Cowboys winning TO battle entering Eagles game

Field Level Media

September 23, 2021 at 9:19 pm.

The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys are even in the standings but on opposite ends of the turnover table heading into Monday night’s NFC East clash in Arlington, Texas.

The Cowboys (1-1) enter their home opener with a league-high six takeaways (four interceptions, two fumble recoveries) and a league-leading plus-four turnover differential.

The Eagles (1-1) were the only NFL team that didn’t turn the ball over through two weeks. However, Philadelphia is also one of just two teams, with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have yet to force a turnover.

The latter situation won’t be any easier without disruptive defensive end Brandon Graham, who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in the 17-11 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the Eagles’ Week 2 home opener. Graham has forced 19 fumbles — tied for third-most in franchise history — and recovered seven for Philadelphia since 2010.

“Everyone has to try to fill that void collectively, because one guy is not going to be able to do that,” said first-year defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon of replacing Graham.

As for the lack of takeaways, Gannon said it’s too early in the season to consider it a problem.

“I think that you saw some hands on the ball last week and those will come,” he said. “It’s like the head coach (Nick Sirianni) talks about, ‘What you know is to be true, you keep doubling down on that process in how we practice and how we prepare, how we talk about taking the ball away, they will come.’ So, I’m not real concerned about that.”

Takeaways would help Philadelphia slow down a Dallas offense averaging 435.0 yards per game and converting an NFL-best 55.6 percent of its third-down opportunities.

The Cowboys averaged 6.4 yards per rush and 8.8 yards per pass in last Sunday’s 20-17 road victory against the Los Angeles Chargers, capped by Greg Zuerlein’s 56-yard field goal as time expired.

It was a balanced offensive effort for Dallas, with Dak Prescott completing 23 of 27 passes for 237 yards and seven guys catching multiple passes. Running backs Tony Pollard (140 scrimmage yards) and Ezekiel Elliott (97 scrimmage yards) each scored a rushing touchdown.

“We wanted to get the run game going to hopefully get some play-action pass off that,” coach Mike McCarthy said after the Cowboys gained their most rushing yards (198) since 2019.

Pollard rushed 13 times for 109 yards, his third career 100-yard game, and Elliott added 71 yards on 16 carries.

“T.P., he ran his tail off,” Elliott said. “He’s a great back, all-around, can catch it and run it. He’s smaller but he runs hard, breaks a lot of tackles. He had a hell of a day. I’m proud of him.”

Pollard’s production could mean a larger role against the rival Eagles.

“We just wanted to go with who’s hot,” Pollard said. “We both feed off each other. If he was hot, we would have went that way. It just turned out this way.”

Cowboys linebacker Keanu Neal landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday. Offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe (illness) and defensive linemen Dorance Armstrong (ankle) and Carlos Watkins (knee) have been ruled out for Monday, while wide receiver Amari Cooper (ribs) was limited in practice Thursday.

Eagles tight end Zach Ertz went on the COVID list on Monday after a positive test. Defensive tackles Fletcher Cox (illness) and Hassan Ridgeway (illness), center Jason Kelce (foot) and linebacker Davion Taylor (calf) did not practice Thursday. Running back Miles Sanders (chest) and safety Rodney McLeod (knee) were limited participants.