IRVING, Texas – A player who hadn’t been with the Dallas Cowboys for more than two days was on the field in the fourth quarter as the Eagles tried to keep the game within striking distance.
Sterling Moore joined the Cowboys on Friday from the Patriots’ practice squad and answered the call on Sunday when the Cowboys needed an extra defensive back to help on passing downs.
“There’s an expression I use around here a lot with guys we picked up during the year,” said head coach Jason Garrett. “I say, ‘This guy’s been here for 15 minutes. You better be able to cover him. You better be able to block him.’ Fifteen minutes might be five or six weeks. Well, the Sterling Moore thing was actually 15 minutes. He was here for 15 minutes. He got here about 5 o’clock on Friday afternoon.”
Moore played in 14 games for the Patriots the last two seasons. The Cowboys had their eye on the SMU product ever since he left school, and they took the opportunity to snag him after he went to New England’s practice squad in early November.
He made one combined tackle in his two snaps Sunday.
“We’ve liked him,” Garrett said. “We’ve known about him for a while. He’s done a good job for the Patriots. We knew about him coming out of school. With the different injuries we’ve had in the secondary, we felt like he was the best answer for us, a guy who could probably play a little safety if we needed to; a guy who could play corner if we needed him to do that.”
Moore picked off two passes in six games last year for the Patriots and recorded 13 combined tackles in eight games this season before being released and signed to the practice squad.
Garrett commended the job secondary coaches Jerome Henderson and Joe Baker did getting Moore ready to contribute in a limited role with such short notice. After watching Moore in pre-game, Garrett knew the cornerback was fired up to play.
“They were doing kind of a ball drill and he literally tackled Gerald Sensabaugh to the ground,” Garrett said. “He wasn’t understanding the tempo of the drill, but we thought that was a good sign and he did play a couple snaps in the ballgame, was around one of the tackles. He really was a guy we had our eye on. We felt like he was a guy who could come in on short notice and play in a real particular role if we needed him to.”
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FRONT AND CENTER: Josh Brent says he’s making a name for the Cowboys defense, not necessarily himself
Josh Brent is making a name for himself in the defense. Every time he starts, he makes something happen.
“Making a name for this defense, the Dallas Cowboys defense” the third-year nose tackle said Sunday night after his forced fumble helped the Cowboys wrap up a 38-33 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles. “That’s what it’s about – show everybody how we can play, and this is how we need to play from here on out.”
Brent, starting in place of injured Pro Bowl veteran Jay Ratliff, knocked the ball out of the grip of Eagles rookie running back Bryce Brown in the fourth quarter. Morris Claiborne picked it up and ran it in from 50 yards, giving the Cowboys a 38-27 lead.
“I was just trying to make the tackle, just wrapping up, happened to force the ball loose,” Brent said. “Mo picked it up for six.”
Josh Brent can be called one of the Cowboys’ rising stars. He knows other rising stars when he sees them.
Including Bryce Brown, the Eagles rookie he forced the fumble against.
“Give him his just due,” Brent said of Brown, who rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns. “It wasn’t all on the defense. He’s a pretty good back. Everybody talks about LeSean McCoy. I think he, definitely, since LeSean has been out has made a statement for himself and that offense.
“He and Nick Foles are two pretty good young players, and Philly, looking into the future, is going to be a good team.”
The Cowboys, too, think Brent is pretty good young player. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said the third-year player is a natural nose tackle, but athletic and can cover ground laterally.
“He’s a two-gapping nose tackle. That’s the body type,” Garrett said. “But he’s also a pretty good athlete. He can make plays from side to side. I think he’s grown every week. I think he’s taken advantage of the opportunity we’ve given him.”
Brent, a a seventh-round supplemental pick in 2010, was starting Sunday night for Jay Ratliff. He played in Ratliff’s place in the first four games of the season and recorded 15 tackles, a sack and two quarterback pressures.
But even when Ratliff came back, Brent continued to make plays. At Carolina, he had a quarterback pressure that resulted in an interception for Claiborne. At Atlanta, he split a sack with DeMarcus Ware. Against Cleveland, he broke up a pass. And on Thanksgiving, again starting for Ratliff, he had four tackles and a pressure.
“It’s a step forward always, when it’s a win,” Brent said, asked if he believes he has taken a step forward this year.
Brent came into Sunday’s game 10th on the team in tackles.
BATTLE IN THE TRENCHES: Jason Garrett wants Doug Free to keep fighting, line got better later in the game
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he did not consider benching right tackle Doug Free in Sunday night’s game against the Eagles.
“No. Just keep battling in there,” Garrett said, asked if the team considered replacing Free after halftime. Free gave up a sack and a half, had a holding penalty and had another holding penalty negated by offsetting penalties as he struggled with Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham.
“Doug’s been a good player for us,” Garrett said. “The strength of their defense is those defensive ends. They can really rush the passer. They get in those ‘Wide-9’ techniques and really come after the passer and they present some problems. Doug just has to keep battling. I thought as the game wore on, he played better.”
Garrett said the Cowboys as a unit protected better in the second half. Quarterback Tony Romo did not throw an incompletion in the second half.
“I thought our line battled as the game wore on,” Garrett said. “In protection, I thought the run blocking was fairly consistent throughout, and over time, you wear them down a little bit. But it’s a very good defensive front. They put a lot of different pressure on you. Those guys did a good job up front. Tony was very efficient.”