NFC East: 2012 Week 4 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Bears 34, Cowboys 18

October, 1, 2012

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Jay Cutler is not one to smile during a game. It's not in his nature.

Monday night, he did.

After Brandon Marshall caught a 31-yard touchdown pass to give the Chicago Bears a commanding 24-point lead against the Dallas Cowboys, Cutler slapped fives with linebacker Brian Urlacher and had one of those "I just won the lottery" smiles.

Tony Romo didn't have one of those smiles. He had frustration on his face and used a profanity after throwing a crowd-clearing interception with 5:51 to play in a distasteful, 34-18 loss to the Bears.

What it means: At 2-2, the Cowboys' odds of making the postseason stand at 35.3 percent. Under the current playoff format, 71 of 201 teams in their position have made the postseason. The Cowboys are heading into a bye week that will only raise questions about just how good or bad they are. This is the second consecutive season they have started 2-2 going into a bye. The last time the Cowboys had a record above .500 into a week off was 2009, and they were 3-2.

Turnovers hurt: Romo tied a career high with five interceptions. Some of the picks weren't his fault. Dez Bryant ran the wrong route that led to one pick; Kevin Ogletree failed to hold on to a pass for another. But the other three could be blamed on Romo. For the night, Romo completed 31 of 43 passes for 307 yards with one touchdown to go with the five picks. Kyle Orton replaced Romo late in the fourth quarter. It was a poor performance by Romo, who watched Jay Cutler outplay him. Cutler completed 18 passes on 24 attempts for 275 yards and two touchdowns.

Carr struggles: Brandon Carr did a nice job covering Vincent Jackson in the win over Tampa Bay last week, but not so much against Brandon Marshall. Marshall caught seven passes for 138 yards, and his only touchdown reception caught Carr in a pick play in which he failed to get past Kellen Davis.

Pass rush isn't there: Cutler was sacked just once Monday night, but he didn't get hit often by the Cowboys' pass rush. There were times when outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware couldn't reach Cutler, who got rid of the ball quickly. Without Anthony Spencer (pectoral muscle strain) and for a few snaps inside linebacker Bruce Carter (hip), the Cowboys were lacking in the pass rush. It was a long night for it as Cutler picked apart the Cowboys' secondary.

No drops for Witten: The NFL leader in drops, tight end Jason Witten had none. He finished with 13 catches for 112 yards and a late touchdown, coming with 34 seconds to play. Witten was just two catches shy of his career high. Witten has five drops through four games.

What's next? A bye week, and thank goodness, at least for the Cowboys. The Cowboys will have one practice this week, on Wednesday, before taking four days off. When they return, nose tackle Jay Ratliff (ankle), who has missed the first four games of the season, could make his season debut. Center Phil Costa, who played just three snaps in the season opener, could also make a return to the starting lineup.

Rapid Reaction: Eagles 19, Giants 17

September, 30, 2012
PHILADELPHIA -- A few thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles' key divisional victory over the New York Giants on Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

What it means: In spite of all of their early-season struggles, Michael Vick and the Eagles are 3-1 and on top in the NFC East with a game in hand against their fiercest rivals and the defending division and Super Bowl champions. For the Giants, it means the Eagles still have their number. They've now lost eight of their past nine games against Philadelphia and, perhaps more importantly, are 0-2 this year against NFC East opponents.

Protecting the ball: When the Eagles commit to the run and do not turn the ball over, they can be as good as any team in the league. After a stop-and-start offensive first half, the Eagles came out running with LeSean McCoy in the second half and had tremendous success with it. Their issue on offense was an inability to finish drives and turn their hard work into touchdowns instead of settling for field goals. That's what left the Giants with the late-game opportunity to march down the field and take the lead in the fourth quarter. After turning the ball over 12 times in their first three games (and yet somehow winning two of them), the Eagles did not turn the ball over once Sunday night, and they beat the Super Bowl champs.

Eli Manning does not play favorites: The Giants' quarterback tells his receivers that, if they run their routes and get open, they will get opportunities to catch the ball. With Hakeem Nicks out last week, Ramses Barden got his catches and yards on slant routes all night. With Nicks out again Sunday, Domenik Hixon went more than 100 yards receiving and Bear Pascoe caught a touchdown in the fourth quarter to give the Giants their first lead of the game. Manning makes his receivers better, and maximizes their ability to produce in their specific roles and circumstances. He completed passes to eight different players Sunday night.

Mr. Wilson: I think Giants fans need to get used to the idea of first-round pick David Wilson as a developmental player who needs more work and practice before he's a factor in the run game. There's actually nothing wrong with that. The Giants like Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown and have a good track record of developing young, talented players. In the meantime, Wilson looks as though he has become a real weapon in the kick-return game.

The Prince: Last year's Giants first-rounder, Prince Amukamara, is playing very well at cornerback. He covered Jeremy Maclin most of the night, and Maclin didn't catch one pass in the first 55 minutes of the game. Amukamara looks like a good technician, and the Eagles seemed very comfortable testing out Corey Webster with DeSean Jackson rather than picking on Amukamara as many teams have so far in his short career. Amukamara could be a real asset to a banged-up secondary that lost safety Kenny Phillips to a knee injury in the first quarter.

What's next: The Giants will host the 0-4 Cleveland Browns on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET in East Rutherford, N.J., and should pound them senseless. The Eagles will travel to Pittsburgh for a 1 p.m. ET game against the 1-2 Steelers, who were off this week.