October 17, 2022
Sunday night was heading toward a tale of two halves, and it was two plays that almost perfectly encapsulated that until a late touchdown drive, an ensuing interception, clock-killing, and timely defense got the Eagles safely to a 26-17 win over the rival Cowboys and a still undefeated 6-0 record.
They were up big, then they weren't, but they found a way.
"We know we gotta play a complete game," head coach Nick Sirianni said afterward. "What's exciting about being 6-0 and not having played a complete game yet, in my opinion – and the players will tell you the same – is that there's only room to get better. That's our goal."
The Eagles faced 4th and 4 on Dallas' 10 on the last play of the first quarter. Sirianni left the offense out there.
They lined up, they waited, and...Dallas jumped. Neutral zone infraction. Five yards up and a fresh set of downs. The Lincoln Financial Field crowd roared and so did Sirianni, who threw a fist pump that might have rivaled Wade Allison's from the Flyers' season opener on Thursday.
NICK SIRIANNI IS HYPE ON THE SIDELINES! pic.twitter.com/b8XK6ENmJF— Brodes Media (@BrodesMedia) October 17, 2022
On the next snap, the Eagles ran a play that left Dallas' star linebacker Micah Parsons on an island with their star receiver A.J. Brown. Parsons had no shot – He was not ready for this. Jalen Hurts lobbed the ball over to Brown who cut right into the end zone for the game's first score. 7-0, Eagles and for a while, it looked like the floodgates had opened.
Darius Slay, James Bradberry, and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson looked like Cooper Rush's favorite targets, the Eagles scored 20 unanswered points until the Cowboys finally responded with a late field goal before the half, and one of the biggest weeks in Philly sports in a long, long time looked like it was cruising toward a huge divisional win over a team the Eagles hadn't beaten in 18 months to cap it all off.
Then Dallas found some momentum.
The Cowboys faced a 3rd and 2 on the Philadelphia 12 to start the fourth quarter. Slay was flagged for illegal contact. Five yards up and a fresh set of downs. The Lincoln Financial Field crowd wasn't thrilled and neither was Sirianni.
On the next snap, Rush rolled right and hit tight end Jake Ferguson on a quick pass. Gardner-Johnson, who had injured his left hand earlier but checked back in with it taped up, got caught on the juke and couldn't tackle him. Touchdown Dallas, and after two straight scoring drives, the lead had evaporated all the way down to three, 20-17.
"I can't say it was nothing we couldn't stop," Gardner-Johnson said. "It's just all on us. It's a team effort, so we gotta just collect ourselves. We were still running pretty high off of going in with a [20-3 lead], so you gotta just focus in and make sure that you can still play a full four quarters, not just two quarters of ball.
"I was saying on the sideline, 'You gotta go from good to great.' The best go from good to great."
The Cowboys' defense had relentlessly blitzed Jalen Hurts through the third quarter, stifling the Eagles' offense in the process. It looked like the playing field was leveling out.
Once again, the Eagles had done nearly all of their damage in just the second quarter alone then struggled to carry it over the rest of the way.
"I think we left a lot of money on the table," Hurts said. "There were some opportunities we wanted to take advantage of, we could've taken advantage of, that we just didn't."
It's a concern going forward, perhaps one that can be solved with the bye week. But for now, the Eagles are still finding a way, and on Sunday night, the way was going back to the run.
On the next possession, which started at the 14:39 mark of the fourth from their own 35, the Eagles hit the ground for 11 plays and 46 yards down to the Cowboys' 29, which opened up a 22-yard pass from Hurts to Brown and then the 7-yard touchdown throw to DeVonta Smith at the end of it. The drive killed over seven minutes of clock and put the Eagles back up nine after a failed two-point attempt.
"All it takes is somebody to make a play to get us out of this lull," Sirianni said of that drive, going on to highlight the o-line that left them with last season's best running attack.
"You lean on your best guys in that situation. A.J. made a big play on a short route and broke the tackle and went for a big play that set us up for the score. But what was really sweet about it is that we got to lean on five guys. We got to lean on the offensive line in that scenario...It's nice that we're able to make some plays in the passing game and the run game and be balanced. But that right there, we leaned on the guys that we knew could make a play, and they consistently made a play up front.
"You lean on what your strength is in that scenario to get you out of a rut. I've been taught that from the very beginning, you're in a rut, get it to your playmakers. Our playmakers in that scenario were our offensive line."
Gardner-Johnson pretty much put it out of reach with his second pick of the game after Rush got hit by Brandon Graham trying to get the ball downfield for a big gain.
That was with just over five minutes left. The Eagles' offense took off another two and a half. There wasn't much Dallas could do from there.
"The beautiful part about our football team is regardless of the circumstances, regardless of how it looks, we stick together," Hurts said. "We've shown that throughout this first six-week stint, and we just want to continue to grow together.
"It's not gonna be easy. It's a climb, and the higher you get in that climb, the more treacherous. A lot to take away from this game good and bad, but we just want to continue to grow together."
Sunday night was heading toward a tale of two halves.
The Eagles were up big, then they weren't.
But they found a way.
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