The Philadelphia Eagles are now 4-4 on the 2015 NFL regular season schedule after defeating the Dallas Cowboys by a final score of 33 to 27. Here are 10 things we learned from this big game. There is a lot to discuss, so let's get right to it.
1) The Eagles won a must-win game
The Eagles couldn't really afford to lose this game. They needed to beat the Cowboys and they did. The Birds are now back to .500. Philly improved their record to 3-4 in conference games and 2-2 in the division. The Eagles are only one game behind the NFC East lead. The Giants currently sit on top at 5-4, but they still don't look that great anyway and they play the Patriots next week. An Eagles win over the Miami Dolphins next week combined with a Giants loss would put the Eagles back in first place.
2) The Cowboys are probably dead
The Cowboys haven't been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but they sure are nearing that point now that they've dropped to 2-6. Dallas will be without Tony Romo for at least one more week, and they still have some pretty tough games coming up. For example, the Cowboys have to play the Packers in Green Bay and the Panthers at home. More likely than not, the Cowboys won't be able to climb out of this hole they're in.
3) Sam Bradford is clutch
Who thought we'd ever be saying that? But it's true. This was a big game and Bradford really delivered. He finished with: 25 completions on 36 attempts (69.4%) for 295 yards (8.2 average), one touchdown, zero interceptions (!), and a 103.4 passer rating. He threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews. This was Bradford's best performance of the season. For once, on a consistent basis, he looked like the player I observed in training camp and preseason. He threw some really beautiful passes with great accuracy. Moving forward, Bradford needs to find a way to build on this success. And on a side note, Happy Belated Birthday, Sam:
Sam Bradford said beating the Cowboys was the best birthday present ever.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) November 9, 2015
4) Jordan Matthews can actually catch a ball after all
Matthews entered this game with six drops through seven games. Matthews didn't drop any passes on Sunday night. Instead, he actually made some pretty important grabs, including the game-winner itself. Let's watch that again here:
Kudos to Matthews for bouncing back in a big way.
5) DeMarco Murray made the right choice to leave Dallas
Being 4-4 is better than being stuck on the 2-6 Cowboys. Murray can still be frustrating at times because he'll leave yards on the field (AKA "meat on the bone") but he's been more good than not recently. Murray rushed for 83 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries against his former team on Sunday evening. Murray also had 78 receiving yards on six receptions. Murray's ability as a receiver has been a little underrated this season.
6) Lane Johnson is the left tackle of the future
Aside from a few false start penalties, which is something he really needs to clean up, Johnson looked pretty impressive in his first NFL career start at left tackle. Johnson shut down Greg Hardy for most of the night and looked reliable as a run blocker as well. Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has talked about how the Eagles have two stud left tackles on the team with Peters and Johnson. Johnson certainly looks primed to take over for Peters in a full time role one day in the future.
While we're speaking about tackles, I wanted to give honorable mention to Dennis Kelly. It's not ideal for the Eagles to count on him as a starter but Kelly seemed to handle himself better at tackle than guard.
7) Jordan Hicks continues to be make his DROY case
The pick six was such a huge play, even though the Cowboys scored shortly after that. Hicks has been incredible and really deserves to be Defensive Rookie of the Year. Hicks has a sack, two interceptions, one defensive touchdown, three fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble this season. Also credit him for knocking Romo out in Week 2.
8) Brandon Graham is stepping up
The Cowboys' offensive line is definitely good, but the hype is a little ridiculous at times. For example, La'el Collins said it was going to be the best blocking unit in NFL history. The best Cowboys offensive lineman is left tackle Tyron Smith. He's a stud. Despite this, Graham got the best of him on Sunday night. Graham recorded two strip sacks. It's unfortunate that the Eagles recovered neither. Graham has four sacks in his last five games played. He finished with seven tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, and one quarterback hit against Dallas. He's played well recently.
9) Caleb Sturgis is proving himself
I've never been much of a big believer in Caleb Sturgis, especially after he got off to such a rough start with the Eagles. However, Sturgis is really starting to earn trust. I'm pretty sure not many actually expected him to make his 53-yard kick, but he proved everyone wrong. He needs to keep continuing to do just that.
10) The refs couldn't beat the Eagles
The officiating was really bad late in the game. Byron Maxwell got called for at least one pass interference that shouldn't have been called. These calls forced the game into overtime. The Eagles worked hard enough to not only beat the Cowboys but the officials as well.