Sidney Jones suspected that the fourth-and-8 pass would be coming his way. The Cowboys were down to their last chance, and who better to attack than the young cornerback who has spent much of the last two months buried on the bench.
“They probably were saying, ‘Check 22. Last year he didn’t do too hot against us,’ " Jones said. “They saw me basically on one wheel last year.
“So they went after me. I was prepared for it. When I’m feeling good, when I’m in my groove, I feel I can cover anybody."
Two weeks ago in the Eagles’ overtime win over the Giants, he came off the bench late in the game and broke up a third-and-3 pass to Darius Slayton.
On Sunday, it was a fourth-down pass to Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup in the end zone. Gallup, who already had caught five passes for 98 yards in the game, ran a corner route. But Jones stayed with him stride for stride, turned at just the right moment and broke up the pass from Dak Prescott to preserve the 17-9 victory that put the Eagles in the NFC East driver’s seat.
“Big play," Jones acknowledged. “Game on the line. We knew we had to make a stop. That’s the way this team is. Resilient. We just keep fighting, man. We keep fighting. When we need those big plays, we’re going to make them.’’
Jones, the Eagles’ 2017 second-round pick, hasn’t played much since being buried on the depth chart earlier this season. In the previous six games, he had played just four snaps.
But when both of the Eagles’ starting corners, Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills, got hurt Sunday, well, Jones became the next man up.
Rasul Douglas replaced Darby after he got hurt, and Jones replaced Mills. When Mills, who had rolled his ankle, returned to the game in the second half, Jones went back to the bench.
But Douglas didn’t play very well. Tavon Austin beat him on a deep route earlier in the Cowboys’ final possession, but Prescott, playing with an injured shoulder that clearly affected his accuracy, overthrew him.
Jones eventually was sent in to replace Douglas. Made a nice play defending a third-down sideline pass to Amari Cooper, then broke up the pass to Gallup a few moments later.
Eagles fans had to hold their breaths for a few minutes while the fourth-down play was reviewed for possible pass interference. But Jones got his head around on the pass and made a nice play on the ball.
Jones said he didn’t initially realize that the play was being reviewed, but was confident it wouldn’t be ruled pass interference.
“I wasn’t even aware of the review until a few seconds before they said it stands," Jones said. “I didn’t think anything of it. I knew I was in great position and made a great play."
This has been a difficult year for Jones. He has battled injuries and ineffective play and found himself relegated to the bottom of the depth chart at cornerback.
“I just come to work every day grinding," Jones said. "Head down and grinding. No matter what everybody else is saying, they can say this and they can say that. I’ve had unfortunate injuries. I feel that’s what’s been holding me back.
“I came into this year playing pretty strong and then got hurt. If I can stay healthy and play consistently, I know I can dominate."
Jones has managed to stay upbeat and confident despite his limited playing time.
“He comes to work every day," Mills said. “He doesn’t get down on himself. He knows that cornerback, if not the hardest position in the league, is the second hardest. Guys are gonna catch the ball on you. You just gotta go out there and battle the next play."
Plays like the one made against the Giants and the ones he made Sunday against the Cowboys can only help Jones. With the injury-prone Darby likely sidelined again, Jones could end up getting playing time next week against the Giants and in the postseason, if the Eagles qualify.
“It was frustrating at first," Jones said. “Just being a player who wants to play and compete. But it’s not in my control. I can only control what I do. So I come into work and do my best every day.
“I service the offense on the scout team and just grind. Get them better while I’m getting myself better. It builds confidence.
“It’s crazy to think about. I made an important play a couple of weeks ago, and that was a big deal. And today [he makes another one]. It’s a blessing to be able to step in and contribute, whatever role it is. Even if it’s one play."