Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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Domo's Eagles-Dallas second take

Domo: Eagles-Cowboys Second Take After-Thoughts

Domo's Eagles-Dallas second take

Quintin Mikell and the Eagles´ secondary struggled throughout the game to contain the Cowboys´ receivers. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Quintin Mikell and the Eagles' secondary struggled throughout the game to contain the Cowboys' receivers. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

Domo: Eagles-Cowboys Second Take


After-Thoughts

* Last year, strong safety Quintin Mikell had the best season of his career. Played so well and was such a key to the Eagles’ defensive success last season that I put him on my All-Pro ballot, ahead of Troy Polamalu. This year, though, Mikell has struggled. The departure of Brian Dawkins has affected Mikell’s play more than anybody else on the defense. With neither Macho Harris nor Sean Jones adequately filling the void left by Dawkins, Mikell often seems to be trying to play two positions at once, and his play has suffered. Dawkins wasn’t the player he once was. But when he was back there, the four members of the Eagles’ secondary played like one. This year, that hasn’t been the case, which is what happens when you don’t have complete trust in the guy that’s lining up next to you.

* There was more to Patrick Crayton’s 9-yard second-quarter touchdown pass than it seemed. At first glance, it looked like cornerback Sheldon Brown simply got beat by Crayton. But actually, it was a busted coverage. By whom isn’t exactly clear. The Cowboys ran Roy Williams, who had lined up in the slot on the same side as Crayton, on an underneath route. Brown expected nickel corner Joselio Hanson to go with Williams. But he stayed inside, leaving Williams wide open. Brown took a step toward Williams, which allowed Crayton to get behind him for the touchdown. Who’s to blame? Brown for losing track of Crayton? Hanson for not picking up Williams, which caused Brown to lose track of Crayton? Or strong safety Quintin Mikell for not sliding over and picking up Crayton? Hard to say. But it wasn’t a simple case of Brown getting beat.

* The difference between Brian Westbrook now and the Brian Westbrook of 2 years ago was evident on a run in the second quarter following Donovan McNabb’s 31-yard completion to Jeremy Maclin. Westbrook ran a counter through the right side. Right tackle Winston Justice and tight end Brent Celek gave him a nice lane to run. Two years ago, he’d have been through the hole and rambling for a big gain. But he doesn’t have the explosion he once had. Before he could get through the hole, linebacker Anthony Spencer circled around Celek and was able to catch him from behind.

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* Sean McDermott has a dilemma. The Eagles were much more effective against the run Sunday with Jeremiah Trotter at middle linebacker in their base defense than with Akeem Jordan. The problem is, Trotter just can’t cover, as was evidenced by Jason Witten’s 25-yard catch-and-run against Trotter late in the third quarter. If he keeps Trotter out there for very long, the Cowboys will attack him with the pass. On Sunday, with Jordan playing MIKE, the Cowboys ran the ball 9 times for 83 yards in the first 3 quarters. That includes Marion Barber’s 32- and 18-yard runs on the Cowboys’ opening scoring drive. With Trotter at MIKE, the Cowboys rushed for 68 yards on 10 carries, but 49 of those 68 yards came on Felix Jones’ long third-quarter touchdown run around left end. On their other 9 runs with Trotter on the field in the first 3 quarters, they gained just 19 yards.

Third-Down Woes

In their two losses to the Cowboys, the Eagles’ offense converted just 7 of 24 third-down opportunities, including 3 of 12 Sunday. In 6 games against NFC East opponents, they converted just 34.2 percent of their third-down tries (25-for-73). In their other 10 games against non-division foes, they converted 37.3 (50-for-134).

* Five of the Eagles’ 12 third-down situations Sunday were 10 yards or more. They failed to convert any of the five. In their last two games, they are 1-for-11 on third-and-10 or more. For the season, they are 12-for-56 (21.4 percent). Last year, they were 12-for-50 (24.0) on third-and-10 or more.

* The Cowboys converted 5 of 13 third-down opportunities Sunday and 12 of 28 (42.8) in their two wins over the Eagles. The Eagles’ defense has struggled on third down against NFC East opponents, allowing them to convert 42.3 percent (36-85) of their third-down opportunities in the 6 division games. Non-division opponents had just a 27.2 percent success rate against the Eagles on third down (37-136).

McNabb’s Day

* He overthrew an open DeSean Jackson early in the second quarter after Jackson got behind safety Gerald Sensabaugh. Pressure wasn’t a problem. McNabb had a clean pocket that allowed him to hold the ball for 3.22 seconds before launching it. He just overshot the speedy wide receiver. By the same token Jackson had 2 of the 6 Eagle drops of McNabb passes Sunday.

* He had Jeremy Maclin wide open on a crossing pattern on a third-and-8 later in the drive. Yes, he should’ve made a better throw. The pass was slightly behind the rookie wide receiver. But Maclin should’ve made the catch.

* The fumbled shotgun snap that destroyed the Eagles’ only red-zone visit of the game. Nick Cole’s snap was low, but McNabb should’ve been able to handle it. He took his eyes off the ball before he had it. Cole’s much bigger crime was letting nose tackle Jay Ratliff get around him fast enough to recover the loose ball before McNabb could fall on it.

* Despite having plenty of time, McNabb threw behind an open Maclin for what should have been a first down on a second-and-13 on the Eagles’ second possession of the second half. That set up a third-and-long that allowed the Cowboys to tee off on him and force a three-and-out when the Eagles really needed to move the ball and at least swing field position if not score points.

Figuring McNabb

Sunday was just the second time in 14 starts this season that McNabb failed to throw a touchdown pass. He also didn’t have any in the first Washington game (a 27-17 win). In 78 regular-season starts since the beginning of the 2004 season, McNabb has failed to throw at least 1 touchdown pass in just 15 games. The Eagles are just 4-11 in those 15 games.

* McNabb threw for 3,553 yards this season. It was just the third time in his career that he has passed for 3,500-plus yards (3,916 in ’08 and 3,875 in ’04). He averaged 8.02 yards per attempt. It was just the third time in his career that he has averaged 8-plus yards per attempt (8.38 in ’06 and 8.26 in ’04). His 92.9 passer rating was the third best of his career (104.7 in ’04, 95.5 in ’06).

* McNabb had 10 interceptions in 443 pass attempts, an average of one every 44.3 passes. It was his poorest interception rate since ’05 when he averaged a pick every 39.7 attempts.

* In the last three games, McNabb completed just 57.0 percent of his passes (61-for-107). His passer rating was below 75 in 2 of those 3 games, including 74.2 on Sunday.

More Numbers-Crunching

The Eagles have given up 24 or more points in 4 of their last 6 games.

* The Eagles scored a franchise-record 429 points this season on just 975 offensive plays. That’s the fewest number of offensive plays by an Eagles team since 2004.

* The Eagles ran the ball just 384 times this season. That’s the fewest since ‘05, when they had 365 rushing attempts. They ran the ball 39.4 percent of the time. That’s the lowest percentage since ’05, when they ran it just 35.5 percent.

* The Eagles had a season-low 10 first downs against the Cowboys and a season-low 1 rushing first down.

* DeSean Jackson had the highest percentage of first-down receptions this season. Forty-one of his 63 catches (65.1 percent) went for first downs. Jason Avant was second. Twenty-six of his 41 catches (63.4) went for first downs.

* Jackson had a team-high 117 passes thrown in his direction this season. Celek was second with 112. Maclin was third with 91.

* The Eagles had 5 receivers catch 40 or more passes this season – Celek (76), Jackson, Maclin, Avant and running back LeSean McCoy (40). It’s third time in the Reid era they’ve had 5 players with 40 or more catches. It also happened in ’05 and ’02.

Did You Notice?

On Marion Barber’s 32-yard run on the second play of the game, right tackle Doug Free took left end Juqua Parker out of the play, center Andre Gurode and right guard Leonard Davis double-teamed Mike Patterson and cleared him out, and tight end John Phillips, who had lined up at fullback, eliminated middle linebacker Will Witherspoon.

* Cowboys kickoff specialist David Buehler’s powerful leg. The guy had 4 touchbacks on five kickoffs. He had an NFL-high 29 touchbacks this season.

* On a second-and-7 play on the Cowboys’ second possession, the Eagles used a zone blitz, with left end Jason Babin dropping off into coverage. But Babin got disoriented and turned the wrong way, leaving wide receiver Miles Austin wide open for an 11-yard completion.

* Romo had plenty of time – 3.07 seconds – on his 40-yard sideline completion to Miles Austin on the Cowboys’ second touchdown drive in the second quarter. The gain should’ve been about 20 yards less than that, but Asante Samuel let Austin slip away from him after he made the catch.

* The way the Eagles squandered time on their final possession of the first half. They still had 2 timeouts left after McNabb’s 8-yard completion to Jason Avant with 44 second left. But McNabb let the clock run down to 30 seconds before Reid finally decided to call a timeout. After a drop by DeSean Jackson and a 10-yard completion to Celek, the Eagles used their last timeout with 21 seconds left. Westbrook got out of bounds with 15 seconds left after a six-yard gain. But then McNabb foolishly threw another short pass to Westbrook, who couldn’t get out of bounds, and time ran out before they could get off another play. Those 14 seconds they squandered earlier in the drive might’ve been enough time to get them in position for a David Akers field goal attempt.

* The Cowboys ran 4 screens and 4 draws against the Eagles Sunday. That doesn’t include a 22-yard screen to Felix Jones that was negated by a hold on center Andre Gurode.

Justice’s Day

* Not one of the Daily News columnist’s better games. On the second play of the Eagles’ first possession, he couldn’t seal off Marcus Spears, who slid over and stoned Brian Westbrook for no gain. On the very next play, he was late picking up defensive end Stephen Bowen in pass-protection. Fullback Leonard Weaver ended up picking up Bowen and linebacker Bradie James, who would’ve been picked up by Weaver had Justice blocked Bowen, came off the edge unblocked and sacked McNabb.

* In the third quarter, Justice let linebacker Anthony Spencer get around him and knock the ball out of McNabb’s hand on a third-and-six. The Eagles recovered, but had to punt.

- Paul Domowitch

 

Paul Domowitch Daily News NFL Columnist
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