I've watched DeSean Jackson's 65-yard punt return for a touchdown at least 10 times, and I still can't believe it happened. The New York Giants made the mistake of thinking a 21-point lead was safe against Michael Vick in the fourth quarter. And just like that, a brilliant defensive game plan by the Giants (for three and a half quarters) went up in flames. Let's take a look at all four of these teams in the aftermath of Sunday's games:
Owner Jerry Jones admitted to one local columnist that Jason Garrett's future may have been hanging in the balance in the fourth quarter. Garrett was sitting pretty until the Redskins mounted a furious fourth-quarter comeback Sunday. If the Cowboys' interim coach can win in Glendale, Ariz., on Christmas evening, I think he'll have this gig wrapped up. Still, it's interesting to hear Jones admit how much is riding on these "meaningless" games. It's clear that he wants Garrett to win the job, but a loss to the Redskins on Sunday (in epic fashion) would have made it a tougher sell.
The Cowboys are still making too many mistakes. Dallas lost its concentration the red zone with a false start penalty and then picked up a personal foul that aided the Redskins' comeback. This team plays a lot harder for Garrett, but there are still a lot of issues for him to address. And the biggest issue is the Cowboys' defense is always on the verge of collapse, writes Tim Cowlishaw. The defense produced five sacks and two interceptions, but it allowed Rex Grossman to surpass 300 yards passing and take over the game in the fourth quarter. This is Garrett's job to lose, but he better figure out a way to fix this defense. Interim coordinator Paul Pasqualoni has inspired players with his fiery approach, but there are still too many mistakes occurring.
New York Giants
Defensive tackle Barry Cofield is one of the more thoughtful players on the team, so I was anxious to hear his response to the stunning loss. Asked how he thought the Giants would respond, Cofield said, "The proper reaction? I don't think anyone knows. We will try to come together as a team and put it behind us and move on. ... We will see if we are capable of that. It will show next Sunday. We will show up like a team that has moved on or we will show up like a beaten team." The Giants will encounter a Green Bay Packers team that is also desperate for a win. And it's likely that Aaron Rodgers will return to the lineup after missing Sunday night's game with a concussion. The Giants wouldn't be eliminated by a loss in Green Bay, but it would make things much tougher on them with all the tiebreaker possibilities.
Giants co-owner John Mara says that Tom Coughlin is safe. An ESPN report Sunday indicated that the Giants were on Bill Cowher's short list of possible coaching destinations. Mara called the report "ridiculous," but everyone remembers how angry he was after last season. Coughlin has one year remaining on his contract, so the Giants will have a decision to make. I guess Mara could do what Jerry Jones did with Wade Phillips last season and have Coughlin coach during the final year of his contract, but something tells me he and Steve Tisch would like to have some type of resolution before then. If the Giants can beat the Packers on Sunday and improve to 10-5, then it's probably a moot point. But if they lose and end up missing the playoffs, things could get interesting. At least one columnist in New York went after Coughlin on Sunday.
If not for that miracle comeback, coach Andy Reid would be catching a ton of heat today over some of his decisions. Reid seemed to indicate that his coaches weren't getting replays in time to give him proper feedback. But if that's an issue at any point in the game, you better figure a way to get it resolved. Most of us saw all those replays on Fox of DeSean Jackson being touched by an Eagles player as he went to the ground and then fumbled in the fourth quarter. Reid clutched the challenge flag but then decided not to throw it. With your team desperately needing the call to be overturned, there was no reason to concede. "That was ridiculous," Reid told reporters Monday. "I should have cut that thing loose. We weren’t getting the replays. I’ll look into that too. Some of those were bang-bang shots that were a little tough. Unless you see a replay, it was tough to figure out." Again, how in the world do you make it through three quarters without getting the replay issue resolved? It would be worth sending one of your coaches out to find a TV. That just doesn't add up.
It was a great win for the Eagles, but it came at a cost to one of their key players on defense. Nate Allen has a ruptured patellar tendon and he'll likely undergo season-ending surgery Tuesday. Allen had an excellent rookie season, but now he faces several months of rehabilitation. The Eagles have now lost their top two picks to season-ending injuries. Another rookie, Kurt Coleman, will replace Allen in the starting lineup. Fortunately for the Eagles, Coleman picked up some experience when Allen was injured earlier in the season.
Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post thinks that Rex Grossman "validated" Mike Shanahan's decision to bench Donovan McNabb. I'm not so sure about that. I think Shanahan & Son bungled their relationship with McNabb from the start. And even though Grossman was impressive in the fourth quarter, I'm not sure a 33-30 loss to a 5-9 team really validates anything. I'm sure Kyle Shanahan feels some form of vindication with the way Grossman performed, but that's simply a measure of how poorly this thing has gone for both sides.
The Redskins may have to play their last two games without Pro Bowl outside linebacker Brian Orakpo. If Mike Shanahan is going to turn this organization around, he'll need to build around character players such as Orakpo. This is a player who's refused to make any excuses during all the drama this season. Now it looks like he could miss the final two games with groin and hamstring injuries.