NFC East: 2013 Week 1 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Eagles 33, Redskins 27

September, 9, 2013

LANDOVER, Md. -- Thoughts on the Washington Redskins’ 33-27 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night.

What it means for Washington: It’s one thing to lose; it’s another to look the way Washington did much of the night in its loss to Philadelphia. The Redskins opened the season with high hopes, obviously, and now have some questions to answer. It’s only one game, but quarterback Robert Griffin III looked sloppy -- rust or lingering issues? He looked better in the second half, but his play will remain a storyline as the week, and season, unfolds. It was a bad start, even though it was a solid comeback.

Stock report falling: Running back Alfred Morris had a bad game, with 12 carries for 45 yards. But it was more than that: Morris fumbled on his first carry, leading to an Eagles touchdown one play later. And he dropped a pitch in the end zone that he fell on and then was tackled for a safety. Debate calling for a pitch in the end zone all you want, but it’s a basic play he botched. Morris is a better runner than what he showed, though he needs a little more help from his line. But it was a bad opening night for a run game that was terrific in 2012.

Stock report falling, part II: The Redskins couldn’t stop LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 184 yards on 31 carries. His cutback runs were effective against the Redskins' defense. The Redskins had to use their nickel defense all night; the Eagles shredded it on the ground.

Turnover woes: The Redskins turned the ball over only 14 times last season and had a differential of plus-17. But they turned it over three times Monday night, leading to 14 points. Both of those touchdowns were set up deep in their own territory, leading to easy scores. Morris’ fumble occurred after the Redskins’ defense had held Philadelphia to a field goal and led 7-3. One play later it was 10-7. Then with Washington needing a good opening drive in the second half, Griffin threw an interception on an out route. Two plays later it was 33-7.

What’s next: The Redskins play at 0-1 Green Bay in a game that isn’t a must win, but an 0-2 hole is never welcomed. Coming off the loss to Philadelphia, the Redskins have more worries than just the Packers. They now need to worry how long it’ll take Griffin to return to the player he was before his injury.

Rapid Reaction: Eagles 33, Redskins 27

September, 9, 2013

LANDOVER, Md. – Here's what comes to mind after recovering from whiplash during the Philadelphia Eagles' 33-27 victory at the Washington Redskins on Monday night.

What it means for Philadelphia: Chip Kelly's Eagles are going to be entertaining, at the very least. Kelly's offense turned FedEx Field into the Autobahn in the first half: 26 points, 53 plays, 322 yards. The Eagles' pace slowed in the second half, either because they took their foot off the gas or simply ran out of gas. Washington scored 20 unanswered points to tamp down the Chipmania. The rewards and the risks of Kelly's go-go offense were all on display in this game.

Stock Watch: Rising (but not sliding) -- Michael Vick showed how dangerous he can be in Kelly's offense, to defenses as well as to himself. Vick ran the uptempo, read-option system masterfully in the first half. He broke a 36-yard run to help slow Washington's momentum in the fourth quarter. But he absorbed too many hits, including on that run, and was limping around by game's end. He can't stay upright all season playing that way.

Starry, starry night: It is considered a good offensive performance when you have a running back and a wide receiver each hit 100 yards. The Eagles had that by halftime. LeSean McCoy had 115 yards on the ground by intermission, then ran 34 yards for a touchdown on the first series of the second half. DeSean Jackson had 7 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown before intermission. They are poised for incredible seasons.

Those other guys: With so much focus on Kelly and his novel offense, the Eagles defense came into the game as something of an afterthought. After three Washington possessions, the Eagles had two takeaways and a safety. They pressured Robert Griffin III and contained Alfred Morris. In the second half, turnovers and stalled offensive drives put more pressure on the defense. It held up, but just barely. Still, there was a lot to build on here.

What's next: Kelly won't have the element of surprise on his side after his much ballyhooed “Monday Night Football” debut. Defensive coordinators around the NFL, unlike Washington's Jim Haslett, will have some actual Eagles game tape to dig into. First up is San Diego's John Pagano. One suspects, though, that Kelly has a lot more where this came from. In a deeply-flawed NFC East, anything now seems possible.

Rapid Reaction: Cowboys 36, Giants 31

September, 9, 2013

ARLINGTON, Texas -- My thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys36-31 win against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium:

What it means for Dallas: The Cowboys finally claimed a victory over the Giants in Arlington after losing the first four in the $1.2 billion stadium. Maybe all they needed was a name change to AT&T Stadium.

The Cowboys have now beaten the Giants in seven straight season openers, including the past two.

Sunday was another strange, thrilling game against their NFC East rivals despite six takeaways and two defensive touchdowns by the Cowboys. Dallas was unable to salt it away until linebacker Sean Lee recovered an onside kick with 10 seconds to play.

Safety Barry Church returned a fumble 27 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, and cornerback Brandon Carr picked off a deflected Eli Manning pass and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown with 1:50 to play to make it 36-24.

Stock watch: Tight end Jason Witten went over 9,000 career receiving yards, and he also caught two touchdown passes in a game for the first time since Dec. 12, 2010, against Philadelphia and only the third time in his career.

Taking it away: Monte Kiffin has preached takeaways since taking over as defensive coordinator, and there was no better way to start the season than how the Cowboys defense did in the first quarter.

On the first play, DeMarcus Ware recorded an interception for the first time since 2006 that set up a field goal. On the second drive, Church ripped the ball free from running back David Wilson at the Dallas 10 for a George Selvie fumble recovery. On the third drive, safety Will Allen had his first interception since 2005.

The Cowboys did not record three takeaways in any game last season and last had three in a quarter on Nov. 13, 2011, against Buffalo (fourth quarter).

About that running game: The Cowboys spent the offseason talking about running the ball more and running the ball better in 2013 after a horrid 2012.

It’s not that the Cowboys ran the ball poorly against the Giants; it’s just that they didn’t run it very much. In the first half, Romo threw the ball 33 times and the Cowboys had 12 rushes. For the game, the Cowboys ran it 23 times for 87 yards and DeMarco Murray had 86 yards on 20 carries, but they couldn’t close out the game on their own. Last season, the Cowboys had seven games in which they ran it more than 22 times.

What’s next: The Cowboys play at Kansas City next Sunday for the first time since 2009.

Rapid Reaction: Cowboys 36, Giants 31

September, 8, 2013
ARLINGTON, Texas -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' horrific season-opening loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.

What it means for New York: The Giants have begun the season with a Week 1 loss to the division-rival Cowboys for the second year in a row, and this one was downright putrid. They turned the ball over six times against a Cowboys team that forced just 16 turnovers in the entire 2012 season. And while it was encouraging that quarterback Eli Manning and electric wideout Victor Cruz brought them back in the second half with a chance to win it, those hopes went out the window when Brandon Carr returned a Manning interception for a touchdown with 1:50 to go.

Stock watch: Falling, David Wilson. The Giants' second-year running back entered this game with the highest of expectations after he had a strong preseason and had his role in the offense increased following the injury to Andre Brown. But Wilson, who famously fumbled against the Cowboys in last season's opener, fumbled twice in this one and ended up getting benched in the third quarter for Da'Rel Scott. He also missed a block on a George Selvie sack in the first quarter. The Giants believe in Wilson, and he'll get more chances, but this was a terrible way for him to start such a promising season.

Bright spots: Obviously, Cruz didn't look as though his bruised heel was bothering him. Fellow receiver Hakeem Nicks also looked to be operating at full-strength.

The man needs help: Yes, Manning threw three interceptions. And yes, he will take responsibility for that. But the problems for the Giants on Sunday were widespread, from an offensive line that couldn't protect him to a basically useless running game to a defense that's softer in the middle than (big) bleu cheese. The Giants are still asking Manning to do it all, and he can't do it all every time.

What's next: The Giants host Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in their 4:25 p.m. ET home opener Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Peyton Manning tied an NFL record with seven touchdowns Thursday night in Denver's season-opening victory over the Super Bowl champion Ravens. This will be the third time that brothers Peyton and Eli Manning have faced each other in an NFL game. Peyton won the first two, both with the Indianapolis Colts.