Roob's Obs: Hurts' answer, Gardner-Johnson's toughness, and more


OK, you can all breathe again.


The Eagles once again nearly blew a big lead, but a monster 4th-quarter drive and some timely defense added up to a 26-17 win over the hated Cowboys at the Linc.

MORE: Eagles overreactions: Why that's a good win, not a great win

The Eagles go into the bye week 6-0, one win short of the best start in franchise history – the 7-0 start by the 2004 team. They remain the only undefeated team in the NFL. They remain in first place in the NFC East. They remain the best team in football.

Lots of deep breaths.

1. My biggest takeaway from this game is just how much toughness Chauncey Gardner-Johnson showed by returning to this football game when he was clearly in tremendous pain after suffering a hand injury in the third quarter. A lot of guys don’t return to the game. You suffer an injury like that, you’re in the locker room or on the sideline watching. Gardner-Johnson not only came back in the game, he made another huge play with his second interception of the game and third in the last two weeks, and it was a miraculous diving INT where he had to get his hands – including that injured hand - under the football to secure the INT and lock up the win with 5:16 left. What a gutsy performance by a guy who wasn’t even here till after training camp. To me, that play epitomizes this team. It’s not about yourself. It’s about the team. And nobody displayed that more Sunday night than Gardner-Johnson.

2. This Cowboys defense was the biggest challenge Jalen Hurts has faced in his young career, and, wow, did he ever answer. That’s a really big-time defense that came to the Linc Sunday. And Hurts was just in command from start to finish despite being under seige for much of the second half. He made all the throws, made the right decision every snap, once again made no major mistakes and just really took exactly what was given to him. He didn’t force anything and just saw the field incredibly well. He’s just so calm when there’s chaos around him, and his teammates feed on it. He’s playing the game at such a high mental level right now, and he has the physical ability to execute what he wants to do. Hurts finished 15-for-25 for 155 yards with two passing TDs, no turnovers once again and a 104.6 passer rating – highest by far this year against the Cowboys. Hurts has now won nine consecutive regular-season starts, and this one might have been the most impressive.

3. That 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that gave the Eagles some breathing room midway through the fourth quarter was an absolute masterpiece. The 20-point lead had dwindled down to three, the Cowboys had just put together two long TD drives, the Eagles had netted six yards on their first two drives of the second half, the crowd at the Linc was getting skittish, and Lane Johnson and Landon Dickerson were both sidelined. OK, go score. And they did. I really liked the concept of the drive, which was to run, run and run some more with all three backs and with Hurts – 10 of the first 11 plays of the drive were runs – and then hit ‘em with a couple passes, a 22-yarder from Hurts to Brown and the 7-yard TD to Smith that let everybody start breathing a little bit. There was a lot working against the Eagles on that drive, but the o-line opened up some nice holes for the running backs, and Hurts made two huge throws at the end. Biggest drive of the year.

4. Loved the way Shane Steichen mixed up his running backs. Boston Scott got the first carry, then Miles Sanders got one, then Kenny Gainwell got two in a row, including a big nine-yarder. And then those three guys rotated throughout the game, and they all made plays. And if we don’t know who’s getting the ball next, the Cowboys sure don’t know. All three running backs have different sizes and shapes and skill sets, and every way you can be unpredictable makes you tougher to defend. Sanders ran really hard and finished 18-for-71 with a touchdown, Gainwell was 5-for-25 and Scott added 16 yards on six carries. It adds up to 136 yards on 39 carries against a pretty stout defense. The Eagles have three talented running backs, and Steichen made sure they all contributed.

5. The one thing that really allowed the Cowboys to get back into the game was the Eagles’ inability to slow down the Cowboys’ running game. The Cowboys, kind of like the Lions in the opener, kept running the ball, even after they fell behind by a couple touchdowns. And the Eagles couldn’t stop them. This has been a surprisingly bad run defense all year – they came into the game allowing 5.0 yards per carry – 25th-best in the league – and the Cowboys took advantage of it. They knew they couldn’t throw consistently against this pass defense, not with Cooper Rush. Their only chance was to stick with the running game, and it almost worked. The Cowboys averaged 5.2 yards on 26 carries, and they made Ezekiel Elliott look like it was 2016 again. There’s no excuse for the Eagles to be this bad against the run. Not with this defensive front.

6. One thing this game did was remind everybody just how freaking good Lane Johnson is because once he left with a concussion in the second quarter, the Eagles really began struggling on offense. Jack Driscoll is a high-effort guy and he’s versatile, but he’s no Lane Johnson, and we saw it Sunday night. With Johnson out, the Eagles really had trouble protecting Hurts. Fortunately, the Eagles have a bye next weekend and you would think he’ll be back for the Steelers in two weeks. But with him, there’s no way the Cowboys get back in this game.

7. Special teams remains this team’s Achilles' heel, allowing KaVontae Turpin’s 60-yard kickoff return that set up the Cowboys’ field goal at the end of the first half. So far this year, the Eagles have had a field goal blocked, allowed a fake punt first down on a 4th-and-6, committed a personal foul on a field goal and now allowed a 60-yard kick return. Just inexcusable stuff. On top of shaky return games. So far, these screw-ups haven’t cost the Eagles a win, but this is bad. If Michael Clay can’t get it fixed, Sirianni needs to find a special teams coach who can.

8. One thing the Eagles have been very good at that’s served them well has been not allowing big plays. They allowed four 25-yard plays in the opener in Detroit and have allowed just five in five games since – none Sunday night. They’ve actually only allowed three 30-yard plays all year. That doesn’t guarantee anything, but it makes it that much harder for teams to score against you.

9. I can’t over-state how huge it is for the Eagles just to beat Dallas. Just to find a way. No matter how it happened. I know Sirianni doesn’t want to talk about it, and I get that. He always wants his guys focused on the next rep, the next practice, and all that. But the Eagles had lost seven of nine to Dallas, seven of the last 10 at the Linc and 22 of their last 35 overall to their biggest rival, and they’ve swept them twice in the last 17 years. So this is huge. Just to get over the mental hump. Just to prove they can do it. Just to let the Cowboys know they don’t have the Eagles’ number. You can’t be the best team in football if you’re not the best team in your division, and the Eagles showed Sunday night they’re still the best team in football.

10. All of a sudden the Eagles don’t just have the best record in the NFL, they’re on the brink of really putting the clamps down in the race for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Because they’re sitting here at 6-0 and there are only three other teams in the conference that even have winning records. And the Eagles have beaten two of them. The Giants and Vikings are 5-1 and the Cowboys are 4-2, and the Eagles already have head-to-head wins over Minnesota and Dallas. Which leaves the Giants as the only team that’s even within one game of the Eagles. And they keep finding ways to win games and they’ve got a legit defense and a solid running game, but if they’re the Eagles’ biggest challengers in the NFC I like the Eagles’ chances to earn home-field advantage. The most amazing thing is that the Eagles, Cowboys and Giants are a combined 13-1 against teams other than each other. The Eagles and Giants don’t play until Week 14 at the Linc and then the last day of the season at MetLife. I still think the Cowboys are the second-best team in the conference, but those Giants games are now looming huge.

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