Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys secondary creates no fly zone for Eagles

Much will be said of the Dallas Cowboys’ defense shutting down DeMarco Murray and the Philadelphia Eagles’ running game, and rightfully so.

But the back end of the defense deserves just as much credit for Sunday’s 20-10 victory.

The Eagles’ top receiving threat, Jordan Matthews, didn’t have a reception until the fourth quarter when the Cowboys essentially had the game under control. First-round pick Nelson Agholor finished with only three catches for 31 yards.

And the Cowboys intercepted Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford twice.

“Great team effort,” cornerback Brandon Carr said. “Guys really focused in on their alignment, their assignment, their keys, technique, and we just relied on our speed to neutralize the up-tempo offense that prides itself on getting you all out of whack.”

The Cowboys never let the Eagles’ offense rattle them. They spent all week preparing for the up-tempo pace, with a few players feeling that the practice tempo was actually faster than the game.

That work paid off in a big way for the defense. As important as it was for the front seven to shut down the Eagles’ running game, it was just as important for the secondary to not let their passing game get going.

Both go hand-in-hand, of course, and the Cowboys are showing that their defense can be a strength and win games. That statement would have been laughable a couple years ago when they allowed the third-most yards in NFL history.

But the defense has changed the storyline rather quickly, and the secondary deserves credit. This is a unit that was the seventh-worst in the NFL last season and then suffered a blow when slot corner Orlando Scandrick was lost for the season with a knee injury.

“The back row, man,” defensive end Jeremy Mincey said, “just played their tails off. It was a great team effort.”

It started with containing Matthews, Philly’s dynamic slot receiver who opened the season with a 100-yard receiving game against Atlanta.

That task largely fell on second-year pro Tyler Patmon, who is filling in for Scandrick. And Patmon did an impressive job, eliminating Matthews’ presence for most of the game.

Matthews finished with six catches for 80 yards and a touchdown, but all of those came in the fourth quarter when the Eagles were in hurry-up mode for quick scores.

Sam Bradford’s longest pass was for 32 yards to Jordan Matthews.

“Tyler has always been a guy who is competitive by nature, and he’s excited about the opportunities to be in the game with us and go make plays,” Carr said. “He studies his butt off. He pretty much predicts what comes before it comes, like Scandrick. He’s just playing lights-out, so keep him there and continue to get better each and every week.”

The secondary also didn’t allow many big plays for most of the game with Bradford’s longest pass covering 32 yards. Bradford completed 23 of 37 passing for 224 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and a 65.6 passer rating.

“We’re just playing ball, we’re playing for one another,” said safety J.J. Wilcox, who had one of the interceptions.

“Everyone is staying within their role and we’re communicating and just playing fast.”

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @drewdavison

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