I SHOULD have listened.
The Eagles' defensive line was trying to tell us something during the week, when it refused to get all gushy over the Cowboys' much-lauded offensive line, the engine driving the NFL's No. 2 rushing attack.
"The running back's having a good year running, but I don't see anything spectacular about them," nose tackle Bennie Logan said as the Dallas game approached. "Same offensive line we faced last year, and they have one new guy . . . They're OK linemen."
In fact, more than one Eagle wondered what was so different, the only new Dallas o-line starter being first-round rookie right guard Zack Martin. Fletcher Cox and Logan ate Martin alive Thursday. The other guard, Ronald Leary, didn't fare much better, as the Birds held DeMarco Murray to a season-low 73 yards on 20 carries. Turns out, stopping Murray was like pulling a thread to unravel a sweater; the run game makes the Cowboys' passing game work, and if the offense is stymied, most of those Dallas defensive improvements we were all so impressed by wash right away. Dallas depends on its offense having the ball, limiting the exposure of Rod Marinelli's defense, which we now know absolutely misses DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee, if you make it play more than a series here or there.
Like a lot of observers, in predicting a Cowboys victory, I believed most of what I'd heard and read about Dallas. But, as left tackle Jason Peters noted after the Eagles' resounding 33-10 victory, there's always a lot of noise around the star-helmeted team. Sometimes that's all it is.
Yeah, the early 14-0 Eagles lead distorted the game, just as that 17-0 Packers lead distorted the Birds' loss in Green Bay. But after seeing for myself, I'll take the Eagles' offensive line over the Dallas offensive line, regardless of whether Tony Romo's back is sore.
"It's the Cowboys. Everything they do is hyped up," said Peters, who knows a thing or two about o-lines. "They're not a bad offensive line, but everything they do is magnified times 10. You've got offensive lines out there that are as good, but they don't get the praise the Cowboys do. We just do our job. As long as we're winning, we're fine."
Developing story lines
* All four of Riley Cooper’s catches came on the Eagles’ first two drives. Some nice blocks, but no catches on three targets after that.
* Rewatching the game yesterday, I thought some of the Eagles’ 1-for-5 red-zone trouble was just Chip Kelly and Pat Shurmur being very cautious. They really didn’t want Mark Sanchez throwing a pick down there.
* Had the whistle blown on that obvious false start by right tackle Doug Free, Dallas would have gotten another shot at third down and a TD on the series after the LeSean McCoy fumble. But there was no whistle and no flag, and Casey Matthews sacked Tony Romo, forcing a field goal.
* Speaking of Matthews, defensive coordinator Bill Davis spoke afterward of how well Matthews is making strong calls, providing leadership in the absence of DeMeco Ryans. “All of a sudden we know that, hey, Casey’s gonna run the show, and we’re OK with that,” Davis said.
* Somebody suggested to Cary Williams that 2 weeks after being shredded by an elite QB in Aaron Rodgers, the Eagles fared much better against another elite QB. Nobody was talking trash, knowing that Dallas is coming to visit Dec. 14, but Williams’ eyes might have widened a bit. “Aaron Rodgers is in a league of his own,” Williams said. ”[Tony] Romo’s a great quarterback, as well, but I think Aaron Rodgers is a different type of elite.”
* Nate Allen on Fletcher Cox: “He’s a dawg up front. He does a great job for us in the run game, in the pass game ... He’s a force, a force to be reckoned with.”
* Allen, by the way, was a Williams holding penalty away from a two-interception, one-fumble-recovery day, the sort of thing that gets you NFC defensive player of the week. It’s a shame, because Williams’ tug had no effect on Dez Bryant’s ability to track an underthrown pass. And because it would’ve been fun to watch Eagles’ fans heads explode when the award was announced.
* If I were an owner, general manager or coach of an NFC East opponent of the Eagles, here is a number that would worry me, not only this season, but also going forward: 7-2. That’s Chip Kelly’s record vs. the NFC East since he was hired. With Tom Coughlin in his New York twilight, I don’t see a coach or a program in the division I would stack up against what Kelly has done and projects to do here.
That Pitbull would move better than Tony Romo?
The Cowboys are 18-2 when DeMarco Murray has at least 20 carries. One of the two losses was Thursday.
Bradley Fletcher, the public face of the Eagles’ blowout loss at Green Bay 2 weeks ago, was quietly beaming in the visitors’ locker room Thursday evening at AT&T Stadium.
Fletcher was active and aggressive in helping shut down the Dallas attack, as the Birds held the Cowboys to their lowest point total of the season. This was the kind of game Fletcher can be effective in — a strong pass rush limiting receivers’ double-moves, the run game stuffed, Eagles playing with a lead, officials letting the players decide who’s going to make the play.
Joe Buck and Troy Aikman all but demanded a flag on Fletcher early, when Fletcher and Dez Bryant laid hands on each other and Fletcher won the fight. No flag arrived. Bryant complained about the Eagles’ dirty play afterward.
“Any offense, when things don’t go well, they get a little frustrated,” said the man defensive coordinator Bill Davis called “a mentally tough human being” after the Green Bay loss. “Things clicked today ... With our front seven, the way they play up front and the pressure they put on quarterbacks, I know it has to be tough to play us.”
Fletcher had absolutely nothing to say about his own play.
On Twitter: @LesBowen