Dallas Cowboys

Defense recovers to save Cowboys from meltdown

Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez, left, was sacked four times by the Dallas Cowboys defense.
Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez, left, was sacked four times by the Dallas Cowboys defense. Star-Telegram

It had a bad feeling to it.

The Dallas Cowboys’ defense went into meltdown mode early in the second half and it appeared that the Eagles would take full advantage.

The Eagles rallied from a 21-point deficit to take a brief lead, but the Cowboys’ defense eventually gathered itself.

Safety J.J. Wilcox came up with an interception to set up a touchdown drive by the offense to make it a two-possession game again; then the defense held the Eagles to a field goal, widely considered a “win” for this group; and then Wilcox produced another turnover to essentially seal the game.

In the end, the defense did enough in helping the Cowboys leave Lincoln Financial Field with a 38-27 victory and the NFC East lead on Sunday night.

Disaster averted. Barely.

It started off so promising, too. Two weeks after making Mark Sanchez look like a franchise quarterback and struggling to contain LeSean McCoy, the Cowboys’ defense opened with consecutive three-and-outs.

The offense capitalized by grabbing an early 21-0 lead. But things took a turn for the worse rather quickly.

The Eagles marched 84 yards in 11 plays early in the second quarter for their first score, and then added a field goal later on to cut the deficit to 21-10 by halftime.

Things continued to unravel in the second half.

Cornerback Brandon Carr became the poster boy for the wrong reasons once again when Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin burned him on a 72-yard pass play. Carr badly misjudged the ball, going for the interception instead of the tackle.

That set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Chris Polk as the Eagles pulled to within 21-17.

The Eagles then got the ball back on the Cowboys’ 14 after Tony Romo fumbled, and promptly scored to take the lead. The Cowboys helped the Eagles on that series, as well, when defensive tackle Terrell McClain drew a personal foul penalty on the first play, and two plays later, Eagles running back Darren Sproles strolled in for a 1-yard score.

Fortunately for the Cowboys, though, the defense regrouped.

Wilcox intercepted a deflected pass that shifted the momentum back to the Cowboys. He had a bigger turnover than that later in the fourth quarter when he stripped Eagles tight end Brent Celek of the ball.

Celek fell on top of Wilcox, who pried the ball loose with Kyle Wilber recovering.

It just got better from there. The Cowboys sacked Sanchez twice during a series late in the fourth quarter, one by Tyrone Crawford and the other by Jeremy Mincey. Crawford and Mincey each finished with two sacks.

That was a drastic improvement from the Thanksgiving game. The Cowboys’ defense only had one sack that day, as well as allowing 464 total yards.

McCoy, meanwhile, was held to just 64 rushing yards after gashing the Cowboys for 159 in the first meeting.

As stated, it wasn’t pretty at times but good enough. And that’s all that matters at this point.

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @drewdavison

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