NFC East: 2012 Week 16 coverage
December, 23, 2012
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPN.com
BALTIMORE –- Supposedly playing for their playoff lives, the New York Giants showed very little life for the second straight week as the defending champs were blown out by the Baltimore Ravens, 33-14.
What it means: With the Dallas Cowboys losing to the New Orleans Saints, the Giants are somehow still alive for a wild-card spot due to their overall and conference record. But they’ll need help -- and a lot of it -- to get in. The Giants' playoff fate is tied to several teams, including Washington, Dallas, Chicago and Minnesota (check out ESPN's playoff machine).
First things first, though, New York has to beat the Philadelphia Eagles, and that is no guarantee the way the Giants have been playing. They have been crushed in two straight games and look like a shell of their championship selves.
In fact, they look like they are just going through the motions of playing the season out as they continue to fade down the stretch. There’s plenty of blame to go around.
Defenseless Giants: Playing without Justin Tuck and Kenny Phillips, the Giants' defense struggled badly. It looked a lot like last week when the Giants offered little resistance. There were missed tackles, big plays given up and little pressure on the quarterback.
Like Matt Ryan a week ago, Joe Flacco looked about as comfortable in the pocket as he would have been on his couch at home. Ray Rice burned Michael Boley for a touchdown reception while Stevie Brown and Will Hill missed tackles to put the Ravens up 24-7 toward the end of the first half.
Truly offensive performance: The Giants offense struggled again for the second straight game. After scoring 52 points against the Saints two weeks ago, the Giants have mustered only 14 points since.
Eli Manning was under pressure much of the first half and the Giants couldn’t seem to get anything going. Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz have been taken out of the mix by defenses and the running game isn’t doing much of anything.
There’s just no spark on offense right now.
Confounding Corey: Corey Webster's difficult season continued as Flacco and the Ravens went after the Giants corner early and often. Webster gave up the first touchdown of the game to Torrey Smith. Smith later beat Webster on a 43-yard pass play that helped set up a Flacco 1-yard quarterback sneak to put the Ravens up 14-0.
Webster had difficulty locating the ball or had bad positioning as well. He nearly gave up another touchdown in the second quarter but Jacoby Jones' 9-yard catch in the end zone was overturned.
Giant injuries: Tuck (shoulder) and Phillips (knee) did not play. Defensive tackles Marvin Austin and Chris Canty suffered knee injuries during the game as well.
What’s next: The Giants finish the season at home next Sunday against the Eagles, who could put them out of their misery and end their playoff chances.
December, 23, 2012
By Calvin Watkins | ESPN.com
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have lost control of their season for the moment.
It's something coach Jason Garrett didn't want. Neither did owner/general manager Jerry Jones, but that's the reality as the Cowboys head into Christmas Day.
New Orleans defeated Dallas in overtime 34-31 at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys' hopes for the playoffs need outside help, most easily in the form of one loss by the New York Giants in the season's last two weeks.
What it means: The Cowboys needed to win their last two regular-season games to clinch the NFC East without help. But the loss, combined with the Washington Redskins' victory, keeps the Cowboys on the outside of the playoff picture. A win by the Giants later today would also hurt the Cowboys' chances of reaching the postseason.
DeMarcus Ware missed the bulk of the second half with a right shoulder strain. He was battling a hyperextended elbow and a shoulder that was popping out of place. With Ware out, the Cowboys asked Victor Butler and Anthony Spencer to pick up the pass rush. Ware did return for one snap with 12:05 to play in overtime, then left.
Murray's fumble costly: With 4:17 to play in the third quarter, DeMarco Murray fumbled at the Cowboys' 5. He was stripped by linebacker Curtis Lofton, who also recovered. Murray lost the ball just before his knee hit the ground. The turnover, with the score tied at 17, proved costly. Drew Brees found Pierre Thomas for the touchdown to give the Saints a 24-17 lead.
Bryant's big day: Dez Bryant finished with nine catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns. He has scored in his past seven games and continues to be a big-play threat for the Cowboys. But after a solid first half, Bryant didn't make another catch until the fourth quarter.
Fumble or catch? The game turned in overtime when Brees completed a pass to Marques Colston. Morris Claiborne stripped the ball away, and it rolled down the field, where Jimmy Graham and Eric Frampton gave chase. Graham recovered at the Cowboys' 2. A review confirmed that Colston had possession before he lost it. Kicker Garrett Hartley booted a 20-yarder to clinch the victory.
Witten sets season record: Tight end Jason Witten finished with six catches for 60 yards. He now has 103 catches on the season, an NFL season record for catches by a tight end, breaking the mark set by Tony Gonzalez. Witten caught a 5-yard pass in overtime to break the record.
What's next? The Redskins host the Cowboys in the regular-season finale, and a victory by the home team clinches the NFC East. The Cowboys would need help in the form of a Giants loss to reach the postseason.
December, 23, 2012
By Dan Graziano | ESPN.com
PHILADELPHIA -- A few thoughts on the Washington Redskins' sixth victory in a row and their ninth of the season.
What it means: The Redskins have their first winning season since 2007, and if they beat the Dallas Cowboys at home Sunday, they will be NFC East champions for the first time since 1999. The Redskins also retain a chance to make the playoffs as a wild-card team, though they cannot clinch their playoff spot today. The Eagles have lost 11 games for the first time since 1999 -- Andy Reid's first season as their head coach. They have not lost 12 in a season since 1998, when they finished 3-13 under Rich Kotite.
Gimpy Griffin: There was much speculation going into this game about the ways in which Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III might be limited after missing last week's game with a sprained knee. Griffin wore a brace on the knee, and while the Redskins still ran a lot of the play-action passes that have been such a critical element of their offense, it seemed clear that Griffin's legs were not going to be a significant part of the game plan this week. He carried the ball twice for 4 yards in the first half and not once after that. The Redskins went with a fairly conservative game plan, feeding running back Alfred Morris the ball and picking their spots down the field when the receivers were able to get open in the Philadelphia secondary.
Season of giving: The Redskins were able to get back into the game after a slow start on defense because of two Eagles turnovers. Nick Foles' fumble on Ryan Kerrigan's first sack of the game set up a Redskins field goal drive, and London Fletcher's interception of Foles set up a touchdown drive that put the Redskins on top 13-7 in the second quarter. The Eagles entered the game tied with Kansas City for the worst turnover differential in the league (minus-22). Washington's defense seemed to stiffen after the turnovers, but the Eagles were able to move the ball against them in the fourth quarter after it appeared as though Washington had put the game away. Philadelphia had a first-and-goal from the 5-yard line but could not punch it in.
You never know: Colt Anderson's fourth-quarter interception of Griffin may have been the least likely interception of the year in the NFL. It was the Eagles' first interception in nine games and just the fifth of the season for Griffin in 14 starts.
Record-breaking kicker: The Redskins' Kai Forbath's first two field goals of the day were his 16th and 17th of the year in as many attempts. That broke Garrett Hartley's record of consecutive made field goals (16) to start an NFL career.
What's next: The Redskins host the Cowboys on Sunday at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., in a game that stands a decent chance of being picked for that night's prime-time slot. The Eagles travel up the highway to play the Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., in what very likely will be Reid's final game as Eagles coach.