Eagles-Cowboys: Roob's 10 Observations

Eagles-Cowboys: Roob's 10 Observations


ARLINGTON, Texas -- So this is what 9-1 looks like. Not a bad view of the rest of the NFL up here.

The Eagles won their eighth straight game Sunday night, bouncing back from a 9-7 halftime deficit to clobber the Cowboys, 37-9 (see breakdown).

That was a serious whooping the Eagles put on the Cowboys in front of their home crowd. Let's break it down with our 10 Observations.

1. When people were panicking at halftime, I tweeted this out: "Nobody is going to blow out every team they play. Even the best teams face adversity, find themselves in tough spots. Let's see how the Eagles respond. They've been pretty good at it so far this year." And, man, I love the way the Eagles responded Sunday night. As bad as they looked on offense for most of the first half, they regrouped at halftime and came out and opened the second half by reeling off TD drives of 75, 90 and 85 yards. They outscored the Cowboys, 30-0, in the second half, outgained them, 268-99. This team knows how to finish people off. And they know how to handle a little adversity. Something special going on here.

2. Specifically, Carson Wentz really did a tremendous job gathering himself at halftime after finishing the first half 3 for 14. Wentz did not look right much in the first half and it was fair to wonder if that blow he took to the head in the first quarter was affecting him. But he came out in the third quarter sharp, confident and effective and although his final numbers weren't anything special, he did throw two more TDs and no interceptions. He now has 25 touchdowns and five INTs this year. What a season the kid is having.

3. Really a tremendous effort by the defense against a pretty formidable offense. They kept the Eagles in the game in the first half when the offense was struggling, then blanked the Cowboys in the second half. Three INTs against a guy who had never thrown three in his career. Four sacks. No TDs. This was a huge performance by the D just when the Eagles needed it the most.

4. Have to give Kamu Grugier-Hill a ton of credit for handling kickoffs so ably after Jake Elliott left the game with a concussion. Grugier-Hill, a terrific special teamer and backup linebacker, hit his first kickoff to the 1-yard line and his second was a touchback. Losing a kicker early in a game can be a huge blow, but you can't ask for anything more than what they got out of Grugier-Hill. And looking longer term, Caleb Sturgis — a pretty good kicker in his own right — is eligible to come off injured reserve if the Eagles need him.

5. Remarkable to see Ronald Darby come back after not playing since opening day and just pick up right where he left off. Darby, Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson were all very good Sunday night, especially on Dez Bryant. I've been doing this a looooong time and I can safely say the Eagles have never had four cornerbacks as good as Mills, Robinson, Darby and Rasul Douglas, with Sidney Jones waiting in the wings. And all but Robinson are 23 or under. Scary.

6. I wasn't sure how the Eagles were going to involve four running backs in a game plan, but they're pulling it off. Kenjon Barner had a career-long 22-yard catch and TD run on the Eagles' first drive, Corey Clement gained 33 yards on five carries and scored his sixth red-zone TD of the season, Jay Ajayi had 87 yards, including a 71-yard run that really got the Eagles rolling, and LeGarrette Blount added 57 yards on 10 carries, including a big 30-yarder on the fourth-quarter TD drive. In all, the four running backs netted 202 rushing yards and a couple catches for 32 more yards. Incredible job by Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas for rebuilding the running back position and for Doug Pederson and Frank Reich for figuring out how to take advantage of the skill sets of each guy. And just think — when training camp began, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey were all expected to have major roles. With none of them in uniform Sunday night, the running attack looks stronger than ever.

7. We don't talk about the Eagles' offensive line enough, but my goodness, they were monstrous in the second half (see report card). The Eagles, so ineffective early, just kept pounding and pounding and pounding and eventually, the Cowboys just fell apart. The Eagles gained 268 of their 383 total yards in the second half and 180 of their 210 rushing yards after halftime. They lost a Hall of Famer and are still playing out of their minds. Incredible.

8. This may be my favorite stat of all-time: Since 2000, the Cowboys have lost 22 games by 23 or more points. Eleven of them — half of them — have been to the Eagles.

8A. And favorite stat No. 2: Last time the Cowboys allowed 30 or more points in a second half while failing to score in that second half was against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium in 1962. They were outscored, 38-0, and lost, 52-20.

9. Clement's knack inside the red zone continues to defy belief. He had three touches on the Eagles' opening drive of the second half — an eight-yard run down to the 11, an 11-yard touchdown and a successful two-point conversion. Clement now has 11 red-zone touches this year and six red-zone touchdowns and a two-point conversion, which is really kind of hard to believe. I think before too long Ajayi and Clement are going to be the Eagles' top two running backs.

10. Dak Prescott had three interceptions Sunday night. Wentz had three interceptions in his last eight games. I don't care how young they are or how much football they have left or what players they have around him. Wentz > Dak. Period.

Eagles-Giants thoughts: Intrigue surrounds Nick Foles' 1st start

Eagles-Giants thoughts: Intrigue surrounds Nick Foles' 1st start

1 p.m. on FOX
Eagles -8

A game that until recently looked like a speedbump on the Eagles’ path to the playoffs has all of a sudden become a matchup of intrigue and mystery.

NFC East rivalry or not, the 11-2 Eagles were expected to dispatch the 2-11 Giants with relative ease, and still very well may. However, the season’s second meeting between the two teams has taken on a decidedly different feel now that it will feature Nick Foles under center for the Birds.

It’s become appointment viewing for an Eagles fan base collectively holding its breath, hoping to catch a glimpse into whether Foles possesses the ability to lead the team deep into the postseason.

Foles has made 36 career NFL starts – seven more than the quarterback he replaces, Carson Wentz – and has appeared in 46 games total, most of that with the Eagles. Nonetheless, the sixth-year veteran is viewed as something of an unknown entity. Foles was productive for several seasons, even historically prolific, but also lost a pair of starting jobs, nearly playing himself out of the league along the way.

Now in his second stint with the Eagles, the question is which version of Foles are the Eagles getting this time around, and can they still reach the Super Bowl with a new signal caller? We will begin to get some answers Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.

In a position to succeed
Regardless of whether Foles is up to the challenge, it wouldn’t hurt the Eagles’ chances if they were able to finish what they started and earn the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. That could actually happen as early as Sunday.

A win over the Giants and a Vikings loss to the Bengals would be enough to clinch a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Even if the Vikings don’t lose this week, the Eagles can secure the top seed in the conference with any two wins over the Giants, Raiders or Cowboys over the final three games. Of the three remaining opponents, only the Cowboys are currently above .500 at 7-6.

In other words, Foles shouldn’t have to do much heavy lifting until the postseason, while the Eagles can make his job a little easier in January if they take care of business down the stretch.

With a little help from his friends
Foles has been under the microscope all week, and the backup quarterback has been examined from just about every angle. There’s nothing much more to say about the Eagles from the offense’s standpoint, at least until we’ve seen it action.

The group that’s flying under the radar in the aftermath of the injury to Wentz is the defense. Even the unit’s role in last week’s 43-35 win over the Rams has been overlooked to a degree, despite coming up huge in the fourth quarter.

After allowing the Rams to go up and down the field for the better part of the contest, the Eagles made two pivotal stops after Wentz’s exit. A Chris Long strip sack set up the game-winning field goal and that was followed by a quick three-and-out that allowed Foles and the offense to milk nearly the entire final two minutes of regulation.

That was against the No. 2 scoring offense in the NFL, and though the Eagles did surrender 35 points, the defense stepped up when it mattered.

Wentz might be out, but the Eagles’ defense still ranks first against the run, 13th against the pass, fourth in total yards, fifth in scoring and is tied for third in takeaways entering the week. This isn’t all on Foles and the offense. They are more than capable of limiting or completely shutting down an opponent.

Coming up short?
The one area of the offense that might be worth keeping an eye out moving forward is on third downs. The Eagles are third in the NFL with a 45.3 percent conversion rate, and Wentz just seemed to have a knack for making something happen even during third-and-long situations, often keeping the play alive or simply making a clutch throw.

Foles did find Nelson Agholor for a huge third-down conversion against the Rams, but Wentz has been uncanny in those situations. Foles is far less likely to extend a play with his feet, and he’s far more willing to make a safe throw to a checkdown receiver and live with a punt.

Perhaps more than anything else this season, that ability to keep drives alive was what made Wentz so dangerous and so difficult to defend. When it seemed the Eagles’ backs were against the wall, he’d throw a strike, or run around and find somebody or pick up the first down himself.

No matter what happens, the offense won’t be the same without Wentz. The guy is special. But on third down in particular, there was a feeling no distance was too far, and a conversion was inevitable – and on occasion, it would break the will of opposing defenses.

The Eagles better get used to the idea of running on first and second down to create manageable thirds, punting when it’s not there and playing defense. Foles will do fine, but he’s not quite an unstoppable force, unlike Wentz.

Giants are a disaster, but Torrey Smith, Eagles are focused

Giants are a disaster, but Torrey Smith, Eagles are focused

It took him 13 games to do it, but wide receiver Torrey Smith finally had a 100 -yard receiving day last week against the Rams.

Smith and the rest of the Eagles' offense must get used to new field leadership. He and I talked about Carson Wentz, Nick Foles and the New York Giants.

Gunn: As soon as you get the word that Carson Wentz is done for the season, what was your initial thought?

Smith: Because of the way the game went, and I know that he left, Carson is a tough cat so I knew that if he wasn't going to come back to the field, it had to be something serious. And to get a text from him that it was confirmed, you see it happen all the time in this league. It's a tough blow not only for our team, but also for him as an individual. He works his tail off, and he deserves nothing but the best. It was definitely tough.

Gunn: Now it's Nick Foles' show. How much work have you gotten in with him this year, and what's the guys' confidence level that he can get the job done?

Smith: I've worked with him a little but we're all comfortable with Foles. We're comfortable with him as a player and comfortable with him as a person. He knows the offense. He knows the system. This isn't his first year in it, and he had the whole offseason. So I think we're in a great place. It's not too many teams that have a quarterback that's thrown seven touchdowns in a game, so we are ready to roll with him.

Gunn: You guys are facing a Giants team, let's face it, that is a flat-out mess right now. Dead last in the league defensively in yards allowed per game, 31st in passing yards allowed, 31st in run defense and 27th in points allowed. Your offense is going to have a field day against this defense.

Smith: Only if we make it that way. Numbers don't mean anything. In football, you have to go out and prove it every Sunday, and that's a team we have a lot of respect for. They have a lot of talent over there. Obviously, they're going through some things as an organization, coaching changes, but I tell you what, I've been on that side of the fence, and I know how hungry they are to prove it. They don't like seeing headlines or getting tweets about how terrible they are each and every day. They're out there working their tails off just like we are. We have to make sure we're bringing it on gameday.

The expanded version of my Gunn on One with Smith can be seen on Eagles Pre Game Live Sunday between 12-1 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia.