Eagles in Position to Win NFC East With Crucial Victory Over Cowboys

eliot-shorr-parks
December 22, 2019 - 7:33 pm
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Carson Wentz saved his best game of the season for the biggest game of his career. 

Wentz and the Eagles are now one game away from winning the NFC East following their 17-9 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, a game they had to have to keep their season alive. 

Now, with a win next week in New York against the Giants, the Eagles can clinch the NFC East and a home playoff game the following week. 

Here are some takeaways from the big win. 

Carson Wentz: The Eagles needed a franchise-quarterback performance from Wentz on Sunday and that is exactly what he gave them. 

Wentz was absolutely razor sharp to start the game. The ball placement issues he has had these season were nowhere to be found, as he hit his receivers right in stride and put the ball right where it needed to be. His best throw early on was his six-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dallas Goedert on the second drive of the game. Wentz put the ball over the fingertips of two defenders and right into Goedert’s hands, who held on and gave the Eagles’ a 10-0 lead. 

Overall, Wentz was 9-of-11 for 107 yards, one touchdown and a quarterback rating of 137.5 in the first quarter, helping the team get off to the big start they needed. 

After the offense went silent for most of the second quarter, Wentz got them going in the third with a perfectly thrown pass down the right sideline for a 38-yard gain to receiver Greg Ward. The pass put the Eagles not he Cowboys’ 19-yard line, and five plays later, the Eagles scored to take a 17-6 lead. 

Wentz has thrown more touchdowns in a game this season and he has thrown for more yards as well,  but forget what the stats say. Wentz played his best game of the season on Sunday by coming out early, grabbing control and making it clear he was making sure his team was not going to lose. 

Defense: The Eagles’ defense, especially defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, have been heavily criticized this past week following their performance in Washington. On Sunday, however, they turned in maybe their best game of the season. 

The defense was dominant from the start on Sunday, forcing punts on four of the Cowboys’ first five drives. 

The defense made one of their biggest plays of the game when with just under 10 minutes to play in the third quarter, on a third-and-one play, safety Malcolm Jenkins recovered a Dallas fumble on the Eagles’ 26-yard line. The fumble, forced by defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, not only gave the Eagles the ball, but likely prevented the Cowboys from scoring at least three points in what was a very close game. 

There is no doubt the defense got bailed out at bad times by Dak Prescott, however, who missed two wide-open touchdowns on the final drive of the fourth quarter. 

When the team needed them the most, the defense stepped up once again. After the offense punted the ball away with just over four minutes to play and the Eagles only up eight, the defense was put in a position of needing to get a stop -- and they got it when cornerback Sidney Jones batted away a fourth-down pass in the end zone.  

Outside of a poor first half against the Giants two weeks ago, the Eagles’ defense has been excellent at home this season — something that should be very encouraging for the team as they will open the playoffs at home if they win next week. 

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside: It has been a rough season for receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, but he stepped up when the team needed him on Sunday. Arcega-Whiteside made a great 27-yard catch on first play of the game, going up and out jumping a Cowboys’ defender to come down with it over the middle of the field. Then, on the same drive, he caught a 3rd-and-11 pass to keep the offense moving. 

Blown chance: The Eagles dominated this game early on, but much like their loss to New England earlier this season, they failed to build a big lead and take complete control of the game. After scoring on their first two drives, the offense didn’t gain more 33 yards on any of their next four, and had a total of six first downs — one less than they had on their first two drives. 

Zach Ertz, Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby: Two injuries to keep an eye on going forward are to tight end Zach Ertz and cornerbacks Jalen Mills. Ertz left the game midway through the second quarter after trying to play through a rib injury he suffered on the first drive of the game. Mills suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter and was carted into the locker room, but he also returned to the game. Despite both players returning, the injuries to two key players are something to monitor this week. 

Cornerback Ronald Darby also left the game, but he did not return, and his status for next week is very much up-in-the-air as he continues to deal with a hip flexor. 

You can reach Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at esp@94wip.com!

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