The Dallas Cowboys are now alone atop the NFC East at 4-3 after a 17-3 win over the wounded Philadelphia Eagles in Week 7, but all is not well in Big D. The Cowboys’ defense played tremendously against an ailing Nick Foles and then a wide-eyed Matt Barkley in a game that was uglier than Riley Cooper‘s haircut…or lack thereof. So does this really mean the Cowboys are ready to take the division? Not quite.
Look, Dallas played great on defense, but had Foles been healthy and up to the standards of his previous two starts, things would have been a lot different because the Cowboys got lucky three times. After Foles’ foot was stepped on by Bruce Carter, he was unable to plant and drive the ball, which resulted in a ton of under thrown ducks, which cost the Eagles a pair of touchdowns.
On the flip side, the Cowboys’ coverage was lights out the rest of the game, which is a major plus. Specifically, Brandon Carr had his second consecutive MVP-like outing as he shut down DeSean Jackson one week after limiting the Washington Redskins‘ Pierre Garçon. In addition, Barry Church played particularly well in both pass coverage and run support, which certainly made things easier on Monte Kiffin in his first NFL bout with Chip Kelly.
The one player who stood out more than any other in the contest was Sean Lee, who took LeSean McCoy‘s history of success against Dallas personally. Lee, who was already the Cowboys’ best player before this game, shut down the NFL’s leading rusher, which really had a domino effect on the entire Eagles defense. Lee’s performance, grouped with that of Carr and Church, showed just how effective the Cowboys’ defense can be, even without DeMarcus Ware. But again, what would the game have been like with Foles healthy and mentally present?
That’s the pessimistic takeaway from the game, but this is still a major positive for the Cowboys’ defense because now the players mentioned above have new confidence heading into a streak of five games that present four relatively easy matchups for this unit. And if Dallas’ offense stays extremely one-dimensional (especially with DeMarco Murray out), it’s going to need several more strong defensive performances this year to remain atop the NFC East.