Zone Read: Eagles-Cowboys, the Day After
ARLINGTON, Texas — Bennie Logan insists he wasn’t trying to create a stir.
The Eagles’ nose tackle was asked during the week about the Cowboys’ offensive line, and he made it quite clear that he wasn’t impressed. His comments seemed somewhat out of character, but Logan’s fellow defensive linemen Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton backed him up. They felt like they were a good group that has been flying the under the radar, and they were not going to be intimidated by the one of the league’s best rushing attacks.
“People had their own opinions about teams and things like that,” Logan said after the Eagles’ 33-10 win. “I’m a nobody. I’m a nobody. We’ve got a lot of nobodies up front. People don’t give us the credit and things like that. We just play football. We have fun when we do it. It wasn’t any big talk or anything, no big pressure or anything like that. We just wanted to go out there and have fun and just play our style of defense.”
The Eagles’ defensive line showed up in a big way, limiting DeMarco Murray to 73 yards and 3.7 YPC. Both numbers were season lows. This was just the second time in 12 games Murray failed to gain at least 100 yards.
Logan, Cox and Thornton haven’t received a lot of notoriety nationally, but they show up every week and do the dirty work. Logan entered Sunday’s game with more tackles than any other nose tackle in the NFL. And Thornton has played consistently well the past two years.
“Cedric Thornton, I don’t think he lost a battle all day,” said outside linebacker Connor Barwin. “He was great.”
And then there’s Cox. The third-year player has been a difference-maker all season long. But Thursday might have been his coming-out party to a national audience. Cox had two tackles for loss, a sack and a quarterback hit. He was disruptive all game long and looked flat-out unblockable at times.
“3-4 ends are probably the most underrated players out there,” Cox said. “They don’t get a lot of pub, but the folks upstairs know what I’m doing. I just let the people upstairs know what I’m doing and just take it from there.”
Added Chip Kelly: “I just think Fletch has been a disruptive force all year long. …He hadn’t had a lot of sacks, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t playing well. He’s been playing at a very, very high level. He creates a lot of havoc on the defensive line, especially in the run stuff. He had a big sack again today. Things are starting to come to him from a statistical standpoint, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t playing well earlier in the year. I think he’s been our best defensive lineman all year long.”
After LeSean McCoy’s fumble in the third quarter, the Cowboys took over at the Eagles’ 13. The defense had just gotten off the field and forced a punt two plays earlier. But Billy Davis’ group takes pride in picking up the offense after it gives the ball away. Considering the Eagles lead the NFL in turnovers this season, there have been a lot of these situations.
So Thornton ran back onto the field with helmet in hand and waved to the fans at AT&T Stadium to bring on even more noise. After Murray picked up 9 yards on first down, Cox shot through the backfield and dropped him for a loss on second down.
“I thought the play of the day was the turnover, 2nd-and-2,” said Barwin, who didn’t get the details exactly right. “Fletcher dominated that play and got a TFL, made it 3rd-and-4. We held ‘em to a field goal. I think that was the play of the game.”
Tony Romo crumpled to the ground for a sack on third down, and the Cowboys were forced to settle for a field goal.
“That’s huge,” said Kelly. “That’s what we talk about all the time. Just because you turn it over doesn’t mean that you’ve got to give up points, and I think when our defense can hold them to three instead of seven, that’s a little deflating for them.”
On 11 drives, the Cowboys punted five times, had three giveaways and turned it over on downs once. They managed just one touchdown and one field goal, which came as a direct result of a turnover on offense.
Asked if he wants more notoriety, Logan said: “I don’t like the fame. I just like being me. I’m a hard-working guy. I love what I do. I enjoy what I do every day.”
Cox deflected individual praise and talked about the team’s effort.
Thornton offered a cordial “Happy Thanksgiving” and said he had to run to meet his family.
Chances are the Eagles’ defensive line will continue to fly under the radar, but the three guys up front have been key in helping the the Birds to a 9-3 record and first place in the NFC East.