PHILADELPHIA -- Here it was, the moment the Philadelphia Eagles could turn it all around – the game, the season, that embarrassing home losing streak. And fittingly, in a city that celebrates it, that moment was provided by the defense.
Vinny Curry and Trent Cole collapsed the pocket. Tony Romo didn’t get his feet set. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback saw running back Phillip Tanner over the middle. He didn’t see Eagles inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans.
“I just looked up and saw the ball,” Ryans said. “So I made a play on it.”
Ryans returned his interception to the Dallas 30-yard line. The Eagles were only down 10-0 thanks to a defense that held Dallas to three points in the first half and had allowed just one touchdown. Despite almost three quarters of offensive futility and frustration, a touchdown there would have turned the game around.
“We were talking about getting some momentum and a turnover,” Ryans said. “I was fortunate enough to come down with it. I was looking forward to it giving us some momentum and flipping it to our side.”
Instead, the Eagles fizzled in the red zone. Quarterback Nick Foles was knocked out of the game on the final play of the third quarter. The field goal kicked to open the fourth quarter represented the Eagles’ only points of the game.
“If our defense only allows 17 points,” center Jason Kelce said, “we have to win the game.”
For the day, it was frustrating. The Eagles held Romo to 28-of-47 passing for 317 yards. They sacked him twice and intercepted him twice, leaving him with a mediocre 69.2 passer rating. The 17 points were the Cowboys’ lowest total since a 17-16 loss to Kansas City in Week 2.
For the bigger picture, though, the performance was encouraging. This is a loaded offensive team, even without running back DeMarco Murray. The Cowboys represented the most significant test since the Eagles were punked by Denver, 52-20, three weeks earlier.
“It was probably the best defensive outing we have had all season,” Ryans said. “I am just disappointed we didn’t hold them out of the end zone the couple of times they got in there today. From where we started out, we have gotten a lot better.”
Ryans had a sack and the pick. Curry had the other sack. Rookie safety Earl Wolff got his first career interception on Romo’s desperation heave into the end zone at the end of the first half. Wolff, Ryans and Nate Allen were disruptive in the blitz game. Cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher held their own against Dez Bryant and the other receivers, for the most part.
“We were able to get some pressure and get [Romo] out of rhythm,” linebacker Connor Barwin said. “That’s what we want to do every week against the opposing quarterback.”
“There are a lot of positives,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “But at the end of the day, there is going to be a winner and a loser and we lost. That is not good enough. You always have to outplay the opponent’s defense and today we didn’t.”