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Eagles assert division dominance in win over Cowboys

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  • By Jeremy Bergman NFL.com
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The Philadelphia Eagles (9-1) cemented their eminance in the NFC East, pulling away from the Dallas Cowboys (5-5), 37-9, thanks to a dominant second half on Sunday Night Football in Week 11:

1. Carson Wentz shook off an uncharacteristic first half, during which he completed 39 percent of his passes and blew two opportunities to turn turnovers into points, to shellack the Cowboys in the final two frames. Wentz led three straight touchdown drives out of the half, aided by a guess-who running game (more on that soon), throwing two TD passes and running a better boot game than Dak Prescott in the Cowboys quarterback's own building.

Thanks to Philly's bounce-back half, the Eagles put up more than 30 points for the sixth time in 10 games and the fifth over their last six. Wentz is the league leader in touchdown passes (25) on the team with the best record in all of football. That's usually a guarantee for MVP consideration, if not a recipe to run away with the honor altogether. With the NFC East race in the rear view, the Eagles have the look of a bona fide Super Bowl contender with Wentz as their capable captain.

2. Philadelphia's running-back-by-committee approach is paying dividends just three weeks into the Jay Ajayi Era. With 215 rushing yards on Sunday, the Eagles have compiled their best two-game stretch on the ground this season (412 yards). LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement and Kenjon Barner each got meaningful snaps against the Cowboys, but it was Ajayi, in only his second game as an Eagle, who broke the game open in the second half. On Philly's back-to-back scoring drives, Ajayi set the pace. First: An eight-yard first-down run shortened the distance for the Eagles' first third-down conversion of the game, a picture-perfect roll-out and toss-back to Brent Celek. Then: Ajayi's career-best 71-yard run, sprung by Jason Kelce on Anthony Hitchens, took Philly out of the shadow of its own end zone and into scoring position. Ajayi's change of pace altered the course of the game, and his night underscores Philly's most vital advantage over most of its opponents: The Eagles have more talent on offense, man-to-man, than you do. When you focus too much on one position or one player, you get exposed for big gains without warning.

3. Tyron Smith's absence loomed large over the Cowboys for a second straight loss. Byron Bell took the place of Chaz Green, who was posterized by Adrian Clayborn and his six sacks last week, at Smith's left tackle spot. Bell fared better against Derek Barnett, but man, that's a low bar. Bell was beaten by the destructive Eagles rookie defensive end at the worst times, surrendering three QB hits, two Barnett sacks and a game-sealing strip-sack touchdown. Smith has only four days to recover before the Cowboys play next. If he's not available, Bell and right tackle La'el Collins will have to go at it alone against the Chargers' dynamic duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. That spells trouble.

4. An underrated Eagles secondary was buoyed by the return of Ronald Darby against the Cowboys. Darby recorded an interception, two passes defensed and a team-high eight tackles in his first game since Week 1, leading a Philadelphia pass defense to hold Prescott to just 143 passing yards and a career-worst three interceptions. Adding Darby to that Eagles defensive backfield is akin to plopping a Pro Bowl-caliber cherry right on top of Philly's victory Sundays (sundaes?). The Eagles now boast a surplus of talent in the secondary, which can only help down the stretch.

5. Speaking of Dak ... sans Smith and Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys quarterback had one of the worst games of his career on Sunday night. Dak missed throws short and high, rushed passes into high-risk areas to beat the Eagles' pass rush and struggled to find his most reliable targets once again. Jason Witten caught just one ball on one target; and Dez Bryant was targeted 16 times, but he recorded only eight catches, many of which came after Dallas was already down three scores. The running game was not the problem; Alfred Morris averaged 5.4 yards per tote as he rattled off 91 rushing yards. But Dak couldn't capitalize on ensuing play-action plays. The confluence of Smith and Zeke's absences is clearly messing with the Cowboys' philosophy on offense and will likely keep them from making a realistic postseason run, but Prescott should not be without blame.

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