Beat Writers Recap: Cowboys-Eagles
*Returner Bryan McCann was benched after fumbling a punt, the second time the last two weeks he's lost the ball on a return. For the game, McCann finished with one punt return for minus-13 yards and two fair catches. His only attempt at a kick return went toward rookie fullback Chris Gronkowski, who fielded a short kick on a bounce. McCann, however, when given a chance to return punts, was hampered by poor blocking. On a second-quarter punt return, Jesse Holley couldn't hold the block of Colt Anderson. With Anderson flying down field, it forced McCann to call for a fair catch. On his next chance, which was his last attempt at a punt return, McCann caught the ball cleanly but a hard hit by Eldra Buckley forced the fumble. Yes, McCann should have held onto the ball, but Buckley was untouched as he went down the field to make a play. McCann had some issues on coverage. He got stiffed-armed to the ground by DeSean Jackson, but when Jackson found no room to run, McCann was able to make the tackle.
*The box score will say nose tackle Jay Ratliff had three tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss and one quarterback hurry. What it doesn't say is he was double-teamed on a consistent basis by the Eagles offensive line. Ratliff was double-teamed on four of the first five plays of the game. Sometimes, Ratliff was blocked by center Mike McGlynn one-on-one, but guards Todd Herremans or Max Jean-Gilles would pick him up quickly. Most times, McGlynn and Herremans did the double-teams. However, the Cowboys did some tricky things with Ratliff. In the third quarter when the Cowboys sent Orlando Scandrick and Alan Ball on a blitz off the edge, Ratliff went back into coverage. Scandrick was able to sack Michael Vick, forcing the Eagles to kick a field goal.
*Jason Garrett said Miles Austin was lined up in different spots at the line of scrimmage and the Eagles had a "shell coverage" of the Cowboys' leading receiver. That means Austin was covered by a corner and then a safety also followed him deep to prevent the long pass. Austin finished with just two catches for 22 yards. The Cowboys had him in motion numerous times and he did line up in the slot.
*Jon Kitna he didn't throw the ball deep down field and completed two passes, to Martellus Bennett and Jason Witten, short of the first-down marker on third downs. Kitna seemed rushed to complete passes when there wasn't any pressure. He relied too much on his tight ends and running backs. Of Kitna's 33 throws, 17 went to the backs and tight ends. Austin and Roy Williams, the two lead receivers, got nine throws combined. Williams dropped a low throw at the Eagles 2 and another pass was behind him when it was clear that if the ball was thrown in front of him he'd have made a clean catch.
*The Cowboys secondary for the most part did a nice job on the Eagles' three main receivers. Every once in a while defensive backs get beat, that's the nature of the business. On the first play of the game, the Eagles had Jackson lined up in the slot and sent Jeremy Maclin (who was lined up outside) on a route toward the middle of the field. With Maclin in the middle of the field, safety Alan Ball did the right thing by staying with him, but Jackson started his route, stopped and then sprinted down the field, turning Terence Newman around. Jackson had about two steps on Newman when he caught the pass. It should be noted, Ball came over from the middle of the field to make a tackle. He had another chance to tackle Jackson on the 91-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, but Ball slipped when faced one-on-one with the receiver. With Ball down it turned into a footrace won by Jackson, who eluded Scandrick's last-ditch attempt to tackle him.
*It was interesting how Garrett used the running backs. For the record, Felix Jones finished with 41 yards on 13 carries and Tashard Choice had just seven touches for 16 yards. There are times when Jones is fantastic to watch because he's able to cut and get past defenders. Other times, he lacks vision. On one carry, Jones had two lanes to make a big play but ran into guard Leonard Davis, who was maintaining his block. Yes, Jones got 6 yards, but it should have been a 15-yard gain. Choice started the game fast with a 9-yard run on his first carry in the opening quarter. He gained a first down on second-and-1 from the Eagles 5. He made another nice run for 2 yards with little room to get the Cowboys to the Eagles 1. But on a second-and-goal from the Eagles 1, Choice thought he had a hole, but the Eagles' Antonio Dixon slipped past Marc Colombo and Davis to make the tackle for no gain.
Notes: The Cowboys had some nice open-field tackles. One of the best plays came from Bradie James on a screen pass where he brought down LeSean McCoy. ... Something we found interesting came in the fourth quarter with the Cowboys down, 30-20. With 8:17 to play, the Cowboys didn't throw a single pass to Austin. This is not to say he wasn't the primary target. The Cowboys have to find ways to get him the ball when behind. ... Fines might be issued to Anthony Spencer and Igor Olshansky. Each hit Michael Vick in the helmet at the same time on a completed pass. But Spencer was flagged for it.
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