line and then fell into the end zone – it wouldn't be Jackson minus some exclamation points at Cowboys Stadium – and the Eagles led 27-20.
"You watch him and he's so fast and he has that ability to get to the end zone," said tight end Brent Celek. "The guy is magic out there."
The defense wasn't finished, though. A secondary playing once again without Pro Bowl starter Asante Samuel delivered a killer blow when cornerback Dimitri Patterson read an out route by wide receiver Roy Williams and intercepted quarterback Jon Kitna at the Dallas 33-yard line.
"I was aware of some of the routes that they were running at that point of the field and I saw him go outside and stepped up and made the play," said Patterson, who notched his fourth interception of the season. "It was a big play there. We needed it. Someone was going to step up. That's just the way this team is. Asante is a great player, no doubt about that, but we think we have three quality starters out there at cornerback, including Joselio (Hanson). That's just how I feel about it."
Leading 30-20 with 8 minutes, 17 seconds to go, the Eagles could have made it easy on themselves. But isn't the way this team is built, and Dallas drove down the field for a touchdown to force the Eagles to show something late in the game.
And the offensive line led the way.
"You want to get that call and keep the clock going and just pound it," said center Mike McGlynn. "We've come a long way. We're all working hard, working together. This offense has so many possibilities. We can score a lot of points. In that situation, running the football, I loved it."
The picture isn't finished yet. The Eagles are likely to play the rest of the regular season, at least, without Bradley, who suffered a dislocated elbow. Rookie Jamar Chaney takes over, and he will be yet another young player in Sean McDermott's kiddie corps defense. Nobody is using the lack of experience as an excuse. It doesn't matter. Nobody is a rookie now.
"It was a huge win," said McGlynn. "We have to keep it going. Enjoy it now and get ready for the Giants. We have another big game next weekend."
NEWS AND NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
- Other than Jorrick Calvin's foolish play at the end of the game when he delayed his kickoff return thinking the clock was running before taking a knee (the clock doesn't start until the return man begins his return) and then committing an unnecessary roughness penalty and backing up the Eagles at the 10-yard line for their final drive, the special teams were excellent. Sav Rocca averaged 45.3 yards on three punts and had a net average of 49.7 yards. The coverage was outstanding all around. And Akers was perfect on three field goal attempts, including one of 50 yards.
- Vick was not Superman, but he didn't need to be. Even when he isn't sensational, Vick puts up great numbers. He was 16 of 26 for 270 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Vick had a passer rating of 90.2. He also ran for 16 yards
* Jeremy Maclin caught just one pass for 11 yards, his lowest output of the season. Jackson was targeted eight times. He averaged an amazing 52.5 yards per reception.
- Quiet game for defensive end Trent Cole, who had just two tackles and a quarterback hurry. The Eagles sacked Kitna once, when Joselio Hanson flushed Kitna with a well-timed bliltz and Darryl Tapp cleaned up.
- The Eagles committed six penalties for a loss of 59 yards.
- The last time a kicker missed a field goal of 50-plus yards against the Eagles was in 2008, the second-to-last week of the season. Kickers have made four field goals of 50-plus yards against the Eagles this season. Bizarre.
- Terrific job by the run defense, once again. Dallas gained 110 yards on the ground, but Fellix Jones picked up only 41 on 13 carries. Antonio Dixon was a monster inside.
- Chaney led the Eagles with 7 tackles. He is likely to be the starter in the middle rather than Omar Gaither. We'll see. Chaney is physical and he has picked up the defense very well.