NFC East: 2012 Week 17 coverage

Rapid Reaction: Redskins 28, Cowboys 18

December, 30, 2012

LANDOVER, Md. -- A few thoughts on the Washington Redskins' 28-18 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East title game Sunday night at FedEx Field.

What it means: The Redskins are champions of the NFC East for the first time since 1999, when their rookie quarterback, Robert Griffin III, was nine years old and Bill Clinton was President of the United States. The Cowboys are 8-8 and for the second year in a row were unable to win a Week 17 game that would have won them the division. The Redskins enter the playoffs as the hottest team in the NFC, having won seven games in a row to finish at 10-6 after a 3-6 start. Denver's 11-game winning streak is the only longer current win streak in the NFL.

Record breaker: Redskins rookie running back Alfred Morris reached the 100-yard mark for the game in the third quarter. In that same quarter, he also broke Clinton Portis' team record of 1,516 rushing yards in a season, set in 2005. Morris basically was the Redskins' game plan for this one, as they fed him repeatedly against a Dallas defense that was missing six starters and was trying to get by with a clearly limited DeMarcus Ware. Morris got big chunks of yardage up the middle all night, and the coup de grace was his 32-yard touchdown run that put the Redskins up 21-10 with 10:41 left in the game. He finished the game with 200 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries and the regular season with 1,613 rushing yards.

Well covered: Going into the game, one of the key mismatches looked to be Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant against Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall. If you'd been told Hall would be in one-on-one coverage against Bryant all night with Miles Austin injured and out of the game early, you'd have expected the red-hot wideout to roast the declining veteran cornerback. But Hall played his best game of the season, handling the much bigger Bryant in coverage, bumping him off of routes, and breaking up a couple of critical passes. The Redskins have been getting by defensively on schemes and adjustments during their hot second half, but sometimes to win championships you need individual players to deliver their best individual efforts and win their matchups. Hall was the perfect example of that Sunday night. Bryant had four catches for 71 yards and failed to catch a touchdown pass for the first time in eight games before he left with a back injury in the fourth quarter.

Romo Flops: Tony Romo's three interceptions will long be cited as a reason the Cowboys lost this game, and that's fair. The two he threw in the first quarter may well have robbed the Cowboys of a chance to get off to a fast start before their wide receivers started dropping like flies. Romo settled in after a rough first quarter and led the Cowboys on a late touchdown drive that cut the lead to three points, but his third interception of the game -- by Washington linebacker Rob Jackson -- set up Morris' third touchdown and sealed the victory for the Redskins. Those who want to poke holes in Romo's ability to come up big in the big spots have three more interceptions to use in their arguments from now on. Romo threw 13 interceptions in his first seven games of this season and only six in his final nine, but of those six, five came in his two losses to the Redskins.

Super Sub: Jackson emerged midseason as the replacement for injured Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo and has had a major impact on the defense as a coverage linebacker as well as a pass-rusher. This was his fourth interception of the season. He's one of the surprise heroes of the Redskins' surprise 10-win season.

Parity: Each of the four NFC East teams has won the division once in the last four years.

What's next: The Redskins will host the Seattle Seahawks in an NFC wild-card-round playoff game at 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field. The Cowboys' season is over. They will pick either 17th or 18th in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Rapid Reaction: Giants 42, Eagles 7

December, 30, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants vowed to show pride and they did just that, finally snapping out of their funk and crushing the lifeless Eagles 42-7 in their regular season finale.

What it means: The Giants took care of their own business by destroying the Eagles, but they were eliminated from playoff contention by virtue of Chicago’s victory over the Lions.

The Giants needed a win over Philadelphia and losses by Dallas, Chicago and Minnesota to get into the playoffs.

So their title defense ends with a 9-7 record. Despite finishing with a blowout victory, the Giants will go into the offseason wondering how they let the NFC East slip out of their hands. After starting off 6-2, the Giants closed the second half going just 3-5 to miss the playoffs for the third time in the past four seasons.

Now they head into an offseason which certainly could bring change to the roster with some familiar faces not returning.

ELIte explosion: After managing just 14 points in the previous two games, the Giants exploded for 35 points in the first half against a woeful Philadelphia team.

Eli Manning matched his career-high of four touchdowns in a game but did so in the first half. He later set his career-high with a fifth touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Looking as sharp as he has all season, Manning connected on 11-of-16 passes for 196 yards in the first half. Two of his touchdowns went to rookie Rueben Randle, another went to rookie running back David Wilson and the fourth was to Victor Cruz.

The touchdown pass to Cruz, who surpassed his total of 9 touchdowns last year, was as sharp a touchdown pass as Manning has thrown all season, even if Cruz was wide open.

Rookie surprise: The Giants’ rout got started on the hands and legs of their first two draft picks -- Randle and Wilson.

With the hobbled Hakeem Nicks watching and cheering on the sideline, Randle took advantage of his opportunity with a breakout day. He caught a three-yard touchdown pass and then added a 38-yard touchdown grab over Nnamdi Asomugha down the left sideline to put the Giants up 14-0 with 6:24 left in the first quarter.

Wilson started the game and scored on a 15-yard catch from Manning. Ahmad Bradshaw, who has been playing with a sprained knee, spelled Wilson and looked terrific, scoring a touchdown of his own and rushing for 67 yards on his seven first-half carries. Bradshaw reached 1,000 yards on the season in the second half.

Return of Stevie Wonder: The Eagles surprised the Giants with a successful onside kick to start the game. But Stevie Brown intercepted Michael Vick on the opening drive and returned it 48 yards to the Eagles’ 26 to set up Manning’s first touchdown pass to Randle.

Brown, the biggest surprise of the season for the Giants, has 8 interceptions. The Giants are 6-0 when he has had at least one pick.

What’s next: An offseason of uncertainty. The Giants finish 9-7 for second straight year but this time no playoffs. Now GM Jerry Reese will have to find a way to re-tool a team that won it all a year ago but couldn’t win enough to make the playoffs.