Just CHILL: Grades vs. the Eagles; DeMarco Murray made all the difference
Rush offense: B – The return of running back DeMarco Murray made all the difference for the Cowboys offense. Never mind his seemingly modest 23 carries for 83 yards. He lost 11 yards on his final carry when the Cowboys were running out the clock. Murray was good, very good and brought life to the offense. He also had a huge effect Jason Garrett’s play calling as he stayed committed to run. The Cowboys had 33 carries in the game, the second highest number of attempts this season.
Pass offense: A – The success of the running game and the commitment to the run opened up things for Tony Romo in the passing game that paid great dividends in the second half. Romo completing 22 of 27 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns in the second half when he was a perfect ten of ten passing. His quarterback rating of 150.4 was his highest of the season. Tight end Jason Witten has six catches for 108 yards and receiver Dez Bryant had six catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Miles Austin had a 27-yard touchdown, his first in five games. The commitment to the run helped improved the pass protection. He was sacked twice in the first half, none in the second.
Rush defense: F – Yes, the Cowboys were without five starters but safety Barry Church and linebacker Sean Lee have been gone awhile and backup nose tackle Josh Brent has played extensively all season in place of Jay Ratliff. That is no excuse for being gashed for 183 yards on 26 carries by the Eagles _ an Eagles team that played with backup running back and injury replacements up and down the offensive line. Rookie running back Bryce Brown gained 169 yards on 24 carries _ a whopping seven yards a pop. The only saving grace for the defense was forced fumble on Brown by the Brent in the fourth quarter to help save the game.
Pass defense: D – Just like the Cowboys offense, the Eagles’ ability to run opened things up for them in the passing game and helped take pressure off unproven rookie quarterback Nick Foles. He completed 22 of 34 passes for 251 yards and a touchdown and looked nothing like inaccurate novice he had been in the previous three games in place of the injured Michael Vick. The Cowboys rarely got pressure on him as their only sack came late in the fourth quarter. Foles had plenty time to find open receivers for big plays _ including at least five of 15 yards or more.
Special Teams: C— The Cowboys always do things to the hard way and after battling back to finally take the lead and seemingly seal the game they nearly blew it in the final moments on special teams. Punter Brian Moorman outkicked his coverage and DeMaris Johnson took advantage of bad tackling to complete a inconceivable 98-yard return for a touchdown. Yes, that happened. The Cowboys saved the day by falling on the onside kick. Dan Bailey continued to be perfect by making his lone field goal attempt.
Coaching: B— The Cowboys got the win and moved to 6-6 on the season to revive their playoff hopes. But they got off to another slow start, trailing by double digits for the fifth straight game at home. The Cowboys however battled back as usual which is their identity this season. They fight to the end. So give Garrett credit for that as much as you criticism him for his team’s slow starts. Also Garrett showed a great commitment to the running game which has not been the case for much of the season. He is a different coach with a healthy DeMarco Murray. The defense however will be the down fall of any hopes of a late season run if they can’t find a way to stop the run and get to the quarterback better than they did against the Eagles. Rob Ryan, that’s on you.