EAGLES, COWBOYS WALK AWAY HAPPY AFTER SEASON FINALE AT THE LINC
The Eagles managed to end their season on a positive note, defeating the Dallas Cowboys 27-13 on a picture perfect afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Cowboys (13-3) had nothing to play for having locked up the No. 1 seed in the NFC last week.
Head coach Jason Garrett said he had a plan for his team and except for the score, he got everything done he wanted to do.
“We had different objectives coming into the game,” Garrett said at his post game press conference. “There were going to be certain guys who weren’t going to play this game because of injury. We held a couple of guys out, a guy on each side of the ball. And then we had a plan for a few other guys about how much we wanted them to play. Having said that, you decide who’s going to be out there. And then you have a standard for performance that you’re looking for from everybody. A great opportunity for a lot of young guys to get extended amount of time against a good football team. They’ll grow and get better because of that. We’ll be better as a football team because of that.”
The Cowboys opened the game with everyone but rookie running back Ezekiel Elliot and offensive linemen Tyron Smith and Ronald Leary.
Smith was held out because of an injury that he could have overcome if the game meant anything. Elliott didn’t play because the Cowboys would have been crazy to put him in such a game and risk injury.
Defensively linebacker Sean Lee was active but not in starting lineup. Lee has had injury issues throughout his career, and like Elliott, he is too important for the Cowboys playoff aspirations to take a chance on an injury. Leary was resting a sore back.
Still the team that Dallas put on the field came to win.
The Eagles were looking to finish a disappointing season on a high note.
The Cowboys won the toss and elected to go on offense first.
Led by a balanced defense, the Eagles stopped Dallas at their own 34-yard line.
The Eagles, led by rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, drove to the Cowboys three where the 14-play, eight-plus minute drive stalled. The Eagles settled for a Caleb Sturgis 22-yared field goal.
The Cowboys answered with a nine-play drive that ended with a 49-yard Dan Bailey field goal.
The teams traded touchdowns before the half.
As expected Tony Romo came in to spell Prescott who had taken a few shots on the previous drive.
Romo showed no signs of rust leading Dallas on a six-play, 81-yard drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams.
Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick talked about how Romo has taken sitting behind Prescott in stride.
“He’s done such a great job and being part of the team,” Frederick said in the Cowboys locker room after the game. “Being part of the team we love having the chance to play with him. We loved having the chance to play with Mark too. Generally you don’t want that to occur because he’s the backup. But when you do get the chance it’s fun because you get to see him go out and be able to do what he does.”
Frederick said no one on the Cowboys expected anything but a sharp Romo who took the field.
“We’re not surprised,” Frederick said. “He’s a great player, he’s been around and he knoews the situation. He’s been back practicing with us for several weeks so we could tell he was ready.”
“He’s been there before,” Frederick said. “It’s exciting for him and I’m excited for him.”
But after Romo but the Cowboys up 10-3, that was it for the 14-year veteran. Mark Sanchez entered the game and the Eagles took advantage of the change.
Linebacker Jordan Hicks seems to play well against the Cowboys dating back to last year, his rookie season. Hicks went wild on Sanchez intercepting the former Eagles quarterback on two of his first three possessions, the second was a brilliant diving catch that led to an Eagles touchdown with seven seconds left in the half.
Wentz hit tight end Zach Ertz with a six–yard touchdown pass the made the score 10-10 at intermission.
The Eagles held Dallas to a field goal in the third quarter while scoring a touchdown on a 20-yard touchdown pass to Ertz, his second of the game.
Ertz finished the game with 13 catches for 139 yards and the two scores. The four-year veteran also had a big game against the Giants the week before. Ertz was asked what the last two weeks have meant for him.
“I think it puts a little positive stamp on the season,” he said. “Obviously it’s a disappointing season. I’d go into the playoffs but 7-9 is better than 5-11 which is what it would’ve been if we lost these last two games. Especially winning two NFC East division opponents who are rivalries. You can say what you want about the last two games but no game is meaningless to us.
As players there are 16 games promised on a schedule each and every week and we’re going to go out there and make the most of them each and every week.”
Wentz was 27 of 43 for 245 yards, two touchdown passes, he was sacked twice but did not throw an interception.”
As a unit, the three Dallas quarterbacks were a combined 16 of 29 for 151 yards, two interceptions (both by Sanchez) and sacked three times (all by Sanchez).
The Eagles as team rushed 39 times for 114 yards and a touchdown by Terrell Watson, who was promoted up from the practice squad to make for the loss of running backs Ryan Mathews, Kenjon Barner and Wendell Smallwood.
On Watson’s one-yard score, right tackle Lane Johnson laid out a near perfect block for Watson. Johnson was playing his second consecutive game after serving a 10-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy for the second time.
Johnson is still upset with himself and what his mistake cost the Eagles.
When he was asked about the team’s mindset heading into next season, he replied…
“I put the team in a bad predicament,” Johnson said. “I think there will be some additions in the offseason and more pieces added to the puzzle for next year.”
Head coach Doug Pederson talked about the season and the win against the Cowboys.
“I’ll tell you, just how well these guys fought the entire season, all the way down to the end,” He said. “I challenged the team a couple weeks ago as far as let’s finish the season the right way, and our last month of the season has been definitely heading in the right direction. It’s great to finish strong, two division opponents, and get two wins this way. Kicking off the year the right way.”
So it seems these two iconic NFL rivals played a game that both feel good about the outcome.
“I think coach did a good job of making sure the message was we wanted to come out and win this game,” Frederick said. “Obviously it’s disappointing anytime you lose but we are healthy we’re excited to push forward here.
“I’m happy to be healthy,” Frederick continued. “You can’t go into a game think about that and trying not to, but it is definitely a good situation to get out of here healthy.”
Linebacker Brandon Graham, who recorded two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry said the Eagles are starting to jell as a team and is looking forward to next year.
“We’re very close,” Graham said. “We just can’t take and steps back. This offseason is very crucial for us, making sure we stay in shape, making sure we keep that edge, that chip on our shoulder, to be a force to be reckoned with next year.
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii