NFC East: 2011 Week 9 Rapid Reaction
November, 7, 2011
By Dan Graziano | ESPN.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Some thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles' very costly 30-24 loss to the Chicago Bears on "Monday Night Football."
What it means: The Eagles may well need to run the table at this point if they want to make the playoffs. Not only are they 3-5 at the midpoint of the season, they have head-to-head losses to three teams over which they'll have to climb in order to win the division or earn a wild-card spot -- the Giants, Falcons and Bears. They're at the point where they can win almost no tiebreakers and probably have to go at least 7-1 the rest of the way if they want to save their season.
Dumb mistakes: The Bears looked for much of the night as though they were trying to give the game to the Eagles with mistakes, but Philadelphia kept hurting themselves with mistakes of their own. From DeSean Jackson's fumbled punt, to Jason Babin's roughing the passer penalty on a third-down stop, to any number of poor Michael Vick decisions, and right on up until Nnamdi Asomugha's pass interference with five minutes left in the game and the Bears apparently stopped on third down in Eagles territory -- the Eagles repeatedly put themselves in bad positions with mental and physical errors the likes of which they believed were behind them after two straight wins.
Lousy finishers: The Eagles have held fourth-quarter leads in each of their five losses this season.
No pressure: Heading into the game, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was one of the most harried quarterbacks in the league. But the Eagles were unable to get any consistent pressure on him with their front four against the Bears' offensive line. It may be that they were staying back to prevent Matt Forte and the Bears' running game from beating them, especially after Forte spent the opening drive doing just that. But for whatever reason they could not rattle Cutler, and he was able to make some brilliant improvised plays during Chicago's fourth-quarter comeback.
Shady the star: As usual, the best Eagles player on the field was running back LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 71yards, caught five passes for 46 more yards and tied a 64-year-old Eagles team record by scoring a touchdown in his eighth consecutive game. McCoy finds holes where there don't appear to be any. He keeps plays alive with his athleticism and can turn them big with his speed. If the Eagles do have any hope of recovering from their lousy start and making the playoffs, they rest largely with their ability and willingness to continue to feature McCoy as their star player and focal point on offense.
What's next: The Eagles host the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon in a game they now absolutely cannot afford to lose. The week after, they travel to New York to play the Giants, who now hold a commanding three-game lead and beat the Eagles in their head-to-head matchup in Philadelphia earlier in the season.
November, 6, 2011
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPN.com
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. –- The New York Giants and New England Patriots got together for their first meaningful game since Super Bowl XLII and it was another classic. And Eli Manning got the better of Tom Brady again.
What it means: The Giants opened a brutal six-game stretch of their schedule by playing their best game of the season. The Giants allowed Brady to find Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown on a fourth-and-9 from the Giants' 14 to push the Patriots up 20-17. But Manning drove the Giants down for the game-winning touchdown with 15 seconds remaining, hitting Jake Ballard on a 1-yard touchdown pass, a score that was helped by a pass interference call against New England on Victor Cruz at the Patriots' 1.
Fantastic Finish: The Giants have lived dangerously this season, so it was no surprised that their sixth straight game went down to the fourth quarter.
Down 13-10, Manning drove the Giants down for a go-ahead touchdown when he hit Mario Manningham on a 10-yard touchdown pass in the left corner of the end zone with 3:03 left. Manningham also drew a key pass interference on the drive for a gain of 35 yards.
But Brady marched the Patriots right down to the Giants' 14-yard-line and, on fourth down, he hit Gronkowski for a touchdown on Michael Boley with 1:36 left to push the Patriots up 20-17. Gronkowski gave Boley a slight shove to get free, but there was no flag.
But Manning did it again to the Patriots.
Terrible Tom: The Giants' defense, which has had difficulties this season against the run and no huddle, managed to get the better of Brady for 2½ quarters. Brady threw two interceptions and was hit as he was attempting a pass, resulting in a fumble that set up a Brandon Jacobs' touchdown in the third quarter. That put the Giants up 10-3.
The Giants did a good job of disguising their defense, changing things up and switching defenders on receivers. But it didn’t last as Brady started getting comfortable near the end of the third quarter and led the Patriots to 10 unanswered points early in the fourth.
Costly mistakes: With a second-and-goal at the Patriots’ 2-yard-line, the Giants were called for a delay of game. Two plays later on a third-and-5 at the Patriots’ 5-yard-line, a backpedaling Manning lofted a ball to the back left corner of the end zone that was intercepted by Kyle Arrington. Instead of getting at least a field goal to add to a 10-3 lead, the Giants gave the Pats the ball.
Defensive battle: The Giants and Patriots played to the first scoreless half in the NFL this season. While the Giants' defense played well, Brady didn't look comfortable. Part of it was due to the Giants' pass rush and Perry Fewell moving defenders around to give him different looks. But Brady also missed a wide open Aaron Hernandez in the end zone and the usually reliable Stephen Gostkowski missed a 27-yard field goal just before the end of the half.
The Giants were able to keep New England from hitting on big plays and they switched defenders on Brady's receivers often. Both teams combined to go 3-for-14 on third downs in the first half.
What's next: The Giants' torturous schedule continues as they travel to San Francisco, where the 49ers are no longer a treat to face. The Niners are 7-1 under Jim Harbaugh, and Frank Gore will be difficult for the Giants to stop.
November, 6, 2011
By Calvin Watkins | ESPN.com
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Seattle Seahawks provided the perfect opponent to solve the Dallas Cowboys' woes. Well sort of. Dallas played a nice, but not great game Sunday afternoon on the day they inducted Drew Pearson, Larry Allen and Charles Haley into the Ring of Honor. The Cowboys should have played better, but they have next week to solve their issues. For the record, Dallas 23, Seattle 13.
Here's a recap:
What it means: Not really sure. The Cowboys beat up a Seattle team ranking next to last in total offense and rushing offense. Its defense ranked 13th overall but 18th against the pass. Seattle rushed for over 100 yards for the first time in two weeks and the Seahawks completed numerous big plays in the passing game. But the Cowboys won, and that's all that matters in the NFL sometimes.
DeMarco Murray needs to start: Nothing personal against Felix Jones, but did you see the rookie from Oklahoma on Sunday afternoon? He rushed 22 times for 139 yards. He's now rushed for over 100 yards in two of the last three games. Jones has rushed for over 100 yards just twice in the regular season during his career. It might be time to move on from Jones and give things to Murray.
Defense plays OK: The Cowboys defense pressured Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson numerous times and picked up three interceptions. Terence Newman, Jason Hatcher and Gerald Sensabaugh were the men who did in Jackson. DeMarcus Ware didn't register a sack for the first time in three weeks. It seemed the Cowboys missed inside linebacker Sean Lee, who was out with a dislocated left wrist. Bradie James and Keith Brooking didn't do enough to slow the running game. It's clear the Cowboys need to clean up some things before taking on Buffalo next week. Anthony Spencer picked up his first sack since Week 3 vs. Washington, and now has three on the season.
Miles Austin is out: Wide receiver Miles Austin injured his right hamstring in the first half and didn't return. It's the second time this season that Austin has battled hamstring injuries. He finished the game with two catches for 53 yards. But it was OK because Laurent Robinson, once again, is looking like a man who knows what he's doing on the field. Robinson had five catches for 32 yards with one touchdown. Dez Bryant also had a nice game, though he had zero catches in the second half, with four receptions for 76 yards. Defenses are jamming Bryant at the line of scrimmage and he continues to struggle to get off the line.
Red zone problems: The Cowboys went 1-3 in the red zone Sunday. For the season, the Cowboys have 26 possessions inside the red zone with just 10 touchdowns and 12 field goals on the season. This has been a problem area for the Cowboys in 2011 and moving forward things have to get fixed.
What's next: The Cowboys host Buffalo on Sunday afternoon. It's Chan Gailey's chance to beat the man who fired him, Jerry Jones. Jones said firing Gailey was one of his biggest mistakes.