Blame Playcalling for Eagles' Pathetic Outing vs. Cowboys

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2010

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 03:  Quarterback Donovan McNabb #5 of the Philadelphia Eagles reacts during a 24-0 loss against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

When reviewing the Eagles' 24-0 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, two stats jump off the page more than any other.

Eagles pass attempts: 36  (With four sacks, that number moves up to 40.)

Eagles rushing attempts: 10

Game.  Over.

In a game where Andy Reid's team chose to blitz far less than average (after coming into the game averaging nearly 50 percent of its defensive snaps blitzing), and the defense allowed the Cowboys to control the ball for over 40 minutes, the offensive playcalling set the defense up in such a no-win situation.

When a team throws 80 percent of the time , they become predictable defensively.  

I'm not discounting the impact of losing center Jamaal Jackson the week before in the win against Denver, because asking Nick Cole to establish a season's worth of rapport with Donovan McNabb in a week's time was a losing proposition to begin with.  (And such, that botched snap between Cole and McNabb in the second quarter was almost to be expected, although preferably McNabb would have at least fallen on the ball instead of allowing the Cowboys to recover).

But regardless of how large the Cowboys' ever-growing lead seemed to be, by all but abandoning the running game, Reid waved the white flag to the NFC's No. 2 seed and said, "See you next week, Dallas!"

As Chris Berman on ESPN so kindly put it, the Eagles should have been down 21-0 by the middle of the second quarter (if not for the Asante Samuel tip/Joselio Hanson interception).  But they weren't — they were only down two scores for most of the first half and 17-0 by halftime.  

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That is no reason to abandon the run game!  There's still 30 minutes left, and by going pass/pass/pass/punt, it's only putting an already-tired defense back out on the field.

Furthermore, as much as I'm a McNabb homer, even I'll admit he didn't have one of his finest days accuracy-wise on Sunday.  And that was evident from early on, when he overshot a wide-open DeSean Jackson on a deep ball that would have been the quick strike 6 points the Eagles famously feast off of, and a wide-open Jeremy Maclin soon thereafter.

If your quarterback isn't having his finest day, and your offensive line is caving to the pressure of an oversized Dallas D-line, isn't that the time to put the ball in your running backs' hands?

Reid and Mornhinweg completely neglected Pro Bowl fullback Leonard Weaver and rookie running back LeSean McCoy, the two guys who had carried the Eagles' running game in their six-game win streak, by feeding them the ball one time each.  Two carries for two of the Eagles' most potent weapons from November and December.

And Michael Vick, who was being reported as "probable" in the days leading up to the game after recovering from his hamstring injury, was quickly downgraded to the No. 3 quarterback on Sunday, eliminating all chances of offensive trickery from his part.

Even if Vick lacks the explosive burst he needs to get around the corner and run for a huge gain... the Cowboys don't know that!  They still have to respect his run and pass game.  And are the Eagles not confident enough in Vick as a quarterback in Week 17 of the season that they'd put him in for a few plays in a game that could win them a first-round playoff bye?

The only feasible explanation is that Reid and Mornhinweg didn't want to reveal all their cards to the Cowboys, at the risk that they'd end facing them in Dallas again next week for a first-round playoff matchup.  (Surprise... they are.)  

But to what extent did they go to make sure that they didn't reveal the offensive genius that brought them a six-game win streak where they averaged over 30 points per game?

Reid and Mornhinweg better go back to the drawing board... and fast.  The Eagles head back to Dallas for an 8 p.m. game on Saturday.

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