PHILADELPHIA -- On paper, it didn't look like a favorable matchup for the Dallas Cowboys' defense. Dallas came into the game ranked 30th in the NFL on defense and their opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles, was third in the league on offense and fourth in scoring.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, the game was played on the grass of Lincoln Financial Field and not on paper, and they shut down the high-flying Eagles 17-3 to take over sole possession of first place in NFC East.
"We knew it was going to be a real challenge for us and we met that challenge,'' Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee said. "This was a big game for us, as a defense and as a team as a whole, and we responded.''
Said Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant: "Let's face it, the defense won this game for us. They played great against a very good offense and they gave us a chance to get it together on offense. This was their game.''
The Eagles (3-4) played their second straight game without quarterback Michael Vick (hamstring) and backup Nick Foles -- the NFC offensive player of the week after he beat Tampa Bay 31-20 last Sunday -- didn't play nearly as well in his second straight start before he was knocked out of the game early in the fourth quarter with a head injury. Rookie quarterback Matt Barkley finished the game for the Eagles.
But the key for the Cowboys (4-3) was stopping the Eagles' one-two punch of running back LeSean McCoy, who was leading the NFL in rushing with 630 yards, an average of 105 yards per game, and wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who was second in the league in receiving yards with 589, an average of 98 yards per game.
McCoy finished with just 55 yards on 18 carries and Jackson had three receptions for only 21 yards.
"We didn't play well,'' Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "I should say that again -- we didn't play well at all offensively. We just couldn't get anything going.''
What the Cowboys said
"It was a division win on the road against a very good team and it was an important win for us. When we had to, we did was necessary to win the game.'' -- Dallas coach Jason Garrett.
"It's going to help big time, since we didn't have a couple of our key guys in the game. It goes to show you how mentally tough we are.'' -- Wide receiver Dez Bryant on winning without two starters, defensive end DeMarcus Ware and running back DeMarco Murray.
What the Eagles said:
"I think he's progressing. I don't have an exact number on him and where he is. But he's better than he was. Obviously, that's an injury that takes time. But I'm hopeful that Mike will be back.'' -- Eagles coach Chip Kelly on quarterback Michael Vick's sore hamstring.
"There were some positives to take from it. We were able to get some pressure on [quarterback Tony Romo] and get him out of rhythm, which we want to do every week. But we didn't play good enough to win, so it wasn't good enough.'' -- Linebacker Connor Barwin.
What we learned about the Cowboys
1. Even if the Cowboys win the weak NFC East, they're not going to go far in the playoffs unless their offensive line plays much better. The Eagles don't have a great pass rush, but they pressured quarterback Tony Romo for much of the game and that's something the Cowboys must fix.
2. Any team that wants to move the ball against Dallas must find a way to handle linebacker Sean Lee. He came into the game with 61 solo tackles and 77 total tackles and that led the Cowboys by a large margin -- the second-leading tackler, Bruce Carter, had 39 and 46. And Lee did it again on Sunday -- he had a game-high nine solo tackles and a total of 11, six more than safety Barry Church, their second-leading tackler vs. the Eagles.
What we learned about the Eagles
1. The Eagles have to find some variety in their offense. So far, they've relied too much on running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson and the Cowboys made them pay for that on Sunday -- they shut down the Eagles' dynamic due and that shut down the Eagles' offense.
2. Anyone who thinks second-year man Nick Foles is the quarterback of the future will probably be rethinking that position after this game -- Foles completed just 11 of 29 passes for 80 yards and finished with a passer rating of only 46.2.