NFC East: 2012 Week 11 rapid reaction

Rapid Reaction: Cowboys 23, Browns 20

November, 18, 2012

ARLINGTON, Texas -- A game that started around noon CT and ended about 9 minutes to 4 was long, bad and left you tired of hearing Ed Hochuli's explanations.

Dan Bailey's 38-yard field goal ended the game in overtime, giving the Dallas Cowboys a pre-Thanksgiving Day gift with a 23-20 victory over the two-win Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon.

What does it mean: The Cowboys (5-5) are now .500 thanks to their second consecutive victory, but they played poorly and don't resemble a team that is ready for the playoffs. Tony Romo had a costly fumble, his third of the season, that gave the Browns life. The pass rush was lacking against a rookie quarterback, and there are numerous health issues lingering.

Bailey's kick sends it to OT: A pass interference penalty on Sheldon Brown and a hit to the head of Kevin Ogletree kept the Cowboys' last-ditch scoring drive alive at the end of regulation. Bailey's 32-yard field goal with two seconds to play tied the score at 20.

Bryant takes over: This is what Cowboys fans have been waiting for, a game like this from Dez Bryant in which he takes over with good route running and playmaking ability. Bryant picked up his third 100-yard game of the season with 12 catches for a career-high 145 yards and one touchdown. Bryant's 28-yard touchdown reception with 6:46 remaining gave the Cowboys their first lead of the day (17-13).

Where's the pass rush? The Cowboys picked up zero sacks in the first half and applied little pressure on rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden. The Cowboys got their first sack of the game in the third quarter, with DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher each getting credit for half a sack. It seemed defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was playing conservatively with his pressures, sending only three in the first half. But in the second, he revved it up slightly by sending four or five defenders at least once or twice. Ware even knocked Weeden down in the end zone on a pass, something we haven't seen a lot of in the first half. Anthony Spencer's strip sack with 5:45 left ended a Cleveland drive. But Romo's fumble kept the Browns around.


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Injuries to Smith, others: The Cowboys lost left tackle Tyron Smith to an ankle injury, and he was replaced by Jermey Parnell. Smith didn't return in the second half. The Cowboys already were playing with changes to the line with center Ryan Cook out with a knee injury. Right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau moved from that spot to replace Cook. Derrick Dockery came off the bench to start at right guard. Bernadeau had just two bad snaps, in the shotgun, that were handled well by Romo. The Cowboys lost safety Danny McCray to a hip injury, but he returned. Also, outside linebacker Ware and safety Charlie Peprah were checked for concussions in the second half. Ware returned. Ogletree and Dwayne Harris also left the game with injuries late in the game. Ogletree was checked for a concussion, and Harris returned in overtime.

Shut out at halftime: The Cowboys were shut out in the first half for the first time this season. The last time the Cowboys failed to score in the first half was the last two games of the 2011 regular season. Dallas lost both -- 20-7 against Philadelphia 21-14 versus the New York Giants won 31-14.

What's next? Thanksgiving Day, when the Cowboys keep their faint playoff hopes alive and take on the Washington Redskins for the first time this season at Cowboys Stadium.

Rapid Reaction: Redskins 31, Eagles 6

November, 18, 2012

LANDOVER, Md. -- A few thoughts on the Washington Redskins' fairly easy victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at FedEx Field.

What it means: The Redskins move within two games of the division-leading Giants, and at 4-6, they are not, technically, out of the race for this year's playoffs. Since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule, seven 4-6 teams have recovered to make the playoffs. No 3-7 team has done so, however, so while the Eagles are not officially eliminated, their sixth loss in a row renders any remaining hope they may have had pretty much historically impossible.

Meet Mr. Griffin: Washington's rookie quarterback, Robert Griffin III, was 14-for-15 for 200 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for 85 yards on 11 carries. Griffin is a spectacular player, there is no doubt, and he likely won you your fantasy football game this week if you started him. But his performance against the Eagles' defense was par for the recent course. Over the past four games, since the Eagles fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and replaced him with Todd Bowles, opposing quarterbacks are 76-for-97 for 901 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions against the Eagles' defense.

Big plays: Griffin completed touchdown passes of 6, 17, 49 and 61 yards in the game. The 49-yarder to Aldrick Robinson was an embarrasing breakdown in coverage between Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and safety Nate Allen, who left Robinson incredibly alone in the end zone. The 61-yarder was a heave into double coverage on which Santana Moss made a great, tough catch and fought his way into the end zone against overmatched Eagles safety Kurt Coleman. Griffin was smart and skilled enough to spot major weaknesses in the Eagles' secondary, and he took advantage of them.

Shady injured: The worst part of the day for the Eagles may actually have come in the final two minutes, when star running back LeSean McCoy went down with an injury and had to be carted off the field. Because the injury happened so late in the game, there was no word on its severity before the game ended. Obviously, we will update you as news comes in on this.

The "other" rookie: Third-round pick Nick Foles made his first career start at quarterback for the Eagles, who were playing without injured starter Michael Vick. Foles looked like a shaky third-round rookie, throwing two first-quarter interceptions and struggling for rhythm and consistency against one of the worst pass defenses in the league. It sounds as though Vick will be out for a while, so Foles is likely to get another start next week against Carolina, and at this point it would seem sensible for the Eagles to get him some experience and find out what he can do before they make a decision about where to go at quarterback in the offseason.

Under the (Meri)weather: Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather, who missed the first nine games of this season with a left knee injury, left the game in the third quarter with a right knee injury and did not return. Meriweather played well while in the game and had one of the two Foles interceptions in the first quarter. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who's been struggling with a foot injury since the season opener, played sparingly.

Patchwork line: Right guard Jake Scott became the ninth different offensive lineman to start a game for the Eagles this year, and he was not great. He was called for two false start penalties and a holding penalty (declined) as the Eagles' offensive line as a whole struggled with penalties all day. The line was a major problem for Vick, and it appears it will be one for Foles as well.

What's next: The Redskins have a quick turnaround, as they will head to Dallas on Wednesday and play the Cowboys on Thursday in the annual Thanksgiving Day game at Cowboys Stadium. A victory in that game would move the Redskins into second place in the NFC East. The Eagles, if you can believe this, host next week's "Monday Night Football" game against the Carolina Panthers in a battle between the last-place teams in the NFC East and the NFC South.