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Eagles feast on Cowboys

Chip Kelly says that the win over Dallas was 'the best they've played all year.'

Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham hits Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham hits Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)Read more

ARLINGTON, Texas - Corner Cary Williams said the Eagles' defensive front "did a good job of making those windows smaller" for Dallas quarterback Tony Romo in the Birds' shocking, 33-10 victory yesterday at AT&T Stadium.

Actually, Fletcher Cox and friends slammed those windows shut on Romo's fingers, after they locked the exits on DeMarco Murray.

Romo passed for 199 yards, saw his 38-game streak with at least one touchdown pass end, and was intercepted twice, once by Williams. Murray, the league's leading rusher, gained a season-low 73 yards on 20 carries, 3.7 yards per carry. LeSean McCoy, who'd spoken wistfully earlier in the week of handing off the NFL rushing title belt to Murray, reminded a national TV audience exactly who he is, with a season-high 159 yards on 25 carries, including the 38-yard touchdown gallop midway through the third quarter that told everybody they could go ahead and sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, this turkey was done.

"He's a big-time player; he came to play," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said of McCoy. Kelly is now 16-4 in regular-season games since the middle of the 2013 season, and 7-2 against the NFC East.

Nobody wanted to say so afterward, with Dallas still scheduled to visit Dec. 14, but the 9-3 Eagles left no doubt about who is in charge in this division.

"We're not into statements," Kelly said. "We're into playing football games. We've given ourselves an opportunity to play meaningful football in December. Every week is a whole different deal, a different animal."

It took the Eagles just nine plays after winning the coin toss to take a lead they never relinquished. A 36-yard ramble by McCoy on a counter four plays into the afternoon gave the 91,379 patrons gathered in the house of Jerry a hint as to where we were headed.

The scary part is, a little sharper play in the red zone, where the Birds went 1-for-5, and this could have been 50-plus to 10.

"I'm really proud of this effort on such a short week," said error-free Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez, who replaced his Jets butt fumble of two Thanksgivings ago with a much better memory. Sanchez completed 20 of 29 passes for 217 yards, a touchdown to favorite receiver Jordan Matthews, and a 102.2 passer rating. "We still left a ton of meat on the bone, man. We were in the freaking red zone so many times and we didn't convert."

"It's the best they've played this year," said Kelly, when asked about his offensive line, which paved the way to a quick 14-0 lead. At one point in the second half, the Eagles had 219 rushing yards and the Cowboys had 219 total yards. The Eagles finished with 256 rushing yards on 45 carries, 5.7 yards per carry, including an unexpected 28 yards on seven carries by Sanchez, who scored his first rushing touchdown since Dec. 24, 2011.

"Obviously, we've had a lot of different lineups in there throughout the course of the season. Two games with this group [including Andrew Gardner at right guard] this year, I thought they did a really good job," Kelly said.

But the big story was the defense, ranked 30th in the league against the pass this season coming into yesterday. Most predictions of a Dallas victory cited the presence of Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant, who beat Bradley Fletcher for 38 yards early - then caught two passes for 12 yards until late in the fourth quarter, when the result was well decided. Romo was sacked four times and compiled a 53.7 passer rating, against the 111.4 figure he carried into the afternoon.

Romo, playing with a back injury, usually doesn't practice until Thursday. He did not look especially peppy or elusive; under pressure, it might as well have been Brandon Weeden back there.

"Shoot, I don't know what injury he has, but you could just tell - a couple plays, he was just falling down," said Eagles outside linebacker Brandon Graham, the recipient of a Romo dive-sack. "I guess they were telling him to do that. Whenever we got close, he just jumped right to the ground. I know he's a great player; he feels the rush real good. He's got that nice little spin move, he wasn't doing that too much today. I think he was in a little pain. He's a tough quarterback."

Graham, Fletcher, Williams, Nate Allen, Casey Matthews - it was a difficult day for fans who like to hate on the traditional defensive whipping boys. They all played very well. Allen came up with a clutch fumble recovery and an interception. Matthews had a key third-down sack after a McCoy fumble - though again, Romo hit the deck early and Matthews only had to tag him.

Defensive coordinator Bill Davis' faith in some of his embattled starters was rewarded.

"Even the plays [Dallas] made, we were all over 'em and we were contesting 'em," Davis said. "It's a solid all-around game. I don't know if this was their best, but I know they came to play today."

"I think we just wanted it more today," said Casey Matthews, who probably played his best game as an Eagle.

"We were really rolling on all cylinders - offense, defense, special teams," Allen said. "We switched up our looks, showed different things."

Allen's recovery of a Cole Beasley fumble just before halftime, forced by Brandon Boykin, ended up helping add one of Cody Parkey's four field goals, after the Cowboys had carefully preserved clock for a 2-minute drive they thought would put them back in business.

" 'Boyk' just did a good job of getting the ball out," Allen said. "I just saw it stay inbounds" on the sideline, "I immediately thought, 'Keep my feet in. Have some body control.' I was just able to get on the ball."

The defensive line was uncharacteristically impolitic during the week, when asked about Dallas' much-praised offensive line. Bennie Logan and Cox seemed to want to make sure everybody knew the Dallas o-line hadn't faced the Eagles' d-line, in racking up all those yards and propelling the team to an 8-3 start.

"We wanted to make a statement," Logan said (contradicting Kelly, by the way). "Because on Thanksgiving Day, you're playing in front of your family, your friends. You know it's a divisional game."

Outside linebacker Connor Barwin said of the defensive front, "They were unbelievable. And Cedric Thornton, I don't think he lost a battle all day. He was great. Fletcher Cox is great every day. He is a Pro Bowl player."

The Eagles led 23-7 early in the third quarter when McCoy fumbled and Jeremy Mincey recovered at the Birds' 13. Murray ran for 9 yards on first down and Dallas was on the verge of getting back into the game. But Cox and Logan slammed Murray for a yard loss on second down. Third-and-2 from the 5, Romo saw rushers coming from everywhere and went down, the sack that was credited to Matthews. Faced with fourth-and-7 from the 10, Dallas coach Jason Garrett couldn't consider going for it, though he needed a touchdown there, not a field goal.

McCoy's touchdown run came on the next series, making the score 30-10, and that was that. McCoy scampered into the secondary untouched, through a hole that looked wider than the Jerrydome scoreboard.

"Gardner and me, trying to move the down linemen, we did that well the second half," Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson said. Dallas entered the game 13th in the NFL against the run. "Whenever we get the back side moving like that, it's usually going to pop a big hole . . . It just feels good kind of getting back into a rhythm like we did last year, knowing we can have big games like that if we just focus and execute like we're supposed to."

Johnson noted that "we got the tempo going early, put 14 on 'em real quick."

"That was a well-executed play, all across the line," Gardner said. "We were able to get some movement on the backside, get up on the linebackers and stick 'em. When you have that kind of space, Shady's going to make the play, every time."

"At times I had too much space, and I made the wrong cut," McCoy said afterward. He became the first back in Eagles history to put together four 1,000-yard seasons. His 6,491 career rushing yards are 47 shy of Wilbert Montgomery's franchise record.

Asked if this game's run success reminded him of 2013, McCoy said: "It did. It felt like last year."