This might be a first in 2013. Philadelphia’s defense is coming away from a game with a good report card—in itself is a pleasant surprise—while the offense that’s been so prolific since head coach Chip Kelly’s arrival is the recipient of overwhelmingly poor marks.
Despite the offense punting the ball away nine times and turning it over three more, the Birds defense did everything it could to keep the club in the battle for first place in the NFC East. Unfortunately, the defensive effort was nowhere near enough, thanks to one of the most abysmal quarterbacking displays we’ve seen in the NFL this season—yeah, that bad.
In our weekly report card grades, we score the quarterbacks, the defense, and everybody in between on some fairly simple criteria. "A" is virtually mistake-free; "B" is good; "C" is average, "D" is passable, and "F" is a complete failure to carry out basic tasks.
Rest assured, there were some of the latter—looking at you, Nick Foles.
What was that, Nick Foles? It sure wasn’t quarterbacking.
One week after authoring a near flawless road performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Foles looked completely lost under center for the Eagles. Simply put, the second-year passer demonstrated zero command of the offense versus the Cowboys.
He was inaccurate, indecisive, and completely ineffective.
Foles completed 11 of 29 passes for 80 yards, “good” for a whopping 2.8 yards per attempt. He failed to lead the Eagles into the end zone, and their lone scoring drive began in Dallas territory.
Foles eventually exited the game with a head injury, bringing on rookie Matt Barkley in relief. The fourth-round pick out of USC threw three interceptions in three possessions, so that was no help.
Any reasonable production at QB, and this would’ve been close a game if not a Birds win. Instead, they never had a chance.
From a production standpoint, it’s difficult to say what contributed most to LeSean McCoy’s worst game of the season. The offensive line didn’t appear to open many holes for the NFL’s leading rusher, nor did the Dallas defense have to respect the threat of the quarterback keeper with Michael Vick inactive (hamstring).
Whatever the case, McCoy’s moves at the line of scrimmage don’t always help. Sometimes the All-Pro back would be best served by running straight ahead and taking what’s there. He doesn’t have to turn every touch into a round of Dance Dance Revolution.
McCoy was limited to 55 yards on 18 carries for a 3.1 average with a long gain of 10 yards. He also had six receptions for 26 yards. Bryce Brown followed suit with two carries for four yards.
If there was so little room to run, how much can one fault Shady? For what it’s worth, McCoy was hard on himself after the game, describing this as one of his worst performances since he was a rookie.
It’s no secret the Eagles miss Jeremy Maclin. Defenses like the Cowboys will press DeSean Jackson at the line of scrimmage and shadow him with a safety over the top, because there’s nobody to keep them honest on the opposite side.
That said, you can’t blame the receivers for a horribly quarterbacked game. Nick Foles had open receivers, only he threw passes behind them...or overthrew them, or underthrew them. Or he flat out didn’t see them.
Minus one drop, Cooper was actually effective for the second week in a row, hauling in six passes for 88 yards. Foles couldn’t seem to hook up with Jackson or Jason Avant, though, as the two combined for six receptions and 55 yards on an astounding 20 targets.
Yet again, how many of those were catchable?
On another note, we’ve seen just about enough of Jeff Maehl out there. Maehl was targeted four times without a reception on Sunday. Somebody please explain what he brings to the offense that some guy sitting in section 118 doesn’t?
With the issues at wide receiver, one would think the Eagles would make more of a concerted effort to get the tight ends involved, and—well, they have actually. The problem is, they haven’t been very effective.
Brent Celek and Zach Ertz combined for four receptions and 42 yards on nine targets in Sunday’s loss. That’s neither efficient nor is it netting big gains. Furthermore, Celek has a big drop seemingly every other week, as he did yet again versus Dallas.
Yet again, James Casey is not even part of this offense.
Ertz is a rookie, so you can excuse him for being somewhat limited in his first season, but the Birds spent a nice chunk to bring Casey in over the offseason. And Celek’s drops are growing tiresome.
No love for these guys this week.
The Eagles’ offensive line has experienced its share of troubles in pass protection this season, but for the most part they did an adequate job of protecting Nick Foles. Much of the pressure felt like it was a result of the quarterback holding on to the ball too long.
The unit’s inability to open up lanes for LeSean McCoy was the larger problem. Philly’s backs carried 20 times for 59 yards—less than three yards per carry—and were frequently unable to get out of the backfield before there was a hat on them.
Without the threat of Mike Vick running quarterback keepers, and considering how ineffective Foles was throwing the football, it’s no wonder the Cowboys were able to key on McCoy. Then again, this is supposed be a dominant group of run-blockers.
Any way you slice it, they didn’t get the job done.
This was a really good game for the big uglies on the D-line, who controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the contest. The push up front was a big reason why the Dallas running game was held to under three yards per carry and essentially was a non-factor all afternoon.
Not only that, but line had a really strong game collapsing the pocket as well. Defensive coordinator Billy Davis called a lot of blitzes, which was a big reason the Eagles got so much pressure on Tony Romo, but the quarterback wasn’t able to climb the pocket like he so often does during his escapes.
Vinny Curry registered the group’s only sack, his second of the season—he seemed to see a noticeable uptick in playing time. Nothing flashy for Fletcher Cox, but Cedric Thornton really cleaned up at the point of attack, finishing with five tackles.
This was a much better performance from the unit as a whole. There was no running game to speak of, and Romo was contained.
Kudos to DeMeco Ryans, who I might be guilty of writing off too quickly. Ryans enjoyed his best game thus far of the season against the Cowboys and perhaps his best game since arriving in Philadelphia last year.
Not only was the eighth-year veteran responsible for one of Philly’s two sacks of Tony Romo, he also came up with a huge interception to swing the momentum. It was more of a right-place, right-time deal as Romo’s pass happened to sail right into the area where Ryans was trailing his man, but the play ultimately resulted in the only points the Birds would get.
Trent Cole and Connor Barwin weren’t exceptional on the outside, but they had strong efforts in run support. Again, Dallas averaged less than three yards per carry, and a big reason was these two coming in and finishing runs off before they really got going.
The play of Mychal Kendricks is still a problem at the interior spot opposite Ryans, but whether it was the game plan or what have you, the Eagles seemed to do a better job of hiding Kendricks on Sunday.
Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant wound up finishing with eight catches for 110 yards, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
For one thing, it took 16 targets to produce those numbers. Mainly though, Bryant had to fight off cornerbacks for virtually every grab.
Corners Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher were just the right amount of physical with Bryant, drawing only one flag for contact with the big playmaker. Fletcher also wound up with a pass deflection working against Dez, who is likely headed for his first Pro Bowl this season.
Eagles corners also kept Miles Austin off the stat sheet completely, although who knows what kind of accomplishment that is these days. Austin has gone without a catch since Week 3.
Slot receiver Terrance Williams did have six balls for 71 yards and a touchdown, but overall it was another solid day for the Birds corners. This has been a surprise strength for the club all season.
This was a solid day overall for Philadelphia’s much-maligned safety unit, starting with the basics. The longest gain the Eagles surrendered on the day was 26 yards, and they allowed only one other completion longer than 20 yards, which means the duo didn’t let the defense get beat over the top.
That was rookie Earl Wolff and Nate Allen for much of the day. Wolff pulled down his first career interception, outjumping Dez Bryant in the end zone on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half. The fifth-round pick had to exit later with a head injury, but Kurt Coleman filled in without notice.
Because the play up front was so good and the Cowboys ground attack was lacking punch, the safeties weren’t tested too much in run support. Regardless, they handled their business—which given the start to the season is all anyone can ask of them.
To give you some idea of how lame of an effort this loss was for the Eagles, Donnie Jones would merit some consideration for their player of the game.
That’s the punter in case you didn’t know.
Jones was called on to punt nine times, and he averaged 46.6 yards per attempt. He only downed one kick inside the 20, but that was largely a function of having poor field position all day.
Not much of note beyond that. Damaris Johnson is still a lousy return man, and Alex Henery had only one realistic field-goal try. The other was from 60 yards toward the end of the first half, a boot that had the distance but wound up falling wide.