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Eagles Exorcise Cowboys & Ghosts
Posted By Christopher Rowe On Dec 13 2010 @ 4:24 pm In Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments
Eagles beat Cowboys. First and foremost, the ghosts of 2009 are dead. The bitter rival who beat the Eagles three times including a wildcard round playoff embarrassment causing Philadelphia roster overhaul have been defeated. After Sunday’s win, all the talk was about DeSean Jackson. His 210-yard performance, his touchdown celebration and, yes, there was a lot to discuss.
In my humble opinion, the most impressive part of the 30-27 Eagles’ victory was the very end, as the offense closed out the game, controlling the ball for the last 4:22 and pounding the life out of the Dallas defense with the running game. The RUNNING GAME, people! Andy Reid has voluntarily discovered after 11 seasons that it might be a good idea to balance the passing game with some ground chuck! It didn’t result in direct points nor would it make the network highlight shows, but it was as much a statement about the Eagles playoff mettle as the big plays in the passing game. The Eagles are a big-play offense but in the postseason a team has to be able to put games away by running down the clock in the fourth quarter and for the first time in recent memory… the Eagles offense not only attempted it, but was actually successful.
Saying merely that the Eagles haven’t always been good at the running game is a misnomer – because they have barely if ever tried to do so! I can accept that Andy Reid wants to be his version of a passing team, but they sometimes have trouble controlling the ball in those situations. How many times have we seen the Eagles with a lead late in the game, have a quick three-and-out and punt the ball away leaving way too much time on the clock? It happened as recently as the Houston game. The Eagles were leading 34-24 when they got the ball with 3:17 to go. They ran three plays, lost one yard and punted it back to the Texans with 2:57 left on the clock. Time of possession: 20 seconds. Two plays later, the Eagles sacked QB Matt Schaub and forced a fumble so it did not turn out to be a big deal but the Houston offense could easily have used those three minutes to make the Eagles pay.
Sunday night in Dallas the Eagles got the ball back with 4:22 left protecting a three-point lead and they did what successful playoff teams do – they let their O-line and their running game close the show. It was not an easy task. The Cowboys had just scored a TD to cut the lead to 30-27. Dallas had momentum and the home crowd was roaring. Eagles KR Jorrick Calvin made one of the dumbest plays of the year, fielding the kickoff in the end zone, running around to kill the clock (calling that “running” was another gaffe) and then shoving Dallas safety Alan Ball to draw a roughing penalty. The penalty forced the Eagles to start their drive at their own 10-yard line.
The Cowboys still had all three timeouts. Had the Eagles gone three-and-out, Dallas could have gotten the ball back around midfield with three minutes left in regulation. Any respectable NFL offense should be able to mount an offensive effort with three minutes and three timeouts. Dallas wouldn’t have needed a TD and could have opted to go for the tie with a FG. Cowboys kicker David Buehler has one of the NFL’s strongest legs – and Jon Kitna had been picking the defense apart with passes to tight ends Jason Witten (seven catches, 69 yards) and Martellus Bennett (four for 30). Fortunately, it never came to that. Mike Vick threw a pass to LeSean McCoy in the left flat for six yards. It was a good call on first down – a safe pass to set up second-and-four. Moreover, it put the Cowboys on their heels as they had difficulty matching personnel to down-and-distance. What would the Eagles do? Hard to predict.
The Cowboys seemed to expect a pass. Why not? The Eagles had shown very little interest in running the ball the entire game – or for the past decade! Running in this situation behind solid blocking by center Mike McGlynn and left guard Todd Herremans, McCoy gained 12 yards. Amazing how that works!
Now the Eagles had a first down at their own 28. The clock was down to 2:53 when McCoy again followed McGlynn and Herremans for 19 yards on the ground to the 47 for a first down. The Cowboys used their first timeout. McCoy carried again, for 13 yards. Dallas burned their second time out preventing the clock from running down. Jerome Harrison spelled McCoy, carrying for no gain on the next play, but Dallas was forced to use their final timeout with 2:33 to go. Yes, Andy Reid, there IS a Santa Claus and yes, old dogs (sorry Vick) can indeed learn new tricks. While this trick is as old as “three yards and a cloud of dust” or the famous Lombardi power sweep, it seems new to Andy Reid.
So it’s second down. Vick scrambles for nine yards and smartly skidded down in bounds to keep the clock moving. This sets up third and one just after the two-minute warning and the Eagles once again send McCoy running off the left side for six yards. Dallas has no timeouts. Third and four, clock running!
Game, set, match. Dallas looked on helplessly. Three point game, no timeouts… tick-tick-tick-tick…
It was the Eagles’ longest drive of the night – seven of their possessions were 2:06 or less – but the drive they needed the most. If the Eagles make it to the post-season – and it now appears they will very likely do so – it will be nice to have this experience to draw upon. Let’s hope Andy Reid remembers this game.
As we saw again in Dallas, the Eagles don’t have a shutdown defense. They win with takeaways and big plays and that’s been good enough to get them to 9-4, but somewhere down the road, they will be in a one-score game late against a good opponent and they’ll need to rely on their offense to put it away.
Now, onto the rest of the game. All the highlight reels show you all DeSean Jackson, all the time. Kids, don’t try this at home and this man is not a role model, but look at this play over and over from 12 different angles in super-slo-mo AXIS-vision… DeSean Jackson’s electrifying 91-yard catch-and-run from Michael Vick early in the fourth quarter – the biggest play in a career of big plays – he stops on the one foot line … turns around … holds the ball skyward so Jerry Jones and 85,000 Cowboys fans could get a real good look at it … and then falls backwards in seeming slow motion into the end zone. Jackson had more yards on that one touchdown than he had combined in the three devastating losses to the Cowboys last year. Fifteen-yard penalty? Yeah, who cares. Jackson’s biggest play in a career of big plays gave the Eagles control of a tight battle with the hated Cowboys en route to a 30-27 win Sunday night at Dallas Cowboys Stadium.
“I get caught up out there having too much fun, that’s one thing I’m not going to take out of my game,” Jackson said. “But I’ve just got to be smarter. The penalty was a bad hit, and coach [Andy] Reid let me know about it.” At the time, the Eagles were backed up on their own nine-yard-line after a holding penalty on Riley Cooper from a Jackson punt return. Vick threw a short hitch to Jackson, who juked his way through the Dallas defense, found a huge chunk of open real estate, and streaked across the field toward the right corner of the end zone. After a quick peek back showed no Cowboys near him, Jackson stopped inches shy of the goal line and fell backwards into the end zone, landing inches away from the white out-of-bounds line.
“I liked the 91,” Reid said. “The fall … he goofed. That’s a little bit of the Hollywood left in him.” Jackson played much of the second half with a very sore foot and ankle. The trainers wanted him out of the game, but he refused. With his 91-yard touchdown, the Eagles erased the nightmare of losing three straight games to the Cowboys last year, including back-to-back games six days apart by a combined 44 points in this stadium to end their season.
“They wanted to take me in for X-rays, but I said I can’t leave my teammates,” Jackson said. “Tape me up and let me go back out there. My ankle hurt. I didn’t think I was going to make it.” Jackson said he suffered some sort of bone and ligament injury in his foot but said post-game X-rays were negative. He said he’ll be fine for the Eagles’ critical game against the Giants on Sunday.
“When he first caught the ball, I knew he was going to have an opportunity to get some YACs [yards after the catch],” Vick said. “I knew I put the ball in the perfect location. I just didn’t know he was going to take it 91 yards. This is just the type of thing he can do when he touches the ball.”
Jackson’s catch was the fifth-longest in franchise history and made him the sixth player in NFL history with two TD catches of 88 or more yards in the same season – the first since Pennsauken’s John Taylor for the 49ers in 1989. And his celebration?
“It was funny,” Jeremy Maclin said. “He was out there having a little bit of fun. He’s going to be himself no matter what. He was having a good time out there.” After netting just 79 receiving yards in the three Dallas games last year, Jackson finished with four catches for 210 yards, the third-most yards in Eagles history. The 210 yards are the most in NFL history on four or fewer receptions, six more than Gary Clark had for the Redskins against the Falcons in 1991. Four catches, 210 yards, and one dramatic penalty.
With their ninth win in their last 12 games, the Eagles improved to 9-4 overall, 3-1 in the NFC East and 5-2 on the road. They avoided their first four-game losing streak to Dallas since a seven-game streak over the 1992 through 1995 seasons. The Eagles are now 5-0 this year in night games and 4-4 during daylight hours. They’re 10-2 in their last 12 prime-time games after losing eight straight. The Eagles have now clinched their third consecutive winning season and ninth in the last 11 seasons. The win was No. 127 for Eagles head coach Andy Reid, moving him into a tie for 24th place in NFL history with Mike Ditka.
With the Giants scheduled to face the Vikings in Detroit on Monday, the Eagles now lead the Giants by half a game in the NFC East, with a head-to-head win. Whatever the Giants do in Detroit, the Eagles-Giants game in East Rutherford next Sunday afternoon will determine the NFC East leader with just two games to go. Conversely, the Cowboys, who had won three of their four games under interim coach Jason Garrett, fell to 4-9. They were officially eliminated from playoff contention and guaranteed their first losing season since 2004.
The Eagles trailed by three entering the fourth quarter and have trailed in the fourth quarter of their last three victories. Jackson’s 91-yarder is the second-longest catch against the Cowboys and the longest since a 94-yarder from Giants quarterback Norm Snead to Rich Houston at Yankee Stadium in 1972.
“He’s one of those guys that when he gets the ball in his hands, you better make sure you tackle him – but not only tackle him but tackle him with more than one guy,” Garrett said. “He’s been doing that all year. He’s really been doing that since he came into this league.” Jackson is the second straight receiver to surpass 200 yards against the Cowboys. Reggie Wayne of the Colts did it last week. The last team to allow consecutive 200-yard receivers is the 1989 Saints, who gave up a then-NFL-record 336 yards to Flipper Anderson of the Los Angeles Rams in week 12 and then 248 yards to the Detroit Lions’ Richard Johnson a week later.
After Jon Kitna’s 22-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten trimmed the Eagles’ lead to three with 4:22 left, the Eagles ran out the clock, with McCoy running four times for 50 yards and recording four first downs on the final possession. LeSean McCoy ran 16 times for a career-high 149 yards and was 10-f0r-135 in the second half, including a 56-yard run from scrimmage. The Eagles ran 16 times for 157 yards in the second half and 12 times for 79 yards in the fourth quarter.
“It’s gratifying, man,” center Mike McGlynn said. “It feels good to be able to do that and to take the air out of them. They got a lot of momentum scoring that touchdown, it’s 30-27, and we shut ‘em down.
“We were hungry for it. We just did it. We wanted to put it on our backs. That’s all you can really ask.”
Vick had precious little time in the pocket, absorbed numerous hits, was sacked twice and threw 2INT but still made enough big plays to improve to 7-2 as a starter and 7-1 when he plays the entire game. He finished 16-for-26 for 270 yards with two TDs and two INTs. Kitna, who threw for 446 yards against the Eagles for the Lions three years ago – most ever against the Eagles – finished 24-for-35 for 242 yards with two TDs and was picked off by both Quintin Mikell and Dimitri Patterson. The Eagles took a 14-7 lead on Vick’s franchise-record seventh rushing TD of the year and 30th of his career and, after Kitna’s one-yard TD pass to Witten tied the game, Vick threw a two-yard TD pass to Todd Herremans, for a 14-7 Eagles lead. Herremans became the 10th offensive lineman since 1960 with two career TD catches. Jackson’s “Nestea Plunge” TD and Akers’ third field goal of the game extended the lead to 10 before Witten’s second TD made things interesting.
Defensively, there was some improvement. The Eagles limited Cowboys tailbacks Tashard Choice and Felix Jones to a combined 57 yards on 20 carries. Eagles killer Miles Austin caught just two passes for 22 yards, and the Eagles also did a decent job on Witten, limiting him to seven catches for 69 yards. But the Cowboys scored 13 straight points from late in the second quarter until midway through the third quarter and led 20-14 before the Eagles rallied on two David Akers field goals, including his 15th career 50-yarder to tie things at 50.
BUMPS AND BRUISES
The Eagles once again have lost MLB Stewart Bradley, who missed last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Bradley suffered a dislocated right elbow in the second quarter and likely is out for the rest of the regular season. Bradley tried to brace himself after being upended by Cowboys RB Tashard Choice. However, a dislocated elbow is better than a broken arm, which was what the team initially feared was the prognosis.
“If we’re lucky enough to go on and play in the postseason, I think there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be back,” head coach Andy Reid said. “We’ll just have to see tomorrow with the MRI.” It’s been a seesaw season for Bradley, who entered Sunday second on the team in tackles with 84 (according to the team’s count) but had only one sack and one forced turnover (an INT against the Giants). Now the Eagles will resort to yet another rookie. Seventh-round pick Jamar Chaney replaced Bradley and likely will become the starter. The Eagles also have veteran Omar Gaither, who was inactive Sunday night.
“Omar will be somewhere in there, but Chaney did a nice job,” Reid said. “We’ll have to evaluate him and see how he did, but I think he did a pretty good job in there. He’s been playing well, but we sure have a lot of trust in Omar.” Chaney is the sixth rookie to see significant playing time this season on defense, joining safeties Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman, defensive end Brandon Graham, cornerback Trevard Lindley and LB Keenan Clayton. Chaney only played two series at middle linebacker before Sunday night: one against Jacksonville and the other vs. Washington, both in garbage time. He played weak-side LB in his first two seasons at Mississippi State before moving to the middle for his last two.
BLACK AND BLUE
First round pick Brandon Graham suffered a knee injury and was on crutches in the locker room. Receiver DeSean Jackson injured his foot during a third-quarter punt return but thinks he will be able to play against the Giants. Michael Vick is nursing a bruised thumb from when his hand hit a helmet on one of his 2 INT. Only Graham is expected to miss playing time.
“My thumb’s just black and blue,” Vick said. “My hand hit a helmet, the ball got picked off – that only made me madder. I wanted to get back out there and throw the football again. I was glad I was able to hang in there and keep fighting.”
Rookie DE Brandon Graham is out for the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Reid said at Monday’s press conference that he is optimistic Bradley would be able to return if the Eagles reach the postseason. Graham opened the season as the starting left defensive end, starting the first four games, before veteran Juqua Parker regained the job. Parker returned Sunday night after missing the previous two games with a hip injury. Graham had three sacks this season.
Take the Nestea plunge http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pPR004UWQo 
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