Cowboys go soft with big strengths
Run defense, passing game are glaring weaknesses in blowout loss to resurgent Eagles
PHILADELPHIA -- When a team's biggest strengths turn into glaring weaknesses, a butt whuppin' tends to happen.
If the Cowboys can't stop the run or throw the ball efficiently, they have no chance to compete. That was painfully obvious Sunday night.
They looked like they didn't even belong on the same field as the so-called Dream Team, which has snapped out of its early-season funk and seems primed to defend its NFC East division title despite a 1-4 start.
The Eagles' offense ran the ball down the Cowboys' throats on a consistent basis. The Eagles' defense made Tony Romo look raggedy and the Cowboys' high-profile receivers irrelevant until garbage time.
Philadelphia made the sexy matchups look like mismatches. The NFL's top-ranked rushing offense rolled for 239 yards against the top-ranked rushing defense. A Pro Bowl collection of cornerbacks shut down Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, who combined for a grand total of one catch in the first three quarters.
"It was a butt kicking by a really good football team," Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking said.
The Eagles' ability to run the ball at will was especially embarrassing for the Cowboys, who allowed an average of only 69.7 rushing yards in their first six games. Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy exceeded that number in the first quarter.
McCoy finished with 185 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries, the gaudiest rushing game against the Cowboys in more than a decade.
"Our fits weren't excellent this week obviously, and we got exposed," Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. "That's a hell of a back."
The Cowboys also couldn't contain quarterback Michael Vick, who gained 50 yards on seven scrambles. The running game opened up the Eagles' aerial attack. Vick completed 21 of 28 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns, doing much of his damage over the middle against overmatched linebackers Bradie James and Brooking.
That was all set up by the Eagles' explosive running game. The Cowboys allowed a total of only five 10-plus-yard runs in the first six games. The Eagles, who finished with 239 yards, had five of those explosive runs on the first two possessions.
Those two early touchdown drives put the Cowboys in the position of needing their passing game to click. It wheezed and sputtered instead.
Don't be misled by Romo's decent fantasy statistics (203 passing yards with one touchdown and one interception). The score and vast majority of those yards came after a lot of the sellout crowd was boozing on Broad Street, celebrating a blowout win over the Eagles' most bitter rivals.
Romo's numbers after three quarters were Tebow-esque: 56 yards and a pick on 7-of-15 passing with three sacks taken.
"They did a very good job pressuring the passer," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "They have very good cover guys on the back end; there's no question about that. And there's the combination of the pressure and the cover guys I think limited our opportunities to throw the football.
"We never really could get anything consistently on offense."
And the Cowboys never could consistently stop the Philadelphia offense from doing whatever it wanted.
A porous run defense and a poor passing game are a particularly awful combination for the Cowboys. It made for a pathetic showing in prime time.
Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.