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Monday, December 3, 2012
Report card: Rushing game comes to life

By Tim MacMahon


Rushing Offense

For the first time since the last time they faced Philadelphia, the Cowboys had a competent rushing attack. The return of DeMarco Murray after a six-week absence certainly helped. He finished with 83 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, but Murray was more effective than the numbers indicated, considering he lost 11 yards on his last carry. Murray still appeared tentative at times, but his presence allowed Jason Garrett to call a balanced game for a change. Felix Jones (seven carries, 26 yards) was a nonfactor in a change-of-pace role.


Passing Offense

Once he got some protection, Tony Romo was perfect. He completed all 10 of his passes in the second half for 169 yards and three touchdowns, finishing the game with 303 yards on 22-of-27 passing. Dez Bryant dominated again despite not getting a ball thrown to him for the first 27 minutes, catching six passes for 98 yards and two tackle-breaking touchdowns. Jason Witten caught six passes for 108 yards, making a couple of plays downfield instead of just moving the chains. Miles Austin only caught two balls, but they were both important: a 19-yard gain on a scoring drive and a 27-yard touchdown.


Rushing Defense

The Cowboys couldn't stop rookie seventh-round pick Bryce Brown for most of the game. He rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. Dion Lewis also averaged seven yards a pop on his two carries. Just imagine how ugly it would have been if Pro Bowl tailback LeSean McCoy had been healthy. The Cowboys' two leading tacklers, inside linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, are out for the season, but there are no excuses for looking that bad against an Eagles offense with even more injury issues. Morris Claiborne's fumble return for a touchdown was big, but it doesn't save the defense from a failing grade.


Passing Defense

Nick Foles arrived at Cowboys Stadium as a struggling rookie backup quarterback. You wouldn't have been able to tell by watching this game. The Cowboys let the third-round pick get comfortable in the pocket and he picked them apart for 251 yards and a touchdown without committing a turnover. Cornerback Brandon Carr, the $50 million man, never saw the ball on a 15-yard touchdown pass to Riley Cooper. Victor Butler recorded the Cowboys' lone sack, marking the second straight week that Pro Bowl pass rusher DeMarcus Ware was shut out.


Special Teams

It was an uneventful night for Joe DeCamillis' units until they gave the Eagles a chance to pull off an amazing comeback. How the heck can the Cowboys let Damaris Johnson return a punt 98 yards for a touchdown in the final minute? Brian Moorman outkicked his coverage, and it was a pretty pathetic display of terrible tacking after that point. At least Jason Witten recovered the ensuing onside kick. Kicker Dan Bailey made his only field goal attempt, a 39-yarder. Dwayne Harris' only opportunity in the return game was a 22-yard gain on a kickoff.



Once again, the Cowboys dug themselves a double-digit deficit in the first half. That has happened in five consecutive home games, which is a pretty clear indication that Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan struggle as game-planners or motivators or both. Garrett's decision to call a timeout with 45 seconds remaining in the first half and the Cowboys at the Eagles' 1-yard line backfired, leaving Philadelphia enough time to drive for a field goal. And why didn't Dez Bryant get a ball thrown to him for the first 27-plus minutes of the game? This win was far from a coaching masterpiece.