By Shawn S. Lealos
The last time that the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles played, it was a prime time game on Monday Night Football. Dallas won that game but lost Tony Romo for half the season. This week, it is another prime time game, on Sunday Night Football, and the result was different, but with possibly another huge loss for Dallas, as Sean Lee suffered his second concussion of the season. Here is a look at the team grades for the Dallas Cowboys after their 33-27 overtime loss to the Eagles on Sunday night.
The Dallas Cowboys were mush improved in this game than they have been since Romo went down to injury. Honestly, until the overtime touchdown by Philadelphia, the Cowboys offense played well enough to win. Over the last five losses, the Cowboys struggled on offense while their defense kept them in the game. In this game, the offense finally came to life, and one has to think it was mostly thanks to the return of Dez Bryant.
Matt Cassel had a solid game, completing 25 of 38 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns. However, he also threw a very costly pick six in the fourth quarter that might have cost Dallas the win. He was also sacked four times and the offensive line, as great as they are, couldn't protect him very well in this game at all, as he was running for his life. However, Bryant's return was really what helped Cassel finally find success.
Bryant was all over the field and took a lot of pressure off the other receivers. Cole Beasley was the biggest recipient of the return of Bryant. After catching no passes the last two weeks, Beasley had nine receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns this week. It was a huge performance by the slot receiver. Once the defenses realized that they had to stop him, Bryant grabbed five receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown. Bryant's touchdown was a thing of beauty, leaping over everyone in the end zone to force the catch. Jason Witten added six catches and Terrance Williams pulled down three. It was a great game over all.
Darren McFadden also proved to be the running back Dallas needed to move the chains. He ran hard, he ran strong, and he forced himself to make extra yards after getting hit. He finished with 27 carries for 117 yards, and as long as he remains healthy, he will provide Dallas with what they lost when DeMarco Murray left for Philadelphia. Now, if it wasn't just for that pick six, this would have been an A graded performance.
It's hard to count off too much for the defense, because they played hard when they were healthy. However, they fell one by one as the game went on. Sean Lee went down with a concussion in the first half. His replacement, Anthony Hitchens went down with an injury, and while he returned, he was slowed. Rookie safety Byron Jones went down with an injury, and while he returned, it slowed him enough to give up the game winning touchdown in overtime. It was just a rough game injury wise for Dallas.
Sam Bradford had a great game for Philadelphia, not throwing an interception while throwing the game winning touchdown in overtime. Greg Hardy, who spent the entire week getting torn down for something he was already punished for, had the only sack of the game for Dallas. DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews combined for 150 rushing yards and two touchdowns. It was just a tough game for Dallas on defense, as the Eagles chipped away the entire game.
Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox and Jeff Heath led the team in tackles. Since they are all safeties, that didn't bode well for the Cowboys in this game. This is a game the defense couldn't hold it together, and completely spoiled the revitalized offense of Dallas.
Special Teams: B
Lucky Whitehead had a horrible return game for Dallas outside of one play. He returned a punt from the one, when he should have let it bounce into the end zone. He made bad decisions through most of the game. However, he returned a kickoff for 79 yards that set up a Cowboys score, and that probably saved his job for one more week.
In the kicking game, Dan Bailey was a perfect two-for-two on field goals, including a kick that sent the game into overtime. Chris Jones averaged 43 yards per punt, which was good enough.
The biggest complaint last week was that Jason Garrett was playing not to lose and then lost by one point. There are times where a Cowboys team that is without its quarterback should gamble. In this game, on the first drive of the game, Dallas had a fourth down and could have kicked a safe field goal. That would have lost the game in regulation. Instead, Dallas went for it on fourth down, made the first, and then scored a touchdown. It was finally signs of life by a coaching staff that has been playing it too safe all season. It is too bad Dallas didn't get a chance in overtime, because they called a nice offensive game against Philadelphia.
With the loss, Dallas now has six on the season. That is one more loss than they had all last year. Not only that, but their only two wins were offset with losses to those same teams, the Eagles and Giants, and now Dallas has no advantage in the NFC East. The best they can do is 10-6 if they run the table, and with the Carolina Panthers on Thanksgiving Day, that is a tough bet. Dallas has Tampa Bay next, and that is a game they should be able to win, and then Miami is next when Tony Romo returns. The season is on life support and they need a lot of help if they want any shot at the playoffs now.
Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.
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