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Cowboys-Eagles Recap

December 4, 2012

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Going into Sunday night’s game the Eagles were on a 5 game stretch of historic proportions as their defense was giving up 31.4 points per game and had allowed a passer rating average of 140 against them (with 13 TDs and 0 INTs) which was the highest in NFL History for a 5 game stretch. Going into Sunday night’s game the Philadelphia Eagles were missing 5 of their 8 best players (LT Jason Peters, RB LeSean McCoy, DE Jason Babin, QB Michael Vick, WR DeSean Jackson) along with their starting C, RG, and RT. Going into Sunday night’s game the Philadelphia Phillies had won a game more recently than the Philadelphia Eagles, Andy Reid was on the verge of being fired, and former Eagles like Jeremiah Trotter were calling out their ex-teammates for quitting in previous games. So with that backdrop it was no surprise that Sunday night’s game was a dogfight that came down to the wire as I have come to expect this Cowboys team to play to the level of their competition, no matter how good or bad their opponent is. Some might say that this game was a clear win that was only marred late by a punt return for a touchdown in the waning moments but that opinion is flawed when you consider that the Eagles led after the 1st quarter, 2nd quarter, and 3rd quarter. The Cowboys defense struggled all night to contain a rookie quarterback/ running back combo that looked impressive despite playing behind the worst offensive line in the league. DeMarcus Ware had his moments and Josh Brent’s hit and forced fumble was the game changing play yet otherwise the defense was at the Eagles’ mercy the entire night. Whether it was Dan Connor who looked incredibly slow in the open field and unable to handle the speed of RB Bryce Brown on the edge or the $50 million man Brandon Carr being beat by #4 WR Riley Cooper for a huge touchdown it was obvious from the beginning that the defense was in for a long night. Excuses can be made for them as any defense missing their 2nd and 3rd best defensive players (Sean Lee and Bruce Carter) as well as their starting NT (Jay Ratliff) and SS (Barry Church) will have their struggles yet some of these defensive performances were atrocious last night and will only get worse as the Eagles have struggled on offense this season. Danny McCray was clearly the worst defender on the field Sunday night as he was embarrassed repeatedly at his strong safety spot. He had a missed tackle on Bryce Brown for a +15 yard run, he allowed a 19 yard seam route right in front of him that insinuated that he didn’t know the play call as a linebacker blitz was on which was going to force the quarterback to check the ball down yet he for some reason played 25 yards off the line of scrimmage in centerfield, he missed another tackle on Brown taking a bad angle which turned an 8 yard gain into a 39 yarder, and he dropped as easy of an interception as he’ll ever get near the end of the game. Danny shouldn’t be starting as he only is because of injuries to both Barry Church and Charlie Peprah but this performance makes me wonder if he even should be on the roster. This lack of depth has caused many a December swoon for Dallas as when their front line guys go down their late round draft picks have to step in and often show the poor drafting done in recent years by the Cowboys. This appears to be the likely scenario again for Dallas as Doug Free is playing atrociously, Dan Connor and Danny McCray are getting exploited on almost every play their way, and the Cowboys still show an unwillingness to blitz due to the struggles of Morris Claiborne and occasionally even of Brandon Carr. It all adds up to a December like so many previously where the Cowboys will have a losing record and be on the outside looking in come playoff time. Yes the Cowboys won yet the way they won makes me think this team has no chance going forward, despite a record that keeps them technically in playoff contention.

Other Cowboys-Eagles game notes:

Romo’s extension: Eventually the Romo pass attempts evened out among the pass catchers but in the 1st half at one point it appeared to be like Romo just looked around and said, “I can’t trust anyone else on this team so let’s just play catch with Witten all game long and see how that works out.” Romo can’t trust Murray or Austin because they’re always hurt, he can’t trust Felix or Kevin Ogletreee because they’re maddeningly inconsistent, and he can’t trust Dez because he’s Dez. I’ve mentioned to my wife a number of times how backwards the media has the Cowboys extension talks with Romo as if the Cowboys hold all of the cards. Witten has been the only steady player for Romo to lean on for years and when his extension would kick in Witten would be 32 years old and seeing his skills on the decline. Looking around him Romo probably is wondering who will be able to pick up the slack as the offensive line is in shambles, Dez continues to be a wildcard, his offensive coordinator is regularly being outcoached, and yet he continues to get the majority of the blame for these issues. I think Romo wants to see some progress by Dez and a commitment by Jerry to improve the offensive line and the running game before he even considers signing long term here. Some might see this as ludicrous as they just assume Romo wants to be a lifelong Cowboy but if he ever hit unrestricted free agency he would be an extremely sought after quarterback and I think the line for his services would be around the block. We take for granted Romo and love to bash him for his sometimes reckless style but in the right system he could easily be a Top 5 QB and I seriously question whether that right system is in Dallas with a declining Witten, an overpaid Austin, an injury plagued Murray, and an inconsistent Dez. I don’t think he wants to leave Dallas but I’m sure he’s thought of it and I suspect the lack of improvement is the main reason he hasn’t signed an extension yet with the Cowboys.

Brandon Carr: I was never a huge fan of his signing despite the fact that CB was a big need, CB is an important position on the football field (only ranked behind QB, Pass Rusher, and LT in my eyes), and Carr signed at the age of 26 meaning the Cowboys were going to have him in his prime years. The reason was that Carr never made a Pro Bowl in Kansas City, regularly went against the #2 WR, and only had 8 interceptions in 4 years so was hardly the ball hawk you want when shelling out $50 million. My preference was to sign Cortland Finnegan who had a much better resume, was a bigger ballhawk (17 career INTs vs. 8 by Carr), and was more versatile as he could play the slot and on the outside. Carr has had a solid season yet he has rarely shown himself to be worth $10 million a year and being beat by Riley Cooper for a huge touchdown was another example of that. To put that in perspective let’s understand that Cooper is the Eagles’ #4 WR, had 3 career touchdowns going into this game, and had less than 200 yards receiving on the season. It was a pretty easy cover yet he allowed the play to happen and with the rookie Morris Claiborne needing safety help on most plays it’s important for Carr to improve his play and provide the shutdown corner the team envisioned it was getting when they signed him to his large contract this offseason.

Dez Bryant: I dislike Dez as a player and person and wish he wasn’t a Dallas Cowboy. It’s as simple as that and I’m not going to be changed by a few big games by Dez as he continues to drop the most important passes, be a player and person a franchise can’t consistently count on, and I cringe thinking how difficult he will be once he gets his first big contract when he’s already this difficult as a younger player on his rookie deal. Yet there is plenty of evidence to show that Dez is finally turning the corner and becoming the dominant wideout many expected of him when he came out of Oklahoma State three years ago. In the NFL ranks he’s 9th in receptions (71), 10th in yards (978), and 4th in TDs (8) with all of his numbers being on the incline in the 2nd half of the season. In the past 4 weeks he has 37 receptions for 475 yards and 6 TDs which if projected over a 16 game season would be 148 receptions for 1,900 yards and 24 TDs all of which would set single season NFL records. I can’t stand Dez but I have to admit he’s becoming a superstar right before our eyes and that touchdown on a quick pass where he bullied past Dominique Rodger-Cromartie was exactly the type of physical play that Dez was drafted for.

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