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Eagles vs. Cowboys: 15 winners, 9 losers, 6 IDKs

Final thoughts from Philadelphia’s Week 9 win.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles are 8-1 after a stressful win over the Dallas Cowboys! Time to hand out some winners, losers, and IDKs.

WINNERS

THE EAGLES’ PLAYOFF OUTLOOK

Already covered this topic in a separate article but it bears repeating that this win was massive for the Eagles’ playoff outlook.

Being 8-1 and dropping Dallas to 5-3 is sooooooooooooo much better than falling to 7-2 and watching the Cowboys at least temporarily overtake first place in the NFC East by matching that record with a likely win over the New York Giants during Philly’s bye.

Incredibly valuable cushion to have.

And a record that historically bodes well for making it to the final game of football season:

BRANDON LEE GRAHAM

After logging a career-high 11 sacks last year, BLG got off to a quiet start this season with just half of a sack and one TFL through eight games.

One couldn’t help but wonder if the 35-year-old still had gas in the tank.

Turns out, he does!

Graham came up clutch with 1.5 sacks on back-to-back plays during the Cowboys’ penultimate drive. He helped force Dallas into a 3rd-and-21 scenario that led to a turnover on downs.

Had the offense done a better job of closing it out, that would’ve been the Cowboys’ final drive.

We should also mention that Graham’s hustle on the two-point conversion attempt influenced Dak stepping out of bounds with the ball short of the goal line. Had Dallas actually converted, they would’ve been able to at least send the game to overtime with a field goal.

By the way, Graham is just one game away from tying David Akers for the most games ever played in an Eagles uniform.

JOSH SWEAT

Sweat took over Haason Reddick’s mantle as The Closer in this game.

With the Cowboys advancing as far as the Eagles’ six-yard line, it looked like Philly was really going to blow it. But after a false start that knocked Dallas back to the 11-yard line, Sweat (rushing from Reddick’s usual side for a twist!) beat Terence Steele to sack Prescott at the 22-yard line.

Sweat deserves more national recognition for the season he’s having.

JALEN HURTS

Hurts gave everyone a scare when he got up slowly after taking a helmet to his bone bruised knee late in the second quarter. He looked to be in serious pain.

You could’ve heard a pin drop with how quiet it was at The Linc during halftime.

But Hurts quickly proved he was able to keep playing. Despite being more limited than usual as a runner, he was able to read Micah Parsons on an option and take off on third down to move the chains.

Three plays later, he might’ve made his best throw of the season by dropping an absolute dime to DeVonta Smith in the end zone for the go-ahead score. The cornerback beaten on that play was DaRon Bland, who has allowed the lowest passer rating in the NFL this season when targeted (33.8).

You really can’t say enough about this dude’s toughness and will to win.

All told, Hurts completed 73.9% of his attempts for 207 yards (9.0 average), two touchdowns, zero interceptions, and a 130.2 passer rating. It was just his second game this season and first since Week 4 with zero giveaways.

The Eagles needed their franchise quarterback to deliver a signature win over their top rival in such a critical game and he did just that. Hurts is doing very well to carry the team with his arm while not being able to lean on his normal rushing ability.

He just wins.

DEVONTA SMITH

As previously noted in the Hurts section, Smith’s touchdown catch came on a play where he was able to beat one of the top-performing cornerbacks in the NFL right now.

DeVonta also had a key 3rd-and-9 grab to move the ball into Dallas territory during Philly’s second TD drive.

150 yards for him in the past two games after only producing 99 in the three games before that. Also back-to-back TDs for the first time since doing so in Week 1 and Week 2.

Check out DeVonta talking about his TD celebration with A.J. Brown and more in Raichele Privette’s interview with him for BGN Radio:

LUCK EVENING OUT

Make no mistake: the Eagles don’t win this game without getting lucky.

Luck is certainly not the only reason they won; they earned the 28-17 lead they established.

But to fumble three times and recover all of them? Especially the one at the end where A.J. Brown runs into D’Andre Swift? The ball clearly bounced in their favor.

And the Eagles have nothing to apologize for in that regard. The Cowboys have had plenty of luck in games against Philly in recent history.

Some things to pop to mind off the top of my head:

  • The Dan Bailey opening kickoff in 2014 where the ball inexplicably bounced back TOWARDS the Cowboys’ kickoff coverage team for a Dallas recovery. Seriously, when have you ever seen that happen?
  • Leodis McKelvin barely dropping a sure fourth-quarter pick by Dak Prescott in 2016. The Cowboys then won the overtime coin toss before driving for the game-winning TD.
  • The Cowboys benefited from the most unconscionable ruling I’ve ever seen go against the Eagles: No Clear Recovery. Then they won the overtime coin toss (AGAIN) to set up the game-winning TD, which was a Dak third down throw that was somehow deflected by Rasul Douglas into the waiting hands of Amari Cooper.
  • Haason Reddick strip-sacked Dak Prescott last year and the Cowboys somehow recovered with a ton of Eagles defenders nearby while Gardner Minshew and Miles Sanders each lost a fumble to Dallas.

So, yeah, I’m going to say luck was due to finally work in the Eagles’ favor instead of against them in a Cowboys game.

To me, those moments above have been lost to an oversimplified talking point that the Cowboys and Dak “own” the Eagles.

NICK SIRIANNI

Kudos to Sirianni for being aggressive from the jump. He had the Eagles successfully go for it from 4th-and-1 at their own 32-yard line. That SHOULD be an easy decision when you have a virtually unstoppable short-yardage play like the Brotherly Shove working for you ... but not all coaches would’ve done it.

Sirianni later went for it again on 4th-and-3 from the Cowboys’ 27-yard line to help eventually set up a 7-0 Eagles lead. By contrast, Mike McCarthy settled for a field goal from 4th-and-3 just six yards behind at the 33-yard line late in the second quarter.

Even though it failed, I liked Sirianni’s decision to challenge the spot on a Dak Prescott 4th-and-1 sneak. Challenging the spot in such a situation is usually useless but this was a high-leverage opportunity with a turnover on downs in prime scoring territory on the line. It did look like Dak may have failed to get the marker.

Sirianni gets some credit for the offense doing good things to build a lead as high as 11 points.

He also wears some blame for the end of game errors. Leading up to this matchup, Sirianni shared how his messaging to the players was about not beating themselves. And they came too close to doing just that!

The conservative approach to make the Cowboys burn their timeouts and rely on a defense that had been getting shredded was not smart. The Eagles should’ve made a better effort to try to get a first down and end the game on offense.

BRIAN JOHNSON

Let’s start with the positives.

The TD drive to go up 11 points was pretty masterful; the Eagles traveled 87 yards on 11 plays while taking 6:18 off the clock.

Altogether, the Eagles’ offense produced 28 points and 292 yards on a Dallas defense that was allowing 17.4 offensive points per game and 287.4 yards per game.

The Eagles successfully converted all three red zone trips into touchdowns, putting them 12/16 over their last four games combined. They’ve made real, meaningful progress in that area.

Now, for the end of game debacle.

Johnson is taking a lot of heat for the shot play to A.J. Brown while facing 3rd-and-3 on Philly’s penultimate drive.

I do think a run makes more sense there since you can wind some more clock and conceivably set up to go for it on 4th-and-short if you don’t already get the first down.

That said, I think Johnson is getting a disproportionate heat for that play (here I go, being a staunch defender of the Eagles’ OC once again). For one, do we know for sure that Hurts didn’t check to it? Even if it is totally on Johnson, he’s having Hurts throw to a player who’s been downright unstoppable. Hardly an egregious concept. And even if it’s bad play call, that doesn’t justify a bad throw from Hurts going out of bounds there.

Big picture, I’m still more encouraged by Johnson than not.

HAASON REDDICK

Reddick through nine games ...

2022: 6.5 sacks, 5 TFLs, 9 QB hits

2023: 7.5 sacks, 8 TFLs, 12 QB hits

JASON KELCE

Kelce was the Eagles’ highest-graded player by PFF.

But much more importantly:

KENNY GAINWELL

Sirianni talked about not losing faith in Gainwell and, sure enough, he was the first red zone running back up against Dallas. And, naturally, he had probably his best run of the season for a touchdown. Kudos to Kenny.

Gainwell also had a good lead block for D’Andre Swift on that pony package play that gained 20 yards (looked like a run play was actually a pass).

DARIUS SLAY

Slay also just a 85.0 passer rating in coverage and helped make that key tackle on Dak with Cunningham to keep him short of the end zone.

ZACH CUNNINGHAM

Cunningham led the Eagles in total tackles with 10. That number does not surprise considering it felt like he was everywhere. PFF credited Cunningham with a team-high four stops, which are tackles that constitute a “failure” for the offense.

Cunningham’s highlight moment came when he helped to keep Dak short of the goal line by sending the Dallas quarterback helicoptering through the air.

TYLER STEEN

Steen struggled in pass protection, allowing six pressures on 35 pass block snaps (per PFF). But he still showed some potential while going up against a tough defensive line in his first-ever NFL start.

And, honestly, he deserves to be in this category for his massive fumble recovery alone.

BRADEN MANN

Don’t look now but the Eagles have a quality punter!

Mann won’t be earning All-Pro or Pro Bowl honors but that’s totally fine. An upgrade over Arryn Siposs was desperately needed and that’s what he represents.

Mann had five punts in this game for 259 yards, a 51.8 average. Two of his punts were downed inside the 20 and none of them went for touchbacks. His longest attempt went 57 yards (while being aided by a favorable bounce).

Mann ranks 15th out of 35 punters this year in average net yards per punt (42.6) and 18th in average hangtime (4.37). Siposs ranked 31st (39.3) and tied for 27th (4.22) last year, respectively.

Nice to have hope that the punter won’t be a liability in the playoffs.


LOSERS

NEGADELPHIA

I have to admit ... I’ve been bothered by some of the negative sentiment I’ve witnessed after A GAME WHERE THE EAGLES BEAT THEIR TOP RIVAL TO MASSIVELY IMPROVE THEIR PLAYOFF OUTLOOK.

I get it. The Eagles came entirely too close to blowing this game. They’ve played with fire all too often this season, making wins feel much more stressful than they’ve had to be.

But, come on, they’re 8-1 entering the bye week.

And I say that while trying to guard against being overly resulted-oriented. Sorry if this offends but I’m typically a Process > Results guy.

Style points are absolutely relevant. You don’t want the Eagles to be in a similar boat to where the 2022 Minnesota Vikings were, where their win-loss record inaccurately indicated they were MUCH better than relevant underlying metrics like point differential and DVOA. Their poor standing in those categories made it wholly unsurprising when they lost a home playoff game to the New York Giants.

To be clear, I’m not comparing the 2023 Eagles to the 2022 Vikings. The gap between Minny’s W-L record and the advanced metrics was much, much bigger than it is for Philly.

It’s fair to argue the Eagles need to play better to reach the ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl. I’m not saying we can’t point out nits to pick.

But there seems to be some who are guilty of taking the team’s current success for granted.

This level of consistency is nothing to sneeze at:

I thought Kevin Kinkead of Crossing Broad said it well in a clip that’s worth your time:

Perspective is all too necessary.

Question: if the Eagles could trade places with any team right now, which team would that be?

The Baltimore Ravens? Sure, they’ve been looking pretty good. They also lost to Gardner Minshew and Kenny Pickett. And here’s how their quarterback has fared in the postseason to this point:

The Kansas City Chiefs? Wow, pretty bold of you to say you’d rather be the reigning Super Bowl champions who might have the best quarterback of all time and one of the very best head coaches of all time. Even then, not all is sunshine and rainbows for them! The Chiefs recently lost to a Denver Broncos team that nearly allowed the most single-game points in NFL history earlier this season. There’s an article on Arrowhead Pride about how KC’s offensive line has recently “been a total mess.”

The Dallas Cowboys? The team that the Eagles just beat and you can set your watch to them disappointing in the playoffs?

The San Francisco 49ers? The team that’s lost three straight and might be witnessing their quarterback turning into a pumpkin?

Where’s this enviable team with no flaws that you wish the Eagles could be more like?

Answer: It doesn’t exist.

RJ OCHOA

Q: Who doesn’t love an NFC East Mixtape podcast episode coming off an Eagles win over the Cowboys?

A: Our frenemy from Blogging The Boys, RJ, who was so confident in Dallas winning that he made the Cowboys +3 his Lock Of The Week pick and also made a monetary wager with me.

Don’t miss this week’s NFC East Mixtape volume, which drops on the Bleeding Green Nation podcast feed and the BGN YouTube channel on Wednesday morning.

A.J. BROWN

Couldn’t even manage to have a seventh straight game with at least 125 receiving yards? Loser!

Just a joke. Brown was obviously good; he led the Eagles with seven receptions for 66 yards, and a touchdown. He also drew a 17-yard pass interference penalty.

He also ran into D’Andre Swift to cause a fumble that could’ve cost the Eagles to lose! So, his inclusion in this section is mostly a bit but not entirely.

ELI RICKS

Ricks is in a tough spot as an undrafted rookie free agent who didn’t even rep at nickel cornerback in the offseason. Still intrigued by his long-term potential. But he’s clearly not ready to cover CeeDee Lamb.

JAMES BRADBERRY

He’s been struggling after having such a strong season last year.

Bradberry allowed a 129.2 passer rating when targeted in this game.

In fairness, he did do a really good job of disallowing a catch to Jalen Tolbert on the Cowboys’ penultimate drive to help force a turnover on downs.

But the bad has been outweighing the good.

NAKOBE DEAN

Dean set up the Cowboys at 1st-and-goal from the 8-yard line with a defensive pass interference penalty. Three plays later, Dallas scored their second TD to take a 14 to 7 lead.

Dean also left the game early with a foot injury. It’s unclear if it’s the same one from earlier this year. Not good that he’s been struggling to stay on the field dating back to training camp.

KEVIN BYARD

Byard allowed a 118.8 passer rating in coverage and had a dumb unnecessary roughness penalty. He hasn’t impressed thus far, though that’s somewhat to be expected since there’s certainly a learning curve at his position.

DEREK BARNETT

The Eagles’ 2017 first-round pick was justifiably demoted to being a healthy scratch. Is a release on the horizon?

CRYBABY COWBOYS RADIO TEAM

Lol, this is sad.


I DON’T KNOWS

SEAN DESAI

Weird one to parse!

On one hand, the Eagles surrendered 406 yards of offense. That’s not good!

On the other hand, the Eagles allowed just six points in the second half. That’s really good!

But it certainly didn’t feel good since Dallas came incredibly close to scoring more!

Luke Schoonmaker was inches away from a touchdown. Dak nearly converted a two-point conversion. On the final drive, the Cowboys traveled from their own 14-yard line to the Eagles’ 6-yard line in 19 seconds despite having no timeouts.

It felt like Desai didn’t have enough answers to stop CeeDee Lamb and Jake Ferguson from terrorizing them over the middle. Of course, that’s not entirely his fault since the Eagles are weak with the personnel there.

But Desai relied too heavily upon Ricks, a UDFA CB playing a relatively new position to him, and Sydney Brown, a rookie safety playing a relatively new position to him, on Lamb. It was tough to watch them get torn up while remembering that the Eagles are paying two top 15 CB contracts to Bradberry and Slay. Eventually, Desai did use Slay on Lamb but it still wasn’t as often as it should’ve been.

DALLAS GOEDERT

Goedert is expected to miss time with a forearm fracture.

If the Eagles put him on injured reserve, he’ll miss these four games for sure:

Week 11 at Kansas City Chiefs

Week 12 vs. Buffalo Bills

Week 13 vs. San Francisco 49ers

Week 14 at Dallas Cowboys

The bye week does not count towards Goedert returning from IR. It’s about four games missed as opposed to four weeks missed.

But if it’s a four-week injury, the Eagles could opt to keep Goedert on the roster with the hope of having him back for the Dallas game. They don’t need to put him on IR (if they do plan to go that route) until closer to the Chiefs game, so the bye does grant them more time to decide.

In the meantime, the Eagles are looking thin at tight end. Jack Stoll, Grant Calcaterra, and Albert Okwuegbunam aren’t overly inspiring. Goedert’s absence could mean the Eagles more heavily relying upon 11 personnel. Could also mean we see more Julio Jones.

D’ANDRE SWIFT

He fumbled twice, although hard to solely blame him for the second when Brown shouldn’t have run into him. Swift’s three fumbles in nine games tie the previous most he had in a season as a rookie in 2020.

Swift’s 18 carries only produced 43 yards (2.4 average). He did add 31 yards on two catches.

THE EAGLES’ RUNNING GAME

The Eagles averaged 164 rushing yards per game over the first five weeks. They’re down to 86.75 rushing yards per game over the past four weeks.

The Eagles only averaged 3.3 yards per carry in this game against a Cowboys defense that was allowing 4.1 yards per carry.

In the past, the Eagles have been able to use their run game to milk the clock and end the game on offense. In this one, not being able to run effectively contributed to the Eagles’ final three drives being three straight three-and-outs. Their final six runs produced just 10 total yards.

Hurts being less mobile than usual certainly isn’t helping. The Eagles will hope the bye week helps him heal up.

Cam Jurgens’ expected return in Week 11 is a reason to believe the run game will improve.

Will we see a totally rejuvenated run offense, though?

RASHAAD PENNY

After not seeing a touch since Week 2, the Eagles began the third quarter with two straight Penny runs. The first went for six yards and the second went for two. Then he didn’t play another snap.

OK, then.

If the run game continues to struggle, the Eagles should really try to get Penny involved more than not at all.

MATT LEO

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