NFC East: 2012 Week 9 coverage
November, 5, 2012
By Ashley Fox | ESPN.com
NEW ORLEANS -- Some quick thoughts on New Orleans Saints' 28-13 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on "Monday Night Football."
What it means: After starting 0-4, the Saints have won three of their past four games and sit at 3-5 and in third place in the NFC South, well behind the 8-0 Atlanta Falcons. The season isn’t over for New Orleans, but with the way its defense is playing, it will be hard-pressed to go on a run.
For the reeling Eagles, this was their fourth straight loss and fifth in their past six games after starting the season 2-0. They now sit at 3-5, tied with the Dallas Cowboys for second place in the NFC East behind the 6-3 New York Giants. This certainly isn’t what Philadelphia owner Jeffrey Lurie had in mind. He said before the season started that a second consecutive 8-8 finish would be grounds to fire Andy Reid after his 14th season. The Eagles will have to finish at worst 6-2 to avoid a .500 record, and even that might not be good enough.
So what becomes of Reid? NFL owners don’t like to get embarrassed on national television, and that’s what happened to the Eagles, who got behind early -- again -- and couldn’t keep up with a Saints offense that can put points on the board. The Eagles trailed 21-3 at halftime. They showed signs of life in the third quarter with a strip sack that led to a 77-yard touchdown pass from Michael Vick to DeSean Jackson followed by a forced fumble on the ensuing kickoff.
But one of the Eagles' chronic problems continued. They couldn’t score touchdowns in the red zone. Five appearances led to two field goals. Vick also threw a pick-six when a pass bounced off Brent Celek's fingertips and was returned 98 yards by Patrick Robinson for a touchdown that gave New Orleans a 7-0 lead.
As ugly as it’s going to be in Philadelphia this week, where acute apathy has set in, I’d be shocked -- shocked -- if Lurie fired Reid midseason under any circumstances. That’s not how Lurie operates. But it certainly seems like Lurie will be looking for a new coach in January.
Saints defense holds: The Saints had been historically bad coming into the game this season. They had given up consecutive 500-yard games and had allowed at least 400 yards of offense in all seven games. They ranked 30th in scoring, 32nd in total yards allowed, 30th in passing yards allowed and 31st in rushing yards allowed.
While New Orleans allowed LeSean McCoy to gain 119 yards, 101 of those yards came on 13 first-half carries. They held the Eagles to 13 points even though they entered the game giving up 30.9 per game. They sacked Vick seven times and forced three turnovers.
Yes, they ended up giving up 400 yards in garbage time, meaningless yards that only padded losing statistics. The Saints have plenty of work to do on defense, but they made headway on Monday.
Eagles lose another lineman: The Philadelphia offensive line has taken a beating this season, and against New Orleans the Eagles were forced to play the majority of the game without right tackle Todd Herremans, who injured his right ankle/foot late in the first quarter.
Herremans is the fourth starter on the offensive line to miss time with an injury, which is one of the major reasons the Eagles have struggled this season.
Saints' streaks continue: New Orleans has not lost a November game since falling to Tampa Bay on Nov. 30, 2008, a streak of 12 straight games. They’ve now won 14 of their past 15 games in November. They’ve also won eight straight games on Monday night.
What’s next: The Eagles return home to an environment in Philadelphia that will be toxic, and they will host the Cowboys on Sunday. The Saints host the undefeated Falcons.
November, 4, 2012
By Calvin Watkins | ESPN.com
ATLANTA -- The season is now in jeopardy for the Dallas Cowboys.
They came here trying to knock off the undefeated Atlanta Falcons but failed, 19-13, at the Georgia Dome on Sunday night. The Cowboys have now lost eight consecutive games on Sunday night and are 3-5 overall at the halfway point of the season. The Falcons improved to a perfect 8-0.
What it means: The Cowboys are two games under .500 and most likely will have to win seven of the next eight to get into the playoffs. If the Cowboys win six of the next eight, they might need some help to reach the postseason.
Scandrick with some gaffes: Slot cornerback Orlando Scandrick struggled in the fourth quarter against the Falcons. He missed a tackle on a 31-yard run play by Michael Turner on a third-and-6, then was flagged for defensive holding on a third-and-8 play against Roddy White. Both plays extended the last drive of the night for the Falcons. It's these kinds of plays that Scandrick has to make, especially with the game on the line.
Running back rotation: Felix Jones started, but Lance Dunbar (North Texas) got a majority of the snaps as the backup instead of Phillip Tanner. For the game, the Cowboys rushed for 65 yards on 18 carries. Jones had 39 yards on nine carries and Dunbar, on eight carries, picked up 26 yards. It's clear the Cowboys miss starting running back DeMarco Murray, who was out with a sprained foot. His return for the Philadelphia Eagles game next week is a possibility.
Witten makes Cowboys history: Coming into the game, tight end Jason Witten needed three catches to tie Michael Irvin as the franchise's all-time leader in receptions. Witten finished with seven catches for 51 yards. But once again, he had no touchdowns.
Dez Bryant started despite a sore hip and finished with one catch for 15 yards, none in the second half. Quarterback Tony Romo didn't target him in the second half. Instead, Miles Austin and Kevin Ogletree were the main targets, along with Witten.
Ratliff plays hurt: Nose tackle Jay Ratliff hurt his left ankle late in the first half. While he didn't start the second half, he played through the injury. There were no other major injuries for the Cowboys.
Who's next? The Cowboys finish their toughest stretch of the season (four of five on the road) with a trip to see the Eagles on Sunday.
November, 4, 2012
By Dan Graziano | ESPN.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
What it means: The end of a four-game winning streak and a poor start to the second half of the season after the Giants' standard 6-2 start. This loss in their ninth game of the season will raise easy questions about the Giants' record in the second halves of their seasons during the Tom Coughlin era, but of greater concern is that they appeared to lose the physical battles up front on offense and especially on defense for most of this game.
Superman slumping? This was the fourth consecutive game in which Giants quarterback Eli Manning saw his passer rating drop. It was 103.3 in the Week 5 victory over Cleveland, 87.4 in Week 6 in San Francisco, 78.9 in Week 7 against the Redskins, 58.4 last week in Dallas and 41.1 on Sunday against the Steelers. Manning has thrown four interceptions and one touchdown pass in his past three games. He looks surprisingly jittery in the pocket, and he's missing open receivers with his throws. Without Manning at his best, the Giants cannot expect to compete with the league's best teams. The Giants were 2-for-10 on third-down conversion attempts Sunday.
Soft in the middle: The Steelers ran the ball up the gut all day against the Giants with Isaac Redman, who's basically their third-string running back. It was not a banner day for Mark Herzlich, who got the first start of his career in place of injured middle linebacker Chase Blackburn. The Steelers seemed to spot a weakness in the Giants' defense in the middle of the field, and they were able to reliably take advantage of it.
A little help: The Giants' 14-10 halftime lead came with a lot of help from their opponent. The Steelers racked up 87 yards' worth of pass interference penalties in the first half, and a personal foul penalty by Ryan Clark in the end zone on third down set up the Giants' first touchdown. Once the breaks stopped going the Giants' way, the Steelers were able to take control of the game in the second half as the Giants were unable to get their offense going.
What's next: The Giants travel to Cincinnati, where they will play the Bengals at 1 p.m. ET next Sunday. The Bengals have lost four games in a row after a 3-1 start and have allowed a total of 106 points in those four games.
November, 4, 2012
By Dan Graziano | ESPN.com
A few thoughts on the Washington Redskins' third consecutive loss, this one to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon at FedEx field.
What it means: If you were still holding out hope that the Redskins could make a playoff run this year, now might be a good time to recalibrate your expectations. They were just outmanned and outplayed, at home, by one of the worst teams in the league. Carolina did an excellent job of bottling up Robert Griffin III by keeping the pocket very tight around him and limiting his options. This is one of many things the Redskins' defense is not able to do to its opponents with any consistency, and it effectively eliminated Washington's passing game in this one.
Second-guessing: I didn't like the call to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line down 7-3 in the second quarter, mainly because I think the Redskins' defense is so bad right now that it doesn't matter whether they make the other team go 50 yards, 80 yards or 98 yards -- they can't operate on the assumption that they're going to be able to get a stop or maintain a field-position advantage. I'd have taken the points while I had them. And if you do go for it there, you can't run that quarterback sprint out to the short side. No matter how fast Griffin is, you take away your options when you run that play to the short side. Bad decision, bad play call, bad execution.
The whistle: If indeed an official blew a whistle during DeAngelo Williams' 30-yard touchdown run and Redskins linebacker Perry Riley pulled up as a result, then the Redskins have a legitimate complaint. The play should have been blown dead. Now, there was nothing to say the Redskins couldn't have won the game anyway, or that the phantom whistle was the reason they lost. But Redskins fans were furious after that play, and it appears the fury was justified.
The bigger problem: The Redskins were called for 13 penalties for a total of 97 yards. Two of the late ones were a holding call and a false start that delayed the touchdown that cut the Carolina lead to one score in the final two minutes. The Redskins don't hold enough personnel advantages over their opponents to get away with that many critical, avoidable mistakes.
What's next: The Redskins are off next week. They return after the bye with a 1 p.m. ET home game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Nov. 18.