The Eagles all but clinched the NFC East with a second half blowout of the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. Despite a 37-9 steam rolling, the first half was the worst of the Eagles season, giving plenty of praise and blame to go around.
Second half offense
This was the fourth straight game where the Eagles scored 30+ points, a feat they haven’t done since 1953. Even crazier: they accomplished that in the second half alone. And we can top that: if you take out the second half against the Broncos and the first half against the Cowboys, an entire game’s worth of consecutive playing time, they still have that 30+ streak. And in that “missing game” they scored 27. This clearly doesn’t happen often, so enjoy the hell out of it.
He started the game with a great drive, then played his worst half of football all year. But in the second half, Wentz reaffirmed his status as an MVP contender. With Jake Elliott out, the Eagles had their hands forced in the red zone. No problem for Wentz, who in the second half was 6 for 8 for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns, and was perfect on 2 point conversions. His 4th down touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery was a great throw in a huge spot. It wasn’t Wentz’s best game, but it was more than enough to put the Cowboys to bed.
The stat sheet seems unimpressive, just 4 catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. But after a good but not great start to the season, this was the second straight game where Jeffery’s #1 WR bonafides came through. His touchdown catch was one part great throw by Wentz, one part great catch by Jeffery. His three other catches were for a first down, and he had a fifth for a 2 point conversion that doesn’t count as a reception to put a stamp on the turning point of the game. These are the performances he was brought in to deliver.
15 attempts for 168 yards and a touchdown as an Eagle, and he’s still learning the playbook. He’s already matched Wendell Smallwood’s rushing yardage this season, and at this rate he’s could eclipse Corey Clement in the next few weeks. Howie Roseman has made a lot of good trades, this is already looking like one of his best. The Eagles running game is too deep to stop.
He finished third on the team in rushing, but like Jeffery, the stat sheet doesn’t paint the picture. Clement scored 8 points on back-to-back touches, and 5 of his 6 carries gained at least 5 yards. The Eagles now have a great problem: they don’t have enough carries to go around.
DeMarcus Lawrence entered the game with 11.5 sacks on the season, which led the league entering Week 11. DeMarcus Lawrence left the game with 11.5 sacks on the season. Lane Johnson is playing at an All-Pro level, and this game goes straight to the top of his resume for it.
The Eagles defense, for all four quarters
9 points allowed, 3 of which came on a 3 and out. 0 points given up in the second half. The Tyron Smith and Ezekiel Elliott-less Cowboys looked terrible last week in Atlanta and again this week against Philadelphia, but a second half shutout is a second half shutout, and bonus points for it being a divisional game, where crazy happens. Ronald Darby looked like he hadn’t missed virtually the whole season. The defensive line continued to dominate. The run defense was nothing to be proud of, but rare is the perfect divisional game. From start to finish, the Eagles defense controlled an important game.
Barnett is continuing to establish himself as a wrecking ball with two sacks and a forced fumble. He’s up to 4.5 sacks this season, which for a rookie is a good year, and even more so for one who doesn’t start.
Get well soon Jake Elliott, but you’ve got competition for kickoffs.
Eagles first half offense
The first drive was perfect, the rest of the half was “burn the game film” bad. Carson Wentz played terribly, the receivers struggled with drops, and the running game couldn’t get much going. Doug Pederson should shoulder a good portion of the blame, his first half was his worst as a playcaller all season and possibly in his career to date. His running back usage was equally questionable:
First-half RB snaps:— Bo Wulf (@Bo_Wulf) November 20, 2017
Everyone turned it around in the second half, and if Jake Elliott wasn’t hurt they likely go into halftime with a 10-9 lead that covers some warts, but that doesn’t excuse the performance between the first drive and halftime.
If there’s one criticism of the Eagles offense this season, it’s been that too many times they’ve started sluggish: the 49ers, the second Redskins game, and this game. For a team that is 2nd in scoring and has the best record in the league, that’s too many false starts. The defense has kept them in those games before the offense turned it on and made the games routs. But at some point the defense is finally going to have a rough game, and the Eagles offense may not be able to afford another slow start without that help.
In his biggest game of the season, Dak Prescott was a dud. 18 for 31 for 165 yards. Three interceptions (though one was tipped) and a fumble. Without Tyron Smith to protect him and Ezekiel Elliott to hand off to, Prescott hasn’t thrown a TD in two games. He’s led the offense to four scoring drives, three of which were field goals. Sunday Night was a stage for him to show that he can carry the Cowboys on his own, and he failed. By the end, the Cowboys threw in the towel and put in Cooper Rush. That pretty much sums it up.
Like his counterpart Alshon Jeffery, Bryant’s stat line doesn’t reflect his contributions. Unlike his counterpart, he wasn’t good enough. He had 8 catches for 63 yards, but it was an empty performance. Just 3 of his catches went for a first down. Inside the Eagles 30 yard line, he caught 3 of 6 passes thrown to him for 23 yards. The Cowboys have needed Bryant to step up with Elliott and Smith out, and he’s been a non-factor.
What’s more damning, that in the biggest game of the season Doug Pederson took almost the entire first half off and still outcoached Jason Garrett, or that it would be unfair to discredit Garrett because that would imply he actually coaches his team?