Philly’s self-esteem sports weekend started Thursday night. This weekend, potentially one of Philly’s greatest that didn’t include winning a championship, was bursting with potential.
The stakes were high. The competition formidable. Civic pride and municipal well-being were on the line with two rivals trying to ruin everything.
The Phillies unexpectedly set the table, crushing the defending World Series champion Braves in back-to-back blowouts before wild and passionate crowds at Citizens Bank Park.
Even the Flyers, uninvited, joined the party and won the first two games of what is expected to be a long and unfruitful season.
Into another cauldron of even more fan emotion stepped the 5-0 Eagles on Sunday night. They faced a daunting task — beat the 4-1 Cowboys. They faced a secondary challenge — beat Dallas and look good doing it. Style points are for the trendy, but anything goes this weekend. Fans wanted another beatdown.
The fans got a 26-17 Eagles victory but not before some serious distress.
Eliminate the Braves and defeat the Cowboys in one weekend? Philadelphia hasn’t seen a weekend like this in, well, forever.
BIG SECOND QUARTER
The Eagles took control of Dallas in the second quarter, scoring 20 points. They went on a soul-sucking, 15-play, 80-yard drive that had the Dallas defense on call for seven minutes and 36 seconds. Miles Sanders ran the final five yards for the touchdowns.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts had a sharp first half, completing 11-of-17 passes for 111 yards and a 15-yard rollout pass to A.J. Brown for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
The revamped Eagles secondary had two interceptions and held the mythical Cooper Rush to a 5-of-16 completions for 36 yards in the first half. The Eagles’ picks were by C.J. Gardner-Johnson — off a deflection by James Bradberry — and Darius Slay. The two picks came on Rush’s first nine passes.
Slay’s interception led to the second of Jake Elliott’s field goals and a 20-0 lead.
The party slowed down when on the ensuing kickoff, Dallas’ KaVontae Turpin made a sensational 62-yard return to breathe much-needed life into the Cowboys.
Dallas had a touchdown overruled because receiver Noah Brown didn’t get both feet in. A Dallas field goal made it 20-3 at halftime.
Special teams have been an issue this season for the Eagles and a huge Cowboys’ kickoff return didn’t help.
The Eagles attacked Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons by not attacking him. They let Parsons make the first move and the Eagles worked around him. The strategy seemed to prevent him from dominating the game — as he can.
That would change in the second half. Everything would change in the second half.
Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson left the game before the end of the half with what NBC reported was a concussion. Johnson was the only Eagles offensive lineman not on the injury report last week.
Jack Driscoll, who was terrific in relief of Jordan Mailata the past two games, took over for Johnson and struggled with Parsons, as most players not named Lane Johnson do. In the second half, Parsons put on a ton of pressure, nearly had a pick-six and was part of a sack of Hurts.
Dallas stopped the Eagles on the first possession of the second half and were looking to sneak back into the game. Rush looked like a solid NFL quarterback on the Cowboys’ first drive of the second half — completing 3-of-3 passes for 41 yards.
Dallas drove 79 yards on nine plays and when Zeke Elliott slashed his way into the end zone on a 14-yard run, that 20-10 lead almost felt like a tie game.
Dallas cut the lead to 20-17 after a 93-yard drive fueled by poor Eagles tackling and Rush rolling right and repeatedly connecting with his tight ends.
This was the first angst a Philly crowd felt all weekend — the Phillies never trailed, nor did the Eagles.
An Eagles offense that had done nothing in the second half faced their biggest test of the season. The Cowboys were breathing fire, charging forward, hitting Hurts at every opportunity.
The Eagles returned to the ground game. They went 75 tense yards on 13 plays — 10 of them runs — to expand their lead to a more breathable 26-17, scoring on a play-action, 7-yard pass from Hurts to DeVonta Smith. This drive turned the game back around for the Eagles.
With 5:03 to play, Gardner-Johnson picked Rush for the second time, helped greatly by pressure on the quarterback by Brandon Graham. Gardner-Johnson’s interception put a halt to any idea Dallas had about a comeback. Gardner-Johnson had injured his hand earlier in the game and spent time in the locker room before returning to the game.
- “I’ll be fine,” Gardner-Johnson said about the hand injury. “I’m getting better. I’m adjusting still to the defense and playing where the coach tells me to play. Put your eyes in the right spot, read your keys and go get the ball.”
The Eagles’ nine-point lead felt safe. The Cowboys made a late drive and when they missed a 59-yard field goal that was the ballgame.
The joyous crowd poured into the South Philly night, thrilled with the win, overjoyed their Eagles remained unbeaten at 6-0, ready for a relaxing bye week.
This was Philadelphia’s weekend. Right now, this is Philadelphia’s world. Welcome to it.