PHILADELPHIA — In an unexpected defensive tussle, the depleted Dallas Cowboys delivered the knockout punch.
Tony Romo threw for 317 yards and one touchdown, a banged-up defense shut down Chip Kelly’s prolific offense and the Cowboys overcame a sluggish start to beat the Philadelphia Eagles 17-3 on Sunday to take sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
At least there won’t be a quarterback controversy in Philadelphia after this one. Nick Foles was awful leaving with a head injury.
“Obviously, our defense was outstanding,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “That offense challenges you in so many ways. They have a really good scheme. Our defense played sound, played together. They were physical and our tackling was outstanding.”
Two teams that averaged a combined 58.2 points per game and allowed a combined 55.2 totaled 13 punts in a first half that ended with Dallas (4-3) leading 3-0. It was more two inept offenses than two dominant defenses.
A Cowboys defensive line missing three of its projected starters pressured and harassed Foles until putting him out on the final play of the third quarter. With Michael Vick inactive because of a hamstring injury, Matt Barkley made his NFL debut and threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter.
“I was maybe a little too aggressive on some of those throws, trying to advance the ball down the field and help our team win,” Barkley said. “I learned a lot today. I’ll learn even more watching the tape.”
The Eagles (3-4) have lost a franchise-worst nine straight games at home. Their last win at the Linc was over the New York Giants on Sept. 30, 2012.
Dallas played without four-time All-Pro defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who missed the first game in his nine-year career because of a quadriceps injury. Anthony Spencer, the end opposite Ware, is out for the season after knee surgery. Four-time Pro Bowl tackle Jay Ratliff was released during the week after failing a physical.