Takeaways carry Cowboys past Vick-less Eagles
PHILADELPHIA -- The Dallas Cowboys stole the ball from the Philadelphia Eagles twice, and that helped them steal a 38-23 victory over the Eagles on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
"As a defensive player, that's what the game's about -- take the ball away and give it back to your offense," said Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who smiled and added, "Unless you can score with it yourself -- that's even better."
Dallas came into the game with just eight takeaways. Among the 32 NFL teams, only Indianapolis had fewer (three). However, the Cowboys' defense took the ball away from the Eagles twice and scored with both of them -- a 47-yard interception return by cornerback Brandon Carr and a fumble recovery in the end zone by defensive tackle Jason Hatcher. Dallas also had a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown by Dwayne Harris.
"Big plays killed us," Eagles tight end Brent Celek said. "You can't give a good team like that three touchdowns on plays like that and expect to win."
It also didn't help the Eagles' cause that quarterback Michael Vick left the game late in the second half with a concussion and didn't return. Rookie Nick Foles replaced him and played in his first NFL game, with mixed results. He threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to give the Eagles a 17-10 lead in the third quarter, but the Cowboys turned his interception and fumble into 14 points.
"Obviously, he's a different quarterback," Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said about Foles. "We wanted to make it tough on him. We pressured him a lot, but that was our game plan coming into the game. You just want to make it fast for him. I thought our guys did a good job."
Vick's status for next week's game against the Washington Redskins hasn't been determined. He'll go through the NFL's protocol for concussions, and a decision will be made on his availability later this week.
"I felt a few butterflies at first, but that's natural," said Foles, who completed 22 of 32 passes for 219 yards. "Once I got into the huddle with my guys, I felt calm and confident. I just wish I had played better, because I turned the ball over twice, and you just can't have that."
The Eagles (3-6) took a 7-0 lead when Vick lofted a fade pass to wide receiver Riley Cooper, who went high in the air for a one-handed snag in the end zone. But the Cowboys (4-5) came right back with an 80-yard, 13-play drive that was capped by Tony Romo's 11-yard touchdown pass to running back Felix Jones.
Dallas made it 10-7 right after it was announced that Vick was through for the day. Bryant beat cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie down the right sideline for a 49-yard gain that set up Dan Bailey's 30-yard field goal with 3:44 left in the first half.
But the Eagles came right back with their first possession of the second half, and Foles got his first NFL touchdown pass, hitting a wide-open Maclin in the end zone.
Then Foles drove the offense close enough for Alex Henery to kick a 40-yard field goal, giving the Eagles a 17-10 lead with 4:32 left in the third quarter. Dallas tied it near the end of the third quarter when wide receiver Dez Bryant made a diving catch in the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown, setting the stage for the big plays in the fourth quarter.
"That was an unbelievable catch by Dez, and in my mind, it was the biggest play of the game," Romo said. "When we make plays like that and our defense takes the ball away like that, we can play with anybody."
NOTES: Sunday marked the first time since 1962 the Eagles and Cowboys both had losing records when they played each other. ... The Eagles lost a fifth straight game for the first time since 1998, Ray Rhodes' final year as coach before Andy Reid took over. ... The Eagles scored a touchdown in the first quarter for just the second time all season and the first time since Week 2 vs. the Ravens. ... Foles became the first Eagles rookie to throw a touchdown pass since running back Brian Westbrook threw one vs. Dallas in 2002. ... The Cowboys played without running back DeMarco Murray (foot), and the Eagles played without guard Danny Watkins (ankle). Philadelphia's King Dunlap moved from left tackle to right tackle, and Demetress Bell started at right tackle, changes that were necessary because right tackle Todd Herremans (foot) went on injured reserve this week.