Everyone knew it was going to be a shootout, but not many expected the Eagles and Cowboys game to go down like it did on Sunday night. It involved a 91-yard game winning touchdown by DeSean Jackson, five turnovers and even a touchdown from Todd Herremans. As far as excitement, the Eagles and Cowboys certainly didn’t disappoint.
At this point every win is crucial for the Eagles. However, the win over Dallas could not have come at a better time. If there is one thing that we learned on Sunday, it’s that you never know what you are going to get from the Eagles offense. Between Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and others, the Eagles can explode in almost every aspect of the offense.
The only downside is that the Eagles lost two of their biggest defensive players. Stewart Bradley left the game with a leg injury and is doubtful for the rest of the season. Rookie defensive end Brandon Graham, who was really starting to come into his own, will miss the remainder of the year after tearing his ACL. With a defense that is already depleted with an ailing Asante Samuel, the Eagles are certainly lacking in the leadership department. Stewart Bradley has played well the last couple of games in the middle, but now finds himself watching on the sidelines once again.
Despite losing Bradley and Graham, the Eagles pulled through in the third quarter after being down 20-14. Led by the power running game of McCoy and a big touchdown late, Philadelphia capped off its ninth win of the season.
Quarterback : B+
Once again, Vick came through for the Eagles on Sunday night. He had three touchdowns total, but for the first time since being released from prison he had two interceptions in a game. Despite the turnovers, his passing was pretty spot on for most of the night. What a beautiful pass on the opening play of the game, when he connected with DeSean Jackson for a 60-yard bomb.
I was not so impressed with his running game. For the first time all season he struggled to find open holes. He only averaged two yards per carry and was sacked twice trying to scramble. Vick needs to start treating himself like glass because it’s obvious that referees are not giving him the calls (such as when he was pushed to the ground when running out of bounds).
Running back: A+
What more can I say about this guy? In his second year he is already being compared to Brian Westbrook in his prime. Statistically, he has been without question the best Eagles running back through two seasons. To this point he has 2,455 all purpose yards in his first two seasons and the next closest in franchise history is Billy Ray Barnes (1956-57) with 1,715 (and McCoy still has three games to play). He has proven that he can be an every down back that can fight for yards in the trenches and be an effective pass-catcher. Shady averaged over nine yards per carry against the Cowboys and finished with 149 yards on the ground. He sealed the win for the Eagles after gaining three extremely impressive first downs on the final drive.
Wide Receivers: A
DeSean Jackson just loves to play under the spot light. In the 15 primetime games he has played since being an Eagles, he has 61 catches for 1,252 yards and 7 touchdowns. Are you kidding me? He caught the opening bomb from Michael Vick and added on a 91-yard touchdown reception to give the Eagles a 27-20 lead in the fourth. Jackson averaged 52.5 yards per catch and did most of the work after making those catches. He stole the show from the rest of the receivers, but I don’t see many complaining.
Offensive Line: B+
Jason Peters did an unbelievable job defending DeMarcus Ware. The All-Pro Cowboy lineman only had three tackles all night and rarely got to Vick in the pocket. For one of the first times this season, Todd Herremans did something positive for the offense after catching a touchdown pass. Since the referees aren’t protecting Vick, it’s important that the offensive line step up and protect him. He was only sacked twice but took some brutal hits that need to be avoided if he plans on staying healthy.
Defensive Line/Linebackers: B
The Eagles red zone defense is the worst in the NFL and it was certainly apparent against Dallas. All of their touchdowns (counting Witten’s 22 yard catch) came in the red zone. They did hold Felix Jones to just 3.2 yards per carry and quarterback Jon Kitna to 6.8 yards per completion, but something breaks down when defending that last part of the field.
Where in the world has Trent Cole been? Through the first half of the season, Cole was on pace to break some record books and buy himself a ticket to the Pro-Bowl. However, the last couple of games he has been completely shut down. Cole only got to the quarterback once and finished with a mere two tackles.
The defensive player of the game was Jamar Chaney, who filled in for Stewart Bradley. Chaney led the team with seven tackles after coming in more than halfway through the game. The rookie is expected to be the starter in the middle this weekend against the Giants. Hopefully he and the rest of the linebackers can do a better job covering the opposing tight end though.
With the loss of Brandon Graham, the Eagles welcome back defensive lineman Derrick Burgess. A couple of years ago he was the staple on the D-line for Philadelphia and hopefully he still has some fuel in the tank.
Secondary: A –
Similar to the linebackers, the secondary could have done a better job covering Jason Witten over the top. Other than that, the defensive backs did a great job covering the high-powered Cowboys offense. On top of two interceptions, they held top receiver Miles Austin to two catches for 22 yards and Roy Williams to 23 yards. Even more impressive is that they did it without Asante Samuel, who missed his third straight game with a knee injury.
Special Teams: B+
At the age of 36, David Akers seems to be having his best season yet for the Eagles. He has connected on 23 of his last 24 field goal attempts and has made 11 in a row. He nailed a 50 yarder in the fourth quarter to tie the game up at 20 that proved to be one of the difference makers in the game.
On another note, I much rather prefer to have Chad Hall returning kicks than Jorrick Calvin. Hall is faster and more elusive than Calvin. Also, DeSean Jackson has hit a bit of a slump as a punt returner, which is a bit worrisome for the special teams core.
With the Giants playing a cupcake game against the Vikings, Sunday was a much needed win for the Eagles. It sets up the stage for this weekend’s game, which is without question the biggest game of the season. If Philadelphia wins, they clinch a spot in the playoffs because they will have two wins over New York. With a depleted defense, Philadelphia is going to have to rely on the elusive offense that New York did a solid job defending last time they played. It’s going to be a fun one on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.