By Mary Cunningham
Dez Bryant scored three touchdowns to ignite Dallas’s 38-27 win over the rival the Eagles on Sunday as the Cowboys regained control of the NFC East.
Before the game he got into a shouting match with Philly safety Malcolm Jenkins.
And then he torched woeful Eagles corner Bradley Fletcher (photo above) for 114 receiving yards that gave the Cowboys their biggest win of the season.
“I just didn’t make the plays I needed to make,” Fletcher said in what has to be the understatement of the century. “It’s something that I have to live with. I just have to get back to work and get better. That’s all I can do.”
That may be all Fletcher can do, but the Eagles have the ability to do something else after 14 games: Bench him.
With Fletcher struggling, the time might have finally arrived to give cornerback Nolan Carroll a shot at starting. Carroll has been solid in spot duty this season on the outside, and performed well when asked to cover tight ends.
After giving up three scores to Bryant, Fletcher has allowed nine touchdowns this season, the most of any cornerback in the league. Teams are throwing at him early and often: He is one of only six cornerbacks who have been targeted more than 100 times this season.
When asked after the game if Fletcher is making the same mistake, defensive coordinator Billy Davis gave an alarming answer.
“No they’re different ones,” Davis said. “The first one, he got beat on. I thought he looked too soon. He wasn’t in phase with the receiver, and the second one was just a throw and catch and he just got beat and the ball was perfectly thrown.”
“I was focused,” Bryant told reporters after his first career three-touchdown effort.
“We knew this game was going to be big. From here on out there’s big games. We have to block everyone else out.”
Dallas (10-4) moved one game in front of the Eagles (9-5) for first place in the division after they had relinquished the top spot on Thanksgiving when Philly handed them a 33-10 blowout defeat.
In the rematch, the Cowboys raced out to a 21-0 lead before the Eagles responded with 24 straight points to seize the lead.
Dallas responded with a long drive and a two-yard TD run from DeMarco Murray, and Bryant caught his third score to give the visiting Cowboys a 35-24 lead.
Both teams added late field goals, and Philly’s chances were hurt by a fourth-quarter Brent Celek fumble – one of their four turnovers on the night.
Philly trailed by eight points with about eight minutes left when Celek caught a pass and lost the ball on a play that had to be reviewed.
“It’s the same broken record we talk about each week — we can’t turn the football over and expect to win,” said Eagles coach Chip Kelly. “We put ourselves in too big a hole to start.”
Birds quarterback Mark Sanchez continued his up and down performance since taking over for injured starter Nick Foles. Sanchez completed 17 of 28 passes, tossed two interceptions and no scores.
Little-used running back Chris Polk had two touchdowns for the Eagles.
Dallas has been known for their late-season collapses in past seasons but this time around they are shedding the reputation, recovering from the early blown lead to overcome the Eagles.
“You just stay in the moment, try to forget about the score,” said Dallas QB Tony Romo, finishing with 265 yards and the three TDs.
“Having a guy like Dez makes it easy to throw to spots that he can go get it. We’re lucky to have him.”