NFC East: 2011 Week 8 Rapid Reaction
October, 30, 2011
By Dan Graziano | ESPN.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Some thoughts from the Philadelphia Eagles' 34-7 dismantling of the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field:
What it means: For the Eagles, it means they're now 13-0 under Andy Reid in games immediately following bye weeks. It also means they're in position to get on the kind of roll that could get them back into contention. It might have been easy for some to dismiss their previous victory, two weeks ago against Rex Grossman and the Redskins. But they were intense and focused and mistake-free as they built an insurmountable lead Sunday night against a hated division rival, and that's a lot tougher to dismiss. For the Cowboys, it means they're 3-4 and embarrassed. I don't think it means they're cooked, however. Their losses are to the Eagles, Jets, Patriots and Lions -- teams with a combined record of 18-11 -- and three of those losses were on the road. The combined record of the teams remaining on the Cowboys' schedule is 23-33.
Run, Eagles, run: The Cowboys went into the game as the top-ranked run defense in the league, allowing an average of 69.7 rush yards per game. But the Eagles wrecked that average in the first quarter, in which they ran for 115, and kept running and running all night. Running back LeSean McCoy had 185 yards on the ground. Quarterback Michael Vick had 50 more. And the Eagles, who were killing themselves with turnovers earlier this season, look as though they might have found a safe recipe for offensive success going forward. McCoy is one of the very best backs in the league and doesn't appear to mind a heavy workload. After getting 28 carries two weeks ago in Washington, he got 30 more Sunday night.
Out-muscled in the trenches: The Eagles' offensive line has taken a lot of criticism this season, but in truth, it is a very good run-blocking line that has struggled at times in pass protection. The Eagles look to be shoring things up, and aside from DeMarcus Ware's four sacks, they won all night against the Dallas front. The same could not be said for Dallas' offensive line, which is banged up and didn't appear to have enough overall strength to handle the Eagles' defensive line. The Cowboys hardly possessed the ball during the part of the game that could reasonably be described as competitive, but when they did, they were able to do almost nothing with it.
Soft in the middle: The Eagles were able to gain big chunks of yardage all night across the middle of the field, as Vick repeatedly found Jason Avant and heretofore forgotten tight end Brent Celek in critical spots. ESPN Stats & Information says Vick was 18-for-20 for 258 yards and a touchdown when throwing between the numbers. Celek led the team with seven catches, and Avant was second with five. Vick was making smart decisions and protecting the ball better than he had earlier in the season, but he also was hitting wide-open receivers, which makes anybody look good. The Cowboys' defense clearly suffered once inside linebacker Sean Lee went out with a wrist injury, and if Lee has to miss significant time, they should continue to struggle. It was clear, once Lee left the game, how much of the Cowboys' defensive success this season has been tied to his emergence. Veteran Keith Brooking had a horrible game.
Tighter coverage: Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was the most trumpeted free-agent signing of the offseason, but he'd been a disappointment through the team's first six games. On Sunday night, the Eagles used him in tighter coverage than they had for most of the early part of the season, and he was able to limit several of the Cowboys' offensive weapons. Whether he was on Jason Witten, Dez Bryant or Miles Austin, Asomugha was all over the field and playing the part the Eagles hired him to play.
What's next: The Cowboys limp back to Texas, where they get a cushy home game Sunday afternoon against the 2-5 Seattle Seahawks. They should be able to work out some of their issues against a team that presents far fewer athletic challenges with its offense than do the Eagles. Philadelphia gets an extra day to rest and/or practice before taking on the Chicago Bears at home on "Monday Night Football" on Nov. 7.
October, 30, 2011
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPN.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Trick or treat? The Giants got a scare from winless Miami but woke up just in time to put away the Dolphins.
What it means: Simply put, the Giants won a game they absolutely needed as they now brace for a six-game stretch that includes New England, San Francisco, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Green Bay and Dallas.
For the fifth straight game, the Giants lived dangerously as the game was decided in the fourth quarter. And for the fourth time during that stretch, the Giants pulled it out as Eli Manning hit Victor Cruz across the middle for a 25-yard touchdown with 5:58 left. Cruz broke a tackle by Will Allen for the score.
The Giants defense, which had trouble with Matt Moore and Reggie Bush for just over the first half, shut down the Dolphins in the fourth. Entering this game, the Dolphins had been outscored, 49-25, by opponents in the fourth.
Easy Eli: Manning continued his solid play, completing passes to eight different Giants for a total of 349 yards and two touchdowns. Manning also received terrific protection at times from his offensive line.
Sloppy return: The Giants, who had won their post bye week game in the three previous years, came off this bye week playing sloppy football at the start.
They had five penalties in the first half, including two consecutive penalties that came when the Giants were at the Miami 12-yard-line in the first quarter. The Giants had to settle for a field goal on that drive. And on Miami’s first scoring drive, Aaron Ross was flagged for a pass interference penalty that put the Dolphins at the Giants’ 1. And then after stuffing Steve Slaton on a run, Linval Joseph was called for a personal foul and Slaton scored on the next run in the first quarter.
The Giants’ tackling woes continued as quarterback Matt Moore escaped a few and Reggie Bush also evaded two by Kenny Phillips and Aaron Ross on a 35-yard run that set up Miami’ second touchdown of the first half. Bush had another 28-yard run in which he was able to break a tackle in the third quarter.
And as if that wasn’t all bad enough, Manning was plagued by a few drops as Hakeem Nicks, Jake Ballard and Brandon Jacobs all dropped passes.
Welcome back: Justin Tuck returned after a month off from resting due to pain in his neck and a strained groin.
He rotated with Jason Pierre-Paul, Mathias Kiwanuka and Dave Tollefson and played inside on some passing downs in which the Giants used four defensive ends up front.
Jacobs also returned from a two-game absence and heard some boos after he fumbled his first carry in the second quarter and dropped a short pass on the same drive. Jacobs voiced frustration with his role and amount of carries last week.
Jacobs and D.J. Ware spelled Ahmad Bradshaw, who went back to the locker room twice to have his foot examined in the second half. Bradshaw returned with 8:28 remaining in the game.
What’s next: It’s the elite showdown. Eli Manning versus Tom Brady. Back in August, Eli said he believes he is an elite quarterback in Brady’s class. Now the Giants travel to face the Patriots and Brady, starting a daunting six-game stretch.