I admit I am a supporter of both Tony Romo and Mark Sanchez, in no small part because they have frequently been the target of snide, demeaning remarks from people who should know better. Thus it is with some very mixed feelings that I chose to root for Philadelphia to defeat Dallas in the Sunday game. I reasoned that Sanchez had more than his share of unfair criticism than Romo. Not unexpectedly, the analyst on the national radio broadcast, James Lofton, could not refrain from finding things to criticize Sanchez for even on outstanding plays in critical situations.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, an early muffed punt led to a 21-0 lead by early second quarter. A team could win with Sanchez, remarked Lofton, but could Sanchez actually win the game? Philadelphia proceeded to score 24 unanswered points to take a 24-21 lead in the third quarter. But after coming so far back to seemingly shift the momentum of the game irrevocably, the Eagles defense allowed the Cowboys to quickly strike back on a 78-yard drive on 8 plays to retake the lead 28-24.
After that it was anti-climactic; from then the Eagles simply looked like a team that had shot its wad and had no more left. A Sanchez interception led to a another Dallas touchdown, and a fumble by Brent Celek on a first down completion with the game still technically a one-score ball game led to a Dallas field goal and the final margin of 38-27. The Eagles’ offensive line—described by Seattle defensive players as “small and light”—allowed sacks on consecutive plays to stop one late “comeback” Eagles drive.
Sanchez actually played well after the first quarter, when he was only 1-3 passing and no yards—or at least until he threw his second interception with under two minutes to play that really sunk his passer rating. Until then he had completed 16 of 24 passes for 252 yards in three quarters, although had no touchdowns. Although the NFL’s leading rusher, DeMarco Murray, scored two touchdowns, the Eagles’ defense kept him in check, allowing him just 81 yards on 31 carries. It was the Tony Romo-Dez Byant Show, Romo completing 22 of 31 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns, with Bryant catching all three.
The win gives Dallas the lead in the NFC East, giving the lie to the assumption that the Cowboys—or rather, Romo—can’t win in December. The Cowboys still have to win at home against Indianapolis—no “easy” task, since the Cowboys are 3-4 in Dallas—while Philadelphia is must now win on the road against the Redskins and the Giant to even have a shot at making the playoffs; the way things are shaping up now, even an 11-win team may not make the playoffs, as did the Matt Cassel-led New England team in 2008, after Tom Brady went down with an injury early in the season.