Dallas, We HATE You
Unfortunately, the Eagles didn’t get a shot at the Cowboys while they were playing some of the worst football you’ll ever see. No, the Eagles got a Cowboys team that is finally playing the way everyone expected it to at the beginning of the season, so don’t let the record fool you. Make no mistake, Dallas has as much talent as any roster in the league. It was just a matter of getting a coach who wasn’t afraid to kick some ass until the players lived up to their potential. With all that said, this was another impressive gut-check win by a Philadelphia Eagles team that continues to carve out its identity. Even with the penalties and inability to get off the field on third down on defense, the Eagles showed some serious resolve and a huge set of balls tonight, just as the team has in three of the last four games. It’s starting to become a trend, and that couldn’t be a better sign. The players on offense respond to Michael Vick in a way that they never did to Donovan McNabb. That’s just a fact. And the defense, for all of its shortcomings, finds a way to stiffen and make plays at critical junctures.
Let’s pick things up in the third quarter. The Eagles could have easily packed it in after the Cowboys took a 20-14 lead on a Felix Jones touchdown run and had all the momentum. Instead, LeSean McCoy did what LeSean McCoy does and broke a big play at the precise moment his team needed him — a few shifty moves and 56 yards later, the Eagles were inside the Dallas 20. Reggie Bush wishes he was as good as Shady in the open field. While the offense subsequently crapped out on three straight plays and had to settle for an Akers field goal that made it 20-17, the Eagles still managed to stem the tide with a nice response drive and recapture a bit of the momentum they had lost. The defense then stepped up and forced the Cowboys to go three-and-out, successfully shutting down the opposing offense after a scoring drive (finally) and getting the ball back to Vick and friends. Vick rewarded the defense by engineering an effective, if not sexy, 10-play, 28 yard drive — including two 3rd down conversions to the ever dependable Jason Avant — that culminated in a David Akers 50-yard field goal. Money. Never a doubt. Cue the opening theme song from Green Acres. 20-20.
Then, something amazing happened. The defense forced another three-and-out by the Cowboys offense. I know the defense drives Eagles fans everywhere absolutely insane with some of its lackadaisical and brain dead play, but the unit stepped up big time tonight when the team needed it most. There’s something to be said for that. The Cowboys punted the ball back to the Eagles, and one play later DeSean Jackson answered the question asked in the video at the bottom of this post with an emphatic yes… he is, in fact, the fastest man alive. Usain Bolt is a distant second. A 91-yard catch and run (emphasis on the run part), capped by a classic DeSean celebration (which shouldn’t have been penalized, by the way), made the score 27-20.
On the Cowboys’ NEXT PLAY FROM SCRIMMAGE, Dimitri Patterson ran a better route than Roy E. Williams and picked off Jon Kitna. Akers tacked on another field goal to put the Eagles up 30-20, providing the team with the three points that eventually proved to be the final margin of victory.
However, as an Eagles fan, the most refreshing, impressive, and encouraging part about this game had to be the final 4:22 minutes. I know it was for me, and Ray Didinger agrees. The Cowboys had just pulled to within 30-27 after a Jason Witten touchdown catch, following an inexplicable first down scramble by Kitna on 4th and 8. You better believe the Cowboys defense thought it would stop the Eagles run as it had all night, get off the field, and give its offense a chance to complete the comeback. Instead, the Eagles do what they have been known to do on offense for the past decade (this is the part where I assume you can recognize sarcasm) — play power football and run the ball down the opposing defense’s throat. Vick smartly got the ball to McCoy on five of the next seven plays (one reception, four rushes). Shady did the rest, gaining 56 total yards and picking up four first downs to burn the rest of the clock and secure the win. The Cowboys didn’t even have a chance to get the ball back and possibly tie or win the game. Us Eagles fans so rarely get to see our team line up on offense, impose its will at the line of scrimmage, and repeatedly punch the defense in the mouth. So when we do, we appreciate it that much more. It’s like seeing a unicorn or a great set of tits for the first time. Or both simultaneously. Such a performance is enough to make you think this Eagles team might actually be different from all the other disappointments fans have had to endure over the years. Andy Reid might even be different, too. Did any Eagles fan not smile last night when Big Red went completely ballistic and chewed out the refs after that not-as-late-as-it-looked-at-first hit on Vick in the second quarter? Have we ever seen Reid that passionate and demonstrative during a game? I’m not ready to start drinking the Kool-Aid just yet, but I’m getting more and more comfortable with the idea.
The only real negatives from tonight? Brandon Graham tearing his ACL (as I feared initially) and Stewart Bradley dislocating his elbow (you could tell immediately). Both are out for the rest of the season. Best case scenario is that Bradley might be able to come back for the playoffs, but I’d have to think it’s a long shot. The win turned out to be a costly one for the Eagles, very Pyrrhic victory-ish. Both injuries are definitely huge blows to the defense going forward, as Graham was getting significant playing time and Stew was really seeming to finally get back to his pre-ACL injury form. Still, just like is always the case with injuries, it gives someone else a chance to step up. That opportunity now belongs to Jamar Chaney, the rookie seventh round pick out of Mississippi State (and Juqua Parker and Darryl Tapp will now be the mainstays at DE opposite Trent Cole). All he did was lead the team in tackles tonight. While we’re on the topic of rookies playing well, a lot of credit should also go to cornerback Trevard Lindley, the fourth rounder from Kentucky. He saw a lot of action tonight in the absence of Asante Samuel and made a few really heady plays. Cris Collinsworth sang his praises on more than one occasion.
All in all, this game had everything. DeSean Jackson finally made good on his “we gonna sting they ass” proclamation, albeit 11 months later, and even Todd fucking Herremans caught a touchdown pass. Beating Dallas never gets old, but tonight was extra sweet.
PS - For your viewing pleasure, the aforementioned DeSean Jackson video.
PPS - The NFL Films piece that inspired the title of this post (0:11-0:21).