The NFL regular season has finally come to an end. Week 17 for the Eagles ended in a NFC East battle with the Dallas Cowboys. Before the season everyone thought this would be the game that decided the NFC East, but that was not the case as it turned out Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles had already locked up the division and the #3 seed while the Cowboys will be sitting at home watching the playoffs from their couch. Nonetheless, whenever the Eagles and Cowboys do battle you can throw out the records because it’s always a heated matchup and that was the case again on Sunday.
Sunday’s loss was a close fight right down to the wire. The Eagles led for most of this game until Dallas QB Stephen McGee led the Cowboys down the field with a nine-play, 54-yard drive that was capped with a four yard touchdown catch by TE Jason Witten for the game winning score with less than a minute on the clock. For the Eagles, it was a meaningless game and a game for most guys to showcase to the rest of the NFL what they’ve got as many came out knowing this would be their last game in midnight green. Despite the loss there were a few Eagles who stood out.
RB Jerome Harrison and WR Chad Hall both had phenomenal games against the Dallas starting defense showing that they can perform at a high level in this league. Harrison was one yard way from his second 100 yard rushing game this season but had 116 total yards. As for Hall, he was doing it all — receiving, rushing, and returning.
The 5’7″ rookie from Airforce had a game high six receptions for 84 yards and his first touchdown of the game and finished with 117 yards on 10 touches. Both of these guys need to be used a lot more in this offense. Neither have had much of an opportunity but in this game they did and they performed very well. Harrison can take some of the load of Lesean McCoy as both are very versatile runners. And despite his size, Hall is a quick young receiver who, when thrown to, can make the clutch grab. Both players are in the final year of their contracts and could be brought back next year.
As for the backup QB Kevin Kolb, it was a different story. Going into Sunday’s game, there were people saying that if QB Michael Vick didn’t perform well in next week’s playoff game that he should get pulled in favor of Kevin Kolb. Well those talks might of silenced after Sunday’s game. Kolb had constant struggles all game long working with a horrendous offensive line and second and third stringers. He did not look comfortable in the pocket as he had pressure all game long and got flustered.
The once “quarterback of the future” just couldn’t get in a rhythm and after hearing about his magnificent mechanics, it didn’t show. He kept on throwing off his back foot and unbalanced. Also his inaccuracy showed all game especially with the deep ball and inability to find his receivers. He turned the ball over four times including a 17 yard fumble return for a touchdown by LB Demarcus Ware to tie it up at 7-7 and shift the whole momentum in Dallas’ favor. But with this offensive line you can’t take too much into Kolb’s performance. He did make some nice plays including a big pass to Chad Hall for 48 yards, but overall, his performance wasn’t very impressive.
The Eagles’ main offensive struggles continue to convert on third down and in the red zone. Again they could only convert on 25% on third down and were 1-3 in red zone efficiency which cost them. Kicker David Akers was able to rebound after last week but the team can’t settle for three inside the 20. I sound like a broken record but you need to execute and punch it in for seven. That is only way going to win football games. Hopefully some of the resting starters were taking notes.
The Eagles defensively played strongly the entire game right down to the end. They gave up a lot of yardage overall but as the late Jim Johnson said, “The most important stat is the amount of points you give up.” Well in this matter it was also a loss for the Eagles. They gave up only 14 points in the game but it was a crucial 14 points as the offense was again sluggish and couldn’t get in rhythm.
The inconsistent play of the offense affected the defense as they were kept on the field for about half of this game. And a big part of that was the ground and pound by the Dallas Cowboys in the running game. They slashed this defense for about 160 yards and averaged about 4.7 yards a carry. The front seven of the Eagles just got manhandled up front in the battle of the trenches by this big Cowboy’s offensive line. They couldn’t’ catch a break as they could only force one turnover in the game which was a fumble on a punt. They got pressure and were able to get to McGee twice in the game but didn’t rattle him one bit and was able to take advantage and make the needed throws to move the football. They need to get a more consistent pass rush from their front four so they can have more guys play back in coverage. The backups showed some light but they are backups for a reason and the Dallas offense showed that.
Overall it was a decent job by the second and third teams, as most of these guys are playing for jobs next season. But it would have been an extreme confidence booster for this football team to head into the playoffs on a high note. Instead they go in with a bad taste in their mouth after their performances in the past three games and on a two game skid. That is not the way you want to go in but have to put it behind you and prepare for Sunday’s Wild Card Matchup with the Green Bay Packers. They met in Week 1 of this year but this time a lot more is at stake. It’s do or die, winner moves on, loser goes home.
Offense- D: Kolb’s four turnovers doomed the team and the lack of protection by the offensive line had a lot to do with it. They could only manage 13 points in the game and couldn’t establish a consistent drive as they were horrible on third down. They couldn’t execute and take advantage of opportunities in the red zone. But they shed some light as the WR Chad Hall and RB Jerome Harrison put on a nice performance. Those two are only reason this grade isn’t worse.
Defense- C: The defense couldn’t take advantage of playing an inexperienced quarterback despite getting pressure and make him turn the ball over. They struggled against the run again as the three headed monster for Dallas dominated. But did only give up 14 points which was an improvement from past weeks, but it was a big 14 points since the offense couldn’t score.
Special Teams- A: Akers had a strong game and showed why he was voted into the Pro Bowl. Also punter Sav Rocca did a tremendous job giving the Eagles the edge in field position pinning the Cowboys deep inside the 20 numerous times. And the return game was not bad. It was a good night for Bobby April’s crew
Overall- C: It was an average night that had missed opportunities and bad breaks for the Eagles. But have to remember this game had no meaning for the Birds and played their backups for most of the game which they did a good job performing against the Dallas first string. But in the end they lost and go into the playoffs on a bad note.