Does anybody want to win the NFC East?
Every time it looks like somebody is
about to emerge as the dominate team in division, fans get a not so
subtle reminder that the teams in this division may not be as good as
all the hype.
During the first five weeks of the
season, some folks were presumptious enough to say the New York
Giants were on another run to win the Super Bowl. Then they ran into
buzz saw and wound losing their last four games.
At the rate things are going at this
point, don't be surprised if the 3-6 Washington Redskins, who are
fresh off an upset of the Denver Broncos, end up being a contender
for a division title or playoff berth. While that might be a stretch,
the way the top teams in the NFC East played this weekend, it could
be a bizarre possibility.
When the Dallas Cowboys escaped Philadelphia last week, there were a few media pundits, who said it was a defining moment for Tony Romo and company in terms of winning big games on the road.
Riding the wave of a four-game winning
streak, the Cowboys were looking to make it five straight against a
Green Bay Packers team reeling from a loss to the lowly Tampa
But just when it looked like the Cowboys and their fans were looking to flex their muscles, Dallas gets ambushed in Green Bay by the Packers and the weight of their own mistakes in a 17-7 loss. For 59-minutes, and 22-seconds, the Cowboys couldn't find the endzone and by the time they did, it was over.
Dallas shot itself in the foot with three momentum killing turnovers. Roy Williams, the man who's been complaining about the lack of balls thrown his way, killed one drive by coughing up the football after a 41-yard gain late in the first half. Early in the fourth quarter, Romo was stripped of the ball by Packers cornerback Charles Woodson, who also caused Williams fumble in the first half. Green Bay scored three plays later to make it
The final back-breaker for the Cowboys was when Woodson intercepted a Romo pass at the end zone with about five minutes to play. The late touchdown was merely a face saver for the Cowboys. It didn't help that Dallas was 4-of-12 on third down conversions and the offensive line, which lost guard Marc Colombo for the season, gave up five sacks.
Sunday's game was another example of why the Cowboys from the players and the coaches still have a long way to go before you can consider them a legitimate contender for a division title. On the coaching end, the playcalling is still suspect. The Cowboys passed the ball 39 times and only ran the ball 14 times. Marion Barber had 26 yards on five carries, but was averaging more than five yards per carry.
Inexplicably, the Cowboys went away from the running game and relied on Romo to get the ball to receivers who weren't getting open. Dallas's penchant for passing the ball enabled the Packers to pin their ears back and attack Romo and his receivers.
Here's a suggestion to Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett: Run the football! You've got three good running backs in Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. Give them the ball.
only good news for Dallas is that they are still in first place for now
and basically by default thanks to Eagles loss to the San Diego.
The Philadelphia Eagles: Run, Eagles, Run...
Speaking of pass-happy offenses, the
Philadelphia Eagles during the Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb era are
definitely not a team that will give you three yards and a cloud
dust. In the Eagles 31-23 loss to the San Diego Chargers, McNabb put
the ball in the air 55 times (for 450 yards) while the Birds ran the
ball just 13 times.
But where the Eagles really lost the
game was their inability to score touchdowns inside the red zone.
Three times in the game, the Birds moved the ball inside the 10-yard
line and came away with field goals. On two of those occasions, the
Eagles had third and one situations and could not move the football.
Had Philly scored on at least two of those situations, the outcome of the game might have been different. Short yardage situations have become a thorn in the side for the Eagles because they don't run the ball enough to establish the kind of rhythm they need to make it on short yardage situations.
Last season, when the Eagles run-pass
ratio got out of control, especially in a tie with the Cincinnati
Bengals and a loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Reid and company evenly
distributed the run and pass and the team started winning. The Birds
not only made the playoffs, but they got to the NF C Championship
game. That's something Reid ought to think about.
When the Eagles offense finally
established some rhythm and got back in the game, the defense allowed
the Chargers and LaDainian Tomlinson to run down the clock to the
point to where the Birds had just 30 seconds to get a touchdown and
two-point conversion that would tie it.
With Dallas' loss to the Green Bay
Packers, the Eagles had a golden opportunity to get back in the lead
in the NFC East. Instead, they're right back where they started this
past weekend--a game in back behind their hated rival.
The good news for the Eagles is that
they play the Chicago Bears and their mistake prone quarterback Jay
Cutler, who was intercepted game five times last week by the San
As fickle as this division is, the team that win the NFC East is going to be the one that figures out that you have to have some balance. McNabb is not going to have 10,000 people storming across the line knowing he's going to pass. A strong, effective running game ultimately helps your defenses stay rested.