NFC East: 2013 Week 16 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Philadelphia Eagles

December, 22, 2013

PHILADELPHIA -- Thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles' 54-11 victory against the Chicago Bears Sunday night.

What it means: The Eagles will play the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC East title next Sunday night in Arlington, Texas. Coach Chip Kelly motivated his team to play perhaps its best all-around game despite an oddly deflating turn of events. When Dallas rallied to beat the Washington Redskins earlier in the day, the Eagles lost the ability to clinch the division. Considering their awful performance against the Minnesota Vikings last week, they very well could have come out flat again. Instead, they jumped all over the Bears, smothering a high-powered offense and striking quickly for a 21-0 first-quarter lead.

Stock watch: Rising: Chip Kelly. The NFL rookie will have a winning record and, with one more victory, a postseason appearance in what was expected to be a rebuilding year. Kelly said right away he would treat this game the same regardless of its impact on the NFC East race. And he did. Every coach talks about focusing only on each week’s game, but the Eagles turned that cliché into a belief system this season. Less obvious, but equally worth noting, was the way the Eagles continued to play well in the second half. They had let big leads get whittled down by Washington and Arizona in recent wins. This time, they piled 30 second-half points onto the 24 they scored in the first half.

Defensive rebound: The Eagles' defense got humiliated -- there's no other word for it -- in Minnesota last week. Giving up 48 points to a Vikings team without Adrian Peterson made you question just how much progress the defense really had made. It also made you wonder how much worse it would be with Jay Cutler throwing to Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and the rest of the Bears. But the Eagles' defense was outstanding from the beginning, allowing a season-low 11 points. The Eagles scored nine points with a safety and a late pick-six by Brandon Boykin. Their defense sacked Cutler five times and held Matt Forte in check. The performance allows the Eagles to go into Dallas with a huge shot of confidence.

What’s next: A virtual playoff game in Dallas next Sunday night. With a victory, the Eagles would be the third seed in the NFC, hosting the second wild-card team in a first-round game. The Eagles lost to Dallas at home 17-3 on Oct. 20. That was Nick Foles’ worst game of the season, the first of two consecutive home losses in which the Eagles failed to score an offensive touchdown.

Rapid Reaction: New York Giants

December, 22, 2013
DETROIT -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' 23-20 overtime victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Ford Field:

What it means: Anyone wondering whether the Giants have given up on their season or on their coaches has the answer. The Giants are outmanned and overmatched pretty much every week, and Sunday was no exception. But in spite of having their offense choked off after halftime, they pushed the game into overtime, where Josh Brown won it with a 45-yard field goal.

Stoch watch: Will Hill, up. After reportedly being arrested Friday night on charges related to child support, the Giants safety played in and changed Sunday's game. With five minutes left in the fourth quarter, Hill intercepted Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and ran in from 38 yards for a touchdown. The ensuing extra point tied the game. The Giants were doing absolutely nothing on offense in the second half behind a shredded offensive line, and scoring on defense turned out to be their best option.

Tough Tuck: Defensive end Justin Tuck appeared to injure his neck in the third quarter but remained in the game in spite of being in clear discomfort. It's worth pointing out that Tuck, who is free-agent-eligible at the end of the season, wanted to tough it out in a game like this with the Giants already eliminated from postseason contention. It backs up his team-first talk. Tuck's big second half of the season has helped his chances of returning next year.

What's next: The Giants mercifully close out their season with a 1 p.m. ET home game Sunday against Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium. They beat the Redskins 24-17 in Washington in Week 13.

Rapid Reaction: Dallas Cowboys

December, 22, 2013

LANDOVER, Md. -- A few thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys' 24-23 victory over the Washington Redskins:

What it means for the Cowboys: They’re alive. For the third straight year, the Cowboys will play a Week 17 game for the right to win the NFC East and make the playoffs. Somehow.

Trailing 23-14, the Cowboys rallied on Tony Romo's 10-yard touchdown throw to DeMarco Murray on a fourth-and-goal play with 1:08 to go. The defense was able to come up with a stop, and now the Cowboys welcome the Philadelphia Eagles to AT&T Stadium next week to try to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The Cowboys are 5-0 in the NFC East for the first time since 1998 and snapped a two-game losing streak.

It was not pretty, but it will do. It also continued to show the team’s ability to bounce back from tough losses. The Cowboys did it earlier in the season against the Redskins after their 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos, and they did it after their 31-30 loss to the Detroit Lions when they beat the Minnesota Vikings.

Stock watch: Terrance Williams, rising. On the winning drive, Williams caught two passes for 66 yards, including a 51-yarder that set up Murray’s touchdown catch. Williams finished the day with four catches for 84 yards, which is his second-most in a game this season.

Murray hits mark: It should have happened last week against the Green Bay Packers, but DeMarco Murray went over 1,000 yards on the season with a 43-yard run in the second quarter.

Murray finished with 96 yards on 22 carries and enters the final game of the season with 1,073 yards, which is even more impressive considering he missed two games earlier in the season with a knee injury. He is the first Cowboys running back with 1,000 yards in a season since Julius Jones had 1,084 in 2006. Murray also had his ninth rushing touchdown of the season when he bulled his way in from the 3 on the Cowboys’ first drive. It’s the most rushing touchdowns by a Dallas back since Marion Barber had 10 in 2007.

Oh, by the way, he scored the winning touchdown.

Defense comes up with stops: The offense did the defense no favors by starting out the second half with turnovers on consecutive possessions that led to Washington touchdowns and a 20-14 lead.

The Cowboys were able to overcome a bad penalty by J.J. Wilcox on a third-down play to hold Washington to a field goal, then came up with the only punt of the second half when Orlando Scandrick broke up a Kirk Cousins pass to Pierre Garcon. They also flustered Cousins into poor throws on the final drive.

What’s next: The Cowboys close the regular season at AT&T Stadium against the Eagles. The Cowboys beat Philadelphia 17-3 on Oct. 20 at Lincoln Financial Field with what was their best defensive effort of the season. They kept LeSean McCoy in check (55 yards), limited Nick Foles to 80 yards passing before knocking him out of the game and intercepted Matt Barkley three times in the fourth quarter.

Rapid Reaction: Washington Redskins

December, 22, 2013

LANDOVER, Md. -- A few thoughts on the Washington Redskins' 24-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys:

What it means: The Redskins have lost seven consecutive games, tying the franchise record for the longest streak since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. They're now a well-earned 3-11. They also lost seven in a row in 1998 and ’94. Sunday was yet another example of a team that just can’t make plays when needed. The defense allowed Dallas to drive 87 yards for the winning touchdown drive. The special teams allowed yet another long return to open the game in bad fashion, and the offense did not help itself in the red zone and with another turnover. Though the Redskins can claim they played better and were, once again, close, the reality is that they’re just not good enough to win. They consistently played bad football all season, and this game was no different. The defense, minus Brian Orakpo, didn’t apply enough pressure, giving quarterback Tony Romo way too much time. It led directly to two touchdown passes.

Red zone woes: The Redskins had excellent field position much of the day, but their first two trips in the red zone did not end well. After an 18-yard punt return by Santana Moss, the Redskins had a first down at the Dallas 37. They ended up kicking a 36-yard field goal. Their next drive was excellent, moving from their 21 to a third-and-goal from the Cowboys’ 2-yard line. But consecutive penalties left them at third-and-12, and another field goal followed. When you play close games, series like these lead to losses.

Saying goodbye: This was the final home game for linebacker London Fletcher as well as a number of other Redskins. The coaching staff also might have coached their final home game. It’s still hard to imagine owner Dan Snyder allowing this regime to continue, though strange things can still happen. But for Fletcher, it was no doubt his last home game and he was the last Redskin to leave the field, surrounded by numerous photographers -- and getting a nice hand from the fans. Fletcher did not leave with a great game, finishing with one solo tackle. He was out for much of the winning drive as the Redskins used six defensive backs.

Quarterback watch: Kirk Cousins was OK in his second start of the season, completing 21 of 36 passes for 197 yards, one touchdown and one interception. It’s his third pick in two starts and each came off a bad throw and not a forced one or bad decision. Cousins had some nice throws, including one with right tackle Tyler Polumbus right in his way. But overall there was nothing special to his day, and he failed to get a first down on the final series.

What’s next: The season finale at the New York Giants. The Redskins already have clinched last place, so they’re left once more playing for pride. But it’s not as if the Giants have anything at stake, either.