Here’s a position-by-position review of the Eagles’ defensive performance against Dallas after having watched the coaches tape.
* This group limited DeMarco Murray to 51 yards on 17 carries (3.0 YPC). Cedric Thornton probably had the best game of any of the linemen. He combined with Bennie Logan to stop Murray after a 3-yard run in the first half. In the third, Thornton and Brandon Boykin dropped Murry for a 4-yard loss, putting Dallas in a tough third-down spot. Thornton finished with two tackles.
* Fletcher Cox was quiet – one tackle, no sacks, no hurries. Logan had three tackles. He pressured Kyle Orton and helped force him into a bad throw in the second.
* All three starting defensive linemen jumped early once, drawing flags.
* The backups were quiet as well. Vinny Curry had one hurry, hitting Orton on a deep ball attempt in the fourth and forcing him to rush his throw.
* Overall, the Eagles didn’t generate much of a pass-rush, but Orton did get rid of the ball quickly.
* Trent Cole had two tackles and a pair of hurries. He brought Murray down after a 3-yard run in the first. Cole came untouched in the third and hit Orton to help force an incompletion. Cole blew up a run play that ended up being stopped for no gain in the third. And he stopped Murray after a 2-yard run in the fourth. Cole had some issues in coverage though. It looked like he blew the coverage on a dumpoff to Murray that picked up 10 in the first. And later, he bit on a play-fake as Orton found Dez Bryant for 18 yards. Overall, OK game.
* Connor Barwin came up with the huge batted pass on fourth down in the fourth. He now leads all outside linebackers with seven batted passes, according to Pro Football Focus. Barwin had two tackles overall (no sacks, no hurries). He brought Murray down after a 2-yard run in the first. And Barwin did a great job tackling Murray in space after a short completion on third down in the third. The Cowboys had to settle for a field goal on the drive.
* This was one of Brandon Graham’s more productive games of the season. He had two tackles and a pair of hurries. Graham chased Murray down from the back side after a 1-yard gain in the second. He pressured Orton into throwing the ball away on the very next play. And Graham came up big on third down stop in the third, tackling Witten for no gain and forcing a punt.
* Overall, not much pass-rush from this group. No sacks and four hurries overall.
* Not a good day for DeMeco Ryans in coverage. He was the “low hole” defender in the first on Bryant’s 15-yard catch and run. Ryans got stiff-armed by Murray on an 18-yard catch and run. The 17-yard TD to Gavin Escobar looked like it was probably on Ryans. And it looked like Jason Witten was Ryans’ responsibility on the 28-yard completion in the second.
* Ryans had some good moments too, finishing with eight tackles. He brought Murray down for a 2-yard loss in the second and tackled Witten after a 3-yard gain.
* Mychal Kendricks saved the Eagles on a couple of occasions, coming up with the huge forced fumble in the first and later intercepting an Orton pass. Overall, he led the Eagles with 11 tackles. In the third, Kendricks made a great tackle in space after a completion to Murray, stopping him for no gain. And he tackled Witten after a 1-yard completion in the third.
* Witten beat Kendricks on several occasions. One was an 11-yarder in the second, then a 19-yarder in the third. In the fourth, Kendricks had Witten in man coverage and gave up a 34-yard completion. On most occasions, it wasn’t like Kendricks was beat badly or out of position. Still, a huge challenge coming up against Jimmy Graham.
* Cary Williams played one of his best games of the season. Early on, he gave up a 15-yard completion to Bryant on a slant. After that, he was lights out. Great job by Williams of not biting on a double move in the second. Excellent coverage on Terrance Williams on a deep ball in the third. Good coverage on Bryant on two deep balls down the sideline in the fourth.
* Bradley Fletcher was really good too. One thing to note is that most of the coverage issues were on the linebackers or safeties. Williams and Fletcher have put together back-to-back really strong games to close out the season. Good tackle by Fletcher on Bryant after a 6-yard completion in the first. Excellent tackle on Bryant after a 3-yard gain. Good coverage on a back-shoulder throw on the very next down. In the third, he tackled Miles Austin after a 6-yard gain on a screen. Later, he made a good tackle after a 6-yard gain on a crossing pattern.
* Boykin came up with the play of the game, intercepting Orton to seal the game. He had a pass break-up in the second and a great sequence in the third. On one play, Boykin fought through two Cowboys to help bring Murray down for a 4-yard loss. He then made a fantastic play on a deep ball to Bryant to help force a field goal. The only blemish was a 39-yard completion to Williams in the first (and the special-teams penalty). But overall, he played even better on tape than I thought initially.
* Nate Allen seemed to hold up well for the most part. Good tackle on Witten after a 5-yard completion in the first. And Allen tackled Witten for a 1-yard loss in the second. Tough to say whether he was supposed to help Boykin on the 39-yard completion in the second. Allen instead cheated up to double Bryant. In the fourth, he got beat by Witten for a 16-yard gain.
* Patrick Chung was put in a tough spot on the 32-yard touchdown to Bryant in the fourth. The Cowboys used motion to get a matchup they could exploit. Chung’s coverage was OK, but he failed to make the tackle and gave up the big play. Chung really didn’t have a lot of other breakdowns, as far as I could tell. He gave up an 11-yard completion to Witten in the second, but no other big plays.