The Eagles and Cowboys went toe-to-toe last night on Sunday Night Football and all I can is, finally! Last year the Eagles and their fans were embarrassed getting swept by the Cowboys and knocked out of the playoffs. But this year is a new year. It was a heated back and forth battle between these two ball clubs but Philly gets the one big play to top the Cowboys 30-27. What an exciting game to watch.
All I can say is WOW! The Eagles all season long can almost give you a heart attack with these close encounters. It seems all their games this year comes down to the end. But unlike in years past the Eagles come out victorious in the close games. When the Eagles fell behind and then tied in the fourth quarter. Eagle fans always have that doubt in their head that the Eagles can’t pull it off in the close games and win it in the fourth quarter. Not this year, with “Starship 7” Michael Vick at the helm. It’s like a new offense when he is in there, the team rallies behind him and his leadership you just know and have that feeling he is going to get your team the W and he has done it all year long. He is 7-2 as a starter and the Eagles are 4-0 this season in games decided by three points or less. This was a big win for the Eagles with three weeks left in the NFL season. There were a lot of pros and cons that came from Sunday night’s win.
Offensively the Eagles did a tremendous job to move the football up and down the field on this shaky Cowboys defense. Michael Vick all season long has shown you what he can do on the football field. Lately, defenses have been finding ways to contain and control Vick. He hasn’t been as elusive and mobile to make plays with his feet. It’s games like these when he struggles, how he acts and overcomes the adversity which he did very well. He only had 16 yards on the ground but his ability to throw the football is outstanding! He puts the ball exactly where it needs to be like on the first play from scrimmage, connecting with Desean Jackson deep. It’s just unbelievable how his man can throw the football.
Vick had 270 yards passing and two scores. He was finding his targets all night spreading the ball around especially to Jackson, who put up the third best receiving game in franchise history with 210 yards on just four receptions and a game winning touchdown that went 91 yards to the house. This is a different Eagles team from the past. The one thing he has struggled with is the amount of turnovers he has committed. He has two more Sunday and five in the past four games. He has to hang onto the football and not turn the ball over, as it is a huge momentum shift.
One person who really impressed me was Lesean McCoy and the Eagles running attack. The Eagles seem to have found a new identity. The Birds are known as a team that likes to pass, pass, pass. But lately the Eagles have been very consistent with a balance attack and Sunday was no different.
Early on they were struggling to run the football. Normally coach Andy Reid is like if it doesn’t work why run it? Well he decided otherwise and it’s a good thing he did. McCoy racked up 149 yards on just 16 carries. He has developed into one of the best young backs in the game and his vision is amazing. He sees holes before they even open up and he doesn’t have the acceleration that most backs do but his ability to break free and make defenders miss is what makes him just do dangerous. What was really amazing and you don’t see this ever under Andy Reid, and that is sealing games at the end with the rushing attack.
The Eagles get the ball back with 4:22 left in the game up three and Dallas has all their timeouts. What do the Eagles do? Is the past they would throw, throw, throw. Not today. They ran all over the Cowboys D, picking up first down after first down moving the chains and seal the Eagles victory. This is something the Eagles have lack since Andy Reid came to this team and today they show that they can attack you through the air and also on the ground which makes this team and this offense just that much more dangerous. It keeps defenses on the edge not knowing that this offense is going to do and opens so much for game planning.
The offensive line is still a concern to me. Every week they have a new lineup in there and injuries are part of the NFL. But you must have depth with guys that can step in at any time and be a contributor. Tackle King Dunlap had to fill in for the injured Winston Justice and it wasn’t the best of games as he was getting beat again all day. He kept on missing blocks getting beat by Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. And because of that, the offensive line breaks down and Vick is forced to rush his throws and get hit. He was sacked twice in the game and hit five times. You don’t want your star quarterback as banged up as he is to get hit as much as he did. This unit has to come together play a lot better. Don’t get me wrong they did some good things. They did a decent job opening holes in the running game but still have to be more consistent and not let your quarterback get knocked around like a rag doll. This is going to be a big need this offseason.
Also third down and red zone efficiency has to improve. Luckily the offense was moving the chains on first and second down most of the night and getting the big plays. But when put in that situation you have to execute. The Eagles were only 3-11 on third down. You have to establish a rhythm and extend the drive. Otherwise you give the ball back to the opposing team and they can beat you especially with this Eagles defense. And when the Eagles are inside the 20 they have done better than earlier in the season. They have converted six times on 10 trips in last two games but still leaves a lot of points off the board. You can’t win football games by kicking field goals.
On the defensive side of the football the Eagles defense played a lot better than what they have had but the loss of Asante Samuel was still big. They still have struggled in coverage letting Jon Kitna pass for 242 yards and two scores but they were also able to make the big play and force two interceptions in the game. CB Joselio Hanson and Trevard Lindley played better but still had their mishaps. CB Dimitri Patterson had himself a decent game, with four tackles a pass deflection and to pick off a pass to set up the offense with fabulous field position. But the coverage still had its troubles containing the tight end, Jason Witten. Witten had two touchdowns in the game and 69 yards on seven catches. It’s just something about the TE that the Eagles can’t stop. The linebackers have all this speed but for some reason lose him in coverage.
The Cowboys offensive line was just too good. They were able to pick up blitzes and contain the Eagles pass rush. DE Trent Cole, Juqua Parker and others got some pressure but was picked up right away. Whenever they would get a rush, they would lose containment and the so-called “immobile” Kitna would break free from the pocket and take it himself to move the chains. Kitna was looking like Michael Vick the way he was breaking tackles and making plays with his feet. Who would have thought Kitna would end up with more rushing yards than Vick in the game, but he did a tremendous job to lead this offense and kept them in it.
Down 30-20 late in the fourth quarter to drive down the field and put the ball in the end zone was big. The Eagles just had no answer for him. They were able to sack him once but the rotation was hurting when first round pick DE Brandon Graham left the game with a knee injury and LB Stewart Bradley left with a dislocated elbow.
I was very impressed with the seventh round draft pick, LB Jamar Chaney. He stepped right in there and was able to make an impact right away. Those are players that you need on your team that can be a difference. He had a team high seven tackles and was a big part for the Eagles controlling the Cowboys rushing attack.
The Cowboys had over 100 yards rushing but this front seven of the Eagles did a very good job containing the big playmakers in the running game. RB Tashard Choice and Felix Jones could only manage 57 total yards on 20 carries. They were a non factor in this game and that is from that front seven clogging holes and making the sure tackle.
The worst red zone defense in the NFL still had its troubles, allowing the Cowboys to convert two of their three trips and let them right back in the football game. They allow teams to convert on almost 70% of their trips for touchdowns. If the offense has a bad game, the Eagles can’t win because their defense just gives up too many points and can’t find a way to stop teams inside the 20. And it’s not just one thing. They have troubles getting pressure, making the sure tackles and then breakdown in their coverages. They have to get better when this team faces stiffer completion if they want to make any run at the Super Bowl.
Then when it came to special teams, coordinator Bobby April has really brought this team a long way from the beginning of the year. Kicker David Akers drilled all three attempts and Sav Rocca owned the Cowboys by pinning them deep two of his three punts to give the Cowboys offense troubles with the long field. The return game with Jorrick Calvin has done well and the coverage units are making big plays. People over look special teams but they are often a huge factor and this time, they impressed.
Overall it was a good win for the Eagles and a much-needed win. They did well in all three phases of the game. Offensively moving the football in so many ways and putting up points. Defensively gave up some yardage and struggled but came through in the clutch, forcing turnovers. And special teams play a big part with field position and they took advantage of opportunities given to them.
The Eagles improve to 9-4 and 3-1 in the division. But what is also a big is they improve their conference record to 5-3. That is going to be crucial with three games left all against NFC opponents and next week the game that could decide the division when they travel to the new and improved Meadowlands to take on the New York Giants. The Eagles can’t lose that game next week if they want to make the playoffs a sure thing.
Rookie Graham’s season over; Eagles lose Bradley for regular season
The Eagles 30-27 win over the Cowboys Sunday night became bittersweet after hearing the news about first round pick, DE Brandon Graham. In his Monday afternoon press conference, Coach Andy Reid broke the news that Graham tore his ACL and his rookie season will come to an end.
Graham left in the second half of Sunday’s game after rolling his ankle when trying to sack Cowboys QB Jon Kitna. The Eagles selected Graham in this past April’s NFL Draft with the 13th pick and didn’t make the impact Eagles fans were hoping. His rookie season was an up and down slope with him in and out of the starting lineup. The Eagles had big things from him but he struggled all year to get off blocks and get around lineman making plays on the ball carriers. He has tremendous speed but his strength was lacking and he could only manage 13 total tackles, three sacks in 13 games this season.
The Eagles got some more bad news on the defensive side of the ball Sunday, when Reid announced that LB Stewart Bradley has a dislocated elbow, suffered in the second quarter, and will miss at least the rest of the regular season.
Bradley finished with 60 total tackles, seven passes defended, a sack, and an interception this season. His status for the playoffs at this time is unknown, but not out of question.
The fourth year veteran has been unfortunate with a laundry list of injuries in his career. Last year he missed the entire season with an ACL tear he suffered in training camp, this year he sustained a concussion in Week 1 against the Packers forcing him to miss a few games and now this.
The Eagles had high hopes for him coming into this season but has been injury prone and has struggled for most of the year. He has had problems clogging holes and has been a liability in coverage all season long. He wasn’t the playmaker they were hoping. The Eagles want their linebackers to be the big play makers and force turnovers which he hasn’t done. He is one of the better tacklers on this team but still declined a little. What makes this so big is he is the signal caller on defense and knows this play book even though he has problems executing it sometimes.
The Eagles brought in rookie LB Jamar Chaney to fill in for Bradley in the game. Chaney finished the game with a team high seven tackles and was also getting a lot more reps with the first team in practice the past few weeks. It is uncertain what the Eagles will do with their linebacker situation. It could be a battle between Chaney and LB Omar Gaither.