It meant nothing in the standings, and basically nothing in the stat books (though several Eagles players padded their 2016-17 statistics Sunday), but Philadelphia’s Week 17win against the NFC East champion and NFC No. 1 seeded Cowboys was a sweet way to start the new year.
And though they showed several weaknesses along with bright spots in a 27-13decision against the shorthanded, resting Cowboys, a sense of hope will prevail this offseason.
Carson Wentz(27-for-42, 245 yards, two touchdowns)had a solid afternoon, passing his way to the top of the all-time rookie completions list — as well as several other team records. Zach Ertz had a monster day as did Jordan Hicks as the defense bent but didn’tbreak, holding Dallas to 195 yards of offense (Philly had 346). The special teams unit, once again among the best in the NFL, also flexed its muscles with a late fourth quarter punt block near the end zone that set up Terrell Watson’s first career touchdown run to add some insurance to the victory.
Here’s a brief look at what we’ll take with us from the season finale as the 2016 Eagles (7-9) turn the page to 2017:
When in Romo
Perhaps the most compelling storyline in Sunday’s game was the 2016 debut of Tony Romo, likely an audition for whichever trade partner (Jets, Browns, Broncos) the Cowboys intend to deal with this offseason.
Amid incessant boos throughout his entire first drive, Romoovercame a near interception on his first throw to lead Dallas on an impressive 81-yard drive that saw Romo find Terrance Williams for a three-yard touchdown toss.
Right from the start, theCowboys sat stars Sean Lee, Tyron Smith, Ezekiel Elliott. After Dak Prescott (two series) and Romo’s short stints under center (one series), Philly got a blast from the past with Mark Sanchez took over. The former Eagle got his first points on the board as a Dallas QB after leading a 66-yard march for a field goal to start the third quarter and give Dallas a 13-10 lead.
The Eagles tried moving their ace linebacker Jordan Hicks outside, just to see what would happen. What happened was Hicks — perhaps single-handedly— keeping Philadelphia in the game Sunday.
Not long after Hicks tipped and picked off a Sanchez throw (immediately following a successful Pederson challenge on a deep Cowboys pass) the defense took the field again toward the end of the second quarter and Hicks once again snagged a Sanchez pass to set the Eagles offense up in the Cowboys zone. The second-year linebacker has four career interceptions in three games against Dallas. He also led the Eagles’ defense with five solo tackles and two passes defended.
A 13-yard Wentz scramble on third down set up a six-yard touchdown pass toErtz to tie the game at 10 heading into the half.
Ertz so good
Zach Ertz’ career stats don’t have an asterisk on them, but he’s had a handful of games like he had Sunday afternoon — corralling 13 passes for 139yards in a meaningless Week 17 game against the Cowboys. He caught a sliding touchdown with seven seconds to play in the first half to knot things at 10-all and added a second, this time diving and making an over-the-shoulder grab to put Philly ahead 17-13 10 minutes into the third.
Another Ertz-fueled drive (a 14-play, 75-yard one) helped the Eagles add a field goal to push their lead to a comfortable seven.
The connections Sunday and in recent weeks between Wentz and Ertz are reassuring to Eagles fans as the pair will be key to the offense’s success in 2017.