Sunday, January 10, 2010
Dallas' defense stuns Jackson, Philly
By Tim MacMahon
ARLINGTON, Texas -- DeSean Jackson didn't feel like celebrating when he finally got into the end zone against the Dallas Cowboys.
It's tough to talk trash when you're on the wrong end of the scoreboard during garbage time. That's especially true when a division rival is minutes from ending your season, finishing a three-game sweep with its second convincing win in a six-day span.
"It's embarrassing," Jackson said after the Cowboys ended a 13-year postseason win drought with a 34-14 rout of his Philadelphia Eagles. "We never planned to lose like this."
So much for Jackson's Twitter vow to "sting they ass."
As was the case in the Eagles' two regular-season losses to Dallas, Jackson was a nonfactor. He finished with three catches for 14 yards and a touchdown that came after Cowboys fans started booking hotel rooms in Minnesota. The Cowboys held the brash, young Pro Bowl receiver to eight catches for 90 yards in their three meetings.
"We were the stingers," Dallas linebacker Bradie James said with a big smile after a performance that included a sack, a tackle for a loss and a forced fumble that he recovered. "I was happy that he decided to talk a little noise. ...
"You knew we were going to shut him up. I just hated that he got a touchdown. But he's just one guy. Our team is just playing phenomenal. It has nothing to do with him. It's all about us. He can sting on the plane back to Philly."
The Cowboys head to Minnesota with a defense that appears to be a match for the Vikings' arsenal of weapons.
This was Dallas' fourth consecutive dominant defensive performance, a run that coincides with its four-game win streak. The Cowboys have allowed a total of 31 points during that span, which featured the first back-to-back shutouts in the franchise's 50-year history.
Don't be fooled by Philadelphia's 306 passing yards. The vast majority of those were of the empty variety that came with the Eagles in desperation mode.
"I wouldn't say we shut them down," said Terence Newman, the cornerback who spent the most time blanketing Jackson.
Such are the standards for a defense that allowed the fewest points in the NFC during the regular season.
The Cowboys made one major mistake during their wild-card win. With Michael Vick in shotgun formation, Cowboys coach Wade Phillips called a defense designed to stop the run. Vick threw a deep out to rookie receiver Jeremy Maclin, who had an easy path to a 76-yard touchdown after cornerback Mike Jenkins stumbled out of the break and took a bad angle after the catch. That snapped a nine-quarter scoreless streak for the Dallas defense.
The Cowboys responded with a 10-play touchdown drive, and then their defense made sure the Eagles didn't get any momentum. Philadelphia had one snap in Dallas territory during the first half -- and James stripped fullback Leonard Weaver on that play.
The Cowboys rolled into halftime with a 27-7 lead. Jackson didn't have a catch at that point. A large share of the credit goes to the pass rush, which hurried Donovan McNabb on a consistent basis and sacked him four times.
"We're just doing our job," said Jenkins, who had an interception and taunted Jackson throughout the game to talk what he tweeted. "We're expected to do that every week to everybody and anybody. We're just going to try to keep it going, take it to Minnesota the next week and do the same thing."
The Cowboys' celebration didn't last long after they entered their locker room. With Jackson and the Eagles gone, it's on to a new challenge.
Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.