The last time the Eagles played in Cowboys Stadium (aka the JerryDome), they were embarrassed, and the Donovan McNabb era effectively came to an end. The 34-14 playoff loss (combined with the 24-0 loss the week before) showed that major changes needed to be made, and so McNabb was traded away.
Last night’s game was a different story. By defeating the Cowboys, the Eagles kept hope alive that they will play a game in Dallas once again this season—in the Super Bowl.
For some reason, it feels like every time the Eagles play on Sunday night, the game tends to unfold in a similar manner: The Eagles take an early lead but are unable to pull away. The Eagles then make a key mistake in the second half allowing their opponent to go in front. And finally, the game comes down to whichever team makes a few big plays down the stretch.
Here are some examples from recent years:
Eagles vs. Giants—2010
Eagles vs. Giants—2009
Eagles vs. Bears—2009
Eagles vs. Cowboys—2009
Eagles vs. Bears—2008
Eagles vs. Patriots—2007
Fortunately, the Eagles have been making the big plays down the stretch and winning games this season.
Most of the Eagles success on offense this season has come thanks to big plays made by Michael Vick. But on a night when Vick wasn’t at his best, two other Eagles stepped up their performances to lead the team to victory.
DeSean Jackson had over 200 yards receiving, and the biggest play of the game was his 91-yard touchdown run that gave the Eagles the lead. Vick fired a pass to Jackson that the defender unsuccessfully attempted to pick off, leaving Jackson with a lot of open space. He then raced down the field before stylishly splashing into the end zone.
Side note: Should that have been a taunting penalty on Jackson? I thought the penalty was for excessive celebration after the score. But Jackson’s flop was part of the scoring process and should have been exempt.
LeSean McCoy also had a huge game. He had a 36-yard run to set up the tying score. Late in the fourth quarter, with the Eagles trying to kill the clock, he picked up several first downs to seal the victory.
What Went Right
Jackson and McCoy were terrific. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that McCoy is one of the 10 best backs in the NFL right now.
David Akers continues to be consistently outstanding.
Despite missing some key players due to injury, the defense did a great job in limiting the Cowboys rushing game. Once they realized that Jon Kitna either couldn’t or wouldn’t throw downfield, they did a good job of containing damage.
Guard Todd Herremans reported in as an eligible receiver and scored a touchdown.
What Went Wrong
Michael Vick continues to take abuse. While I think some of the concerns are overblown (just about every QB takes some big hits) he does seem to take quite a few direct hits, and it may be decreasing his effectiveness.
Aside from Jackson and McCoy, the rest of the offensive skill players didn’t really show up. Jason Avant had two nice catches for first downs, but that was about it. Jeremy Maclin had a particularly bad receiving game as he had a pass go right through his hands, resulting in an interception.
The defensive front four couldn’t seem to get much pressure on Cowboys QB Jon Kitna. And as we’ve seen before this season, when opponents are in catch up mode in the fourth quarter, they seem to be scoring way too easily.
Bad Andy Reid Coaching Move of the Week
The Eagles had been having a lot of success using max protection on offense. For whatever reason, they got away from that this week, and as a result, the Cowboys got some good pressure on Vick.
And while I realize that the Eagles’ offense is pass-based, considering how good McCoy has looked running the ball, it might be a good idea to work in some more running plays early on.
The McNabb Report
The Redskins showed that bad teams will find ways to lose games. In their previous game, the Redskins didn’t seem to show up and got blown off the field by the Giants.
Against the Buccaneers, the Redskins gave a much better effort and outplayed their opponents, but still found a way to lose the game.
Good teams take things like extra points for granted. Bad teams drive down the field for what looked like a last-minute game-tying touchdown only to fumble the snap on the extra point.
The Redskins had problems long before that fumbled snap, though. They once again had problems in the red zone and were unable to score touchdowns when they got near the goal line. Those problems were made worse by the fact that their kicker was unable to convert on two short field goal attempts.
Due partially to those missed opportunities, the Redskins found themselves down by seven points late in the fourth quarter. Fourth quarter drives have not been Donovan McNabb’s specialty, as the coaches famously replaced him with backup Rex Grossman in the game against the Lions.
But this time, McNabb—having another poor game up to this point—steadily drove the team down the field and threw a touchdown pass to Santana Moss on fourth down (this was somewhat controversial to viewers at home, as Fox had the down wrong). But due to the fumbled extra point, what should have been an encouraging day for McNabb ended up as just another disappointment.
Elsewhere in the NFL
The New England Patriots once again showed why they should be considered the best team in the NFL. They had a short week after an emotional Monday night victory over a division rival. They had to travel to face a good Bears team. Many people expected them to suffer a letdown.
And yet, they had no trouble with the Bears, easily defeating them in a snow-covered 36-7 romp. The Pats look like they have the AFC’s top seed well under control.
In the NFC, Atlanta keeps marching towards the conference’s top seed as they defeated the Panthers 31-10.
Eagles Next Opponent
Everyone has probably seen the footage of the Metrodome’s roof collapsing. As a result, the Giants have to quickly fly to Detroit to play their game against the Vikings.
In a way, the move helps the Giants, as they no longer have to deal with Minnesota’s home field advantage. In fact, there will probably be quite a few Lions fans on hand to cheer for them (or at least against the Vikings).
On the other hand, they’ll now have a short week before next week’s big showdown against the Eagles.
The Eagles seemed like they struggled on offense, yet still scored 30 points. This offense has so many big play weapons, it seems very difficult to shut them down.
On the other hand, the mounting number of injuries on defense are making that unit more of a concern. They’ll be without MLB Stewart Bradley and DE Brandon Graham for at least the rest of the regular season if not longer.
But every team in the NFL is dealing with injuries at this time of year. The good ones tend to have enough quality depth to overcome them.
Next week’s game against the Giants may very well decide who wins the NFC East. The Eagles may be on a five-game winning streak against the Giants, but even the best Eagles teams have had trouble at the Meadowlands, and the first game between the teams was very close.
If the Eagles want to win the NFC East, they will certainly have their work cut out for them.
Originally published on my blog: Stranger in a Strange Land