ARLINGTON, Texas — Five reasons for the Eagles’ 37-9 victory over Dallas on Sunday night:
Second-half ground game
The Eagles had just 35 rushing yards in the first half. They ran the ball on just 10 of 28 plays, and two of those were by Carson Wentz. The only ground highlight was Kenjon Barner’s 4-yard touchdown run on the Eagles’ first possession.
But they made some halftime blocking adjustments and were considerably more effective running in the second half. They rushed for 180 yards on 23 carries in the final two quarters, including 125 yards on 12 carries in the third quarter alone as they had back-to-back 75- and 90-yard touchdown drives that gave them the lead and left the Cowboys in their dust.
A big chunk of that third-quarter rushing yardage came on a 71-yard run by Jay Ajayi. Ajayi, acquired at the trade deadline, played only 13 snaps Sunday night but finished with 91 yards on seven carries. His long run was a beautifully executed play that included a terrific pull block by left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai.
But the Eagles had four other runs of 8 or more yards in the third quarter. Rookie Corey Clement, who played 19 snaps, had a pair of 8-yard runs, as well as an 11-yard touchdown run on the Eagles’ first possession of the second half.
Bottling up Dak
The Eagles talked all last week about the danger Dak Prescott posed outside the pocket. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said Prescott might throw on the run – in either direction – better than any quarterback he’d ever seen.
While Schwartz might’ve been guilty of a little overstatement there, Prescott clearly is dangerous outside the pocket. Inside of it, he’s, well … he’s just OK.
So the Eagles’ battle plan Sunday night was to rush him with discipline and keep him bottled up in the pocket. The strategy worked very well. And on those rare occasions when he was able to get out of the pocket, linebacker Mychal Kendricks, with his 4.4 speed, came up and forced him to hurry his throw.
The Eagles sacked Prescott four times. More significant, they forced four turnovers from him, including three interceptions. This is a guy who had thrown just four interceptions in the Cowboys’ first nine games.
Still going strong in red zone
The Eagles, who entered the game ranked first in the NFL in red-zone offense, converted four of five trips inside the Dallas 20 into touchdowns, a good thing considering they lost their kicker to a concussion early in the game and had no one to kick field goals.
Wentz was just 3 for 6 passing in the red zone. But two of those completions were touchdown passes to Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery. The throw to Jeffery was a nice pass through a very tight window.
Seventeen of Wentz’s NFL-high 25 touchdown passes have been in the red zone, including four to Jeffery.
The Eagles now have converted an impressive 73.5 percent of their red-zone opportunities into touchdowns (25 for 34). They have converted 15 of 17 in their last five games.
Doug and Co.
Head coach Doug Pederson and his staff have been unflappable all season. They’ve lost some significant talent – running back and punt returner Darren Sproles, nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, special-teams ace Chris Maragos, kicker Caleb Sturgis, cornerback Ronald Darby (for eight games), defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (for three games) — but have continually preached the next-man-up mentality.
On Sunday night, they lost Sturgis’ replacement, Jake Elliott, when he suffered a head injury while trying to make a tackle on the Cowboys’ Ryan Switzer on the opening kickoff.
No big deal. Backup linebacker and special-teamer Kamu Grugier-Hill handled the kickoffs and the Eagles passed on PATs and went for two after touchdowns, converting three of four.
After the Eagles scored just seven points and were held to 3.5 yards per carry in the first half, the coaching staff made some adjustments at halftime, and they scored touchdowns on their first two possessions of the second half and never looked back.
The Eagles have an NFL-high 14 interceptions, including three in Sunday night’s win. The pressure up front played a big part in some of those interceptions, but the secondary continued its outstanding season-long play.
They finally got Darby back Sunday night. Still a little rusty and working himself back into football shape, he had one of the interceptions and knocked away a pass for Dez Bryant in the end zone on the Cowboys’ second possession, forcing Dallas to settle for the second of three Mike Nugent field goals.
Bryant had eight catches, but for just 63 yards, and was continually frustrated by Darby and the rest of the Eagles’ secondary.
Slot corner Patrick Robinson made several nice plays and made slot receiver Cole Beasley disappear. Beasley had just two catches for 7 yards.
The Cowboys converted just three of 14 third-down opportunities. Prescott was just 3-for-9 for 25 yards and an interception on third down. One of his four sacks also came on third down.