Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles Week 17 Review: What We Learned About Dallas

Jonathan BalesAnalyst IJanuary 2, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 02:  Stephen McGee #7 of the Dallas Cowboys throws a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles on January 2, 2011 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Cowboys defeated the Eagles 14-13.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Even though the Cowboys beat the Eagles tonight, it’s always difficult to watch your team play the last game of the season.  While the draft brings excitement to the offseason, it’s tough to know we won’t see the ‘Boys take the field again for quite some time.  Here are my final post-game notes of the 2010-11 season:

  • The offensive performance tonight was atrocious.  Against the Eagles’ scrubs, the offense couldn’t muster a point until the final drive of the game.  That’s all they needed in the end, but it obviously wouldn’t have been acceptable against the Eagles’ first team.  The predictability from coach/offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was at an all-time high. I correctly predicted the first two plays of the game–a lead draw and a flare to Felix Jones–based on the formation.  That happened throughout the game.  As always, I will get the “Double Tight Strong” stats to you after I review the film.
  • We saw the return of the “Wildcat” tonight (I think three times), but I didn’t like how Garrett used it.  The formation is useful in obvious running situations.  That way, the lack of a passing threat is effectively negated.  Tashard Choice took a direct snap on two 1st and 10 plays, however.  Why limit the potential upside of that down-and-distance by telling the defense you have almost no chance of throwing the football?
  • I haven’t seen much from Danny McCray lately on special teams.  He made the team because of his hustle, but he hasn’t created many plays of late.
  • The Cowboys run a variation of “Double Tight Left/Right Ace” with a third tight end lined up backside.  When they do that, the play is very often a screen to the backside tight end (Martellus Bennett). They ran that once tonight, and it didn’t work.


  • I am fed up with the Cowboys not disguising their intentions on defense.  They almost never fake blitzes and seem to always show blitz when one is on.  Tonight, Anthony Spencer lined up in the slot, near the “Z” receiver (the outside receiver on the right side of the field).  His responsibility was to cover the flat, but to have a 3-4 outside linebacker line up near a wide out is insane.
  • Bryan McCann muffed a point and lost the ball, and he was subsequently taken off returns.  I believe it is McCann’s fourth fumble this year.  I love his upside on both kick and punt returns, but he really needs to work on securing the football.
  • Garrett decided to go for it on 4th-and-3 at the Eagles 37-yard line, yet attempted a field goal on 4th and 4 at their 35.  Even though the Cowboys were down 10-7 before the latter, it was a poor decision.  It isn’t like the Cowboys have an automatic kicker.  When will they realize that they should go for it on 4th-and-medium on that area of the field, especially with David Buehler kicking?
  • Terence Newman’s decline has been steep.  His game might look good in the box score because he secured two interceptions, but both were horrible throws by Kevin Kolb.  Newman also got beat repeatedly by Chad Hall, including badly on a double-move.  Newman is one of my favorite players, but the Cowboys need to look at cornerback early in this year’s draft.
  • The spot the Cowboys received on a Jason Witten catch on their final drive was atrocious.  Witten clearly obtained the first down but was marked a yard short.  The Cowboys were told they couldn’t challenge the play, but the referee was incorrect.  Forward progress can be challenged as it relates to the spot of the football.  I’m still debating about whether I think Garrett should know that rule, but I wouldn’t hassle him too much over it.
  • On the subsequent 3rd-and-1, the Cowboys ran a strong side dive from “Double Tight Left I” with Marion Barber.  Is there a worse combination of factors that could go into a single play?  Barber again stumbled after receiving the handoff and came up short.
  • I’m glad the Cowboys showed a sense of urgency on the final drive, but it still wasn’t great clock management.  With 1:40 left on the clock and a 1st-and-10 inside the Eagles’ 40-yard line, Stephen McGee spiked the ball.  There is plenty of time, so why waste a down?  Maintain that sense of urgency but don’t waste a play.
  • Later, with a 2nd-and-3 at the Philly 4-yard line and 75 seconds remaining, the Cowboys went into a no-huddle.  Why?  I understand you want to maintain momentum, but how much momentum will really be lost by taking 15 seconds to call a play?  Instead, McGee went to Manuel Johnson, and the pass fell incomplete.  McGee to Johnson doesn’t have the same ring to it as Romo to Bryant, Austin or Witten.
  • Lastly, can we all just take a moment to appreciate how dominant DeMarcus Ware is?  He’s simply amazing, and the Cowboys would probably have the league’s 32nd-ranked defense without him.