First Half Observations: Cowboys 17, Eagles 14

It’s another tough NFC East matchup in South Philadelphia. The Cowboys led the Eagles 17-14 after two quarters. Here are my shots of the first half. Stay tuned for my final remarks after the final whistle.

The heights

• Cowboys running back Tony Pollard is averaging 4.9 yards per carry for his career. On the first possession of the game, Dallas ran the ball twice, picking up just four total yards and setting up the Birds with a good third-and-6 yard. These Eagles’ run defense is elite and continues to be the best in the sport when it comes to shutting down opposing RBs. A Dak Prescott incompletion one play later resulted in the Eagles getting the ball. That’s about the best start the D could have had against a Cowboys offense that ranks second in points per game.

• There was no doubt the Eagles’ offense would stay on the field as they lined up for a tush push at their own 33 on their first drive while facing a fourth-and-1. While members of the press box wondered aloud whether the team would call a timeout or accept a delay of game, Jalen Hurts burst through the line for a first down, as he almost always does. The smart call. Always.

• Zone coverage against AJ Brown with the current tear he’s on is stupid. If I were a Cowboys fan, and what a disgusting thought that is, I would be mad if Brown didn’t get a double on every snap. Brown finished the Birds’ first scoring drive alone with four catches for 46.

• Nice throw, nice catch. When Hurts faced a fourth-and-3 from deep in Dallas territory that was too long for a tush push attempt, he made a perfect pass to Dallas Goedert to move the sticks:

On the following play, Kenny Gainwell landed in the end zone for the first touchdown of the day. It was another big rush from Hurts that made this happen, and Nick Sirianni is considered the most aggressive head coach in the NFL.

• Haason Reddick: No longer underrated. Reddick is on pace to surpass his torrid pace from 2022 this season. With the Eagles’ defense bleeding after Dak Prescott’s 40-yard completion to Ferguson, Reddick (he’s from Camden and went to Temple, in case you haven’t heard) violently threw Prescott to the ground on second-and-21. to score hits. The energy at Lincoln Financial Field has certainly changed. Reddick has recorded 7.5 sacks in his last five games.

• “Tush push” at the one-yard line going in? The smart move. Always. At 14 it was a draw.

• Following an on-screen appearance from Bryce Harper at Linc, Fletcher Cox adopted his “Big Balls” celebration move when he hauled in a half-sack on Nakobe Dean against Prescott late in the first half. This is also the first layoff of Dean’s career. Cox also has a total score of 66.5 over a period of 12 years.

The lows

• The Eagles’ special teams unit as a whole is significantly better than their 2022 team, but a kickoff in which Dallas returner KaVontae Turpin made it back to the Cowboys’ own 48 threw the Eagles’ D into one even entering the field in an unfavorable position. Dallas would score a game-winning touchdown on this drive. This return was a tricky one as the Eagles could have controlled this ballgame early on.

• Undrafted rookie free agent corner Eli Ricks has filled in bravely despite all of the Eagles’ secondary issues this season, but facing CeeDee Lamb alone is a sad turn of events for the Eagles. Lamb was open like everything else when Dallas took a 29-yard gain on a fourth-and-1. The Birds were lucky that Dallas didn’t find its way into the end zone on that play, but Cowboys tight end Jake Fergurson crossed the goal line on the very next play. James Bradberry has had to cover Lamb at times, but ultimately there’s no good solution to contain one of the league’s best receivers when he’s on the field.

• The Prescott vs. Carson Wentz debates seem like a lifetime ago, but Prescott is still pretty darn good when he plays against the Eagles. He’s lost his 2021 form, when he had 4,449 passing yards and 37 TDs, but regardless of who the Birds’ defensive coordinator is, he’s out there converting unlikely third downs. When he narrowly escaped pressure on a third-and-14 in the second quarter before throwing the ball to Lamb for a 20-yard pickup, the Linc was quiet.

• Congratulations to Ferguson, who transformed into the new Jason Witten in the Eagles-Cowboys matchups.

The whoas

• As rare as Halley’s Comet: Lane Johnson allowed a sack on the Eagles’ second drive of the first quarter. It hurts to hold onto the ball for a little while, but it’s still a big surprise to see. Johnson blocked Dallas pass rusher Dorance Armstrong, who was credited with 0.5 sacks in the game. A second-and-two after a nice pickup by D’Andre Swift quickly turned into a third-and-9, and the Birds were able to make it on fourth down.

• When the Eagles present a former player at the stadium during a game, they typically refer to him as an “Eagles Legend.” Of course, that’s overkill for some players, but the Eagles had Trey Burton out there on Sunday. Some members of the media in the press box scoffed at it, but it was an integral part of the most famous play in Philadelphia sports history. The label “legend” is justified for him, even if his entire work does not come close to this description.

• Every athlete’s favorite characters played a big role. A Prescott touchdown pass to Turpin was incorrectly ruled a catch, making it a 14-7 game in the second quarter. Even with a challenge, the “catch” could not be knocked over. Referee ball!

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