ARLINGTON, Texas - For the Eagles' defense, the game plan to control the Dallas passing game seemed a little like trying to ride the bull at Billy Bob's: Just hang on any way you can. Keep everything in front of you, bend but don't break. And, like some do at the local Texas nightclub, the Eagles' defense dismounted with honor and a 30-27 win.
In the first half, Cowboys quarterback Jon Kitna completed 12 of 16 passes, but he only had 92 yards to show for it, the longest completion coming on a 20-yard reception by Roy Williams. So the Birds made it clear early: if the Cowboys were going to beat them, they were going to do it with nickels and dimes.
"The game plan was to attack and tackle well and not give up any big plays," said Eagles defensive back Dimitri Patterson. "And getting nickel-and-dimed comes with it."
Sometimes when you are on defense, it's almost like you are an on-call trauma surgeon at the local ER, just having to make the best of a bad situation. And the Eagles' defense was challenged immediately in the second half.
The Cowboys came out on the first drive and immediately drove to the Eagles' 19. But once again, the defense responded to the call, tightened up drastically, and avoided major damage.
On a second and 10, safety Kurt Coleman displayed the bend-but-don't-break spirit, breaking up a Kitna pass in the end zone. On the next play, the Cowboys tried to set up a bubble screen, but defensive back Trevard Lindley sniffed it out like a bloodhound and was all over receiver Kevin Ogletree to break up the pass.
"[Ogletree] ran right at me, then came back, so you pretty much knew it was a bubble screen," Lindley said. "So you immediately had to get up there and hit the receiver, try to disrupt him from the ball."
It was a big play for the Eagles and a big play for Lindley personally. "I'm happy to get there and show the coaches what I can do and help the defense any way I can," he said. "Every week, I'm trying to gain confidence and get the defense to believe in me."
On the next Eagles' possession, Dallas linebacker Bradie James intercepted Michael Vick at the Eagles 48 and took it to the Dallas 37, again putting the Birds' defense in harm's way.
This time, the Eagles could not respond. On the first play from scrimmage, Dallas' Felix Jones took a screen pass 35 yards down to the 2, and scored on a run two plays later to give Dallas its first lead of the game.
However, the defense contributed to the comeback.
With 11 minutes, 11 seconds remaining in the fourth period, the Eagles' defense came up with the play that gave the Birds the cushion they needed. Patterson stepped in front of Williams for an interception at the Dallas 33.
"It was one of those things where I was just trying to get a feel for what they were doing, formation-wise, and how they were trying to attack us," Patterson said. "And as the game went on, I got a better feel of it, and I was just trying to read his route and break on the ball. Any time a turnover happens, it's a momentum changer."
Five plays later David Akers kicked a 28-yard field goal that turned out to be the winning points.
"We gave up a few things," said rookie safety Nate Allen. "But we got off the field when we need to. The offense then made some big plays, and I'm pretty pleased."