Sunday, October 30, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Eagles 34, Cowboys 7
By Dan Graziano
PHILADELPHIA -- Some thoughts from the Philadelphia Eagles' 34-7 dismantling of the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field:
What it means: For the Eagles, it means they're now 13-0 under Andy Reid in games immediately following bye weeks. It also means they're in position to get on the kind of roll that could get them back into contention. It might have been easy for some to dismiss their previous victory, two weeks ago against Rex Grossman and the Redskins. But they were intense and focused and mistake-free as they built an insurmountable lead Sunday night against a hated division rival, and that's a lot tougher to dismiss. For the Cowboys, it means they're 3-4 and embarrassed. I don't think it means they're cooked, however. Their losses are to the Eagles, Jets, Patriots and Lions -- teams with a combined record of 18-11 -- and three of those losses were on the road. The combined record of the teams remaining on the Cowboys' schedule is 23-33.
Run, Eagles, run: The Cowboys went into the game as the top-ranked run defense in the league, allowing an average of 69.7 rush yards per game. But the Eagles wrecked that average in the first quarter, in which they ran for 115, and kept running and running all night. Running back LeSean McCoy had 185 yards on the ground. Quarterback Michael Vick had 50 more. And the Eagles, who were killing themselves with turnovers earlier this season, look as though they might have found a safe recipe for offensive success going forward. McCoy is one of the very best backs in the league and doesn't appear to mind a heavy workload. After getting 28 carries two weeks ago in Washington, he got 30 more Sunday night.
Out-muscled in the trenches: The Eagles' offensive line has taken a lot of criticism this season, but in truth, it is a very good run-blocking line that has struggled at times in pass protection. The Eagles look to be shoring things up, and aside from DeMarcus Ware's four sacks, they won all night against the Dallas front. The same could not be said for Dallas' offensive line, which is banged up and didn't appear to have enough overall strength to handle the Eagles' defensive line. The Cowboys hardly possessed the ball during the part of the game that could reasonably be described as competitive, but when they did, they were able to do almost nothing with it.
Soft in the middle: The Eagles were able to gain big chunks of yardage all night across the middle of the field, as Vick repeatedly found Jason Avant and heretofore forgotten tight end Brent Celek in critical spots. ESPN Stats & Information says Vick was 18-for-20 for 258 yards and a touchdown when throwing between the numbers. Celek led the team with seven catches, and Avant was second with five. Vick was making smart decisions and protecting the ball better than he had earlier in the season, but he also was hitting wide-open receivers, which makes anybody look good. The Cowboys' defense clearly suffered once inside linebacker Sean Lee went out with a wrist injury, and if Lee has to miss significant time, they should continue to struggle. It was clear, once Lee left the game, how much of the Cowboys' defensive success this season has been tied to his emergence. Veteran Keith Brooking had a horrible game.
Tighter coverage: Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was the most trumpeted free-agent signing of the offseason, but he'd been a disappointment through the team's first six games. On Sunday night, the Eagles used him in tighter coverage than they had for most of the early part of the season, and he was able to limit several of the Cowboys' offensive weapons. Whether he was on Jason Witten, Dez Bryant or Miles Austin, Asomugha was all over the field and playing the part the Eagles hired him to play.
What's next: The Cowboys limp back to Texas, where they get a cushy home game Sunday afternoon against the 2-5 Seattle Seahawks. They should be able to work out some of their issues against a team that presents far fewer athletic challenges with its offense than do the Eagles. Philadelphia gets an extra day to rest and/or practice before taking on the Chicago Bears at home on "Monday Night Football" on Nov. 7.