Some thoughts for the morning after the Eagles' totally frantic, amazing, exhilarating, but badly flawed 41-37 loss to the Dallas Cowboys:
First, the Cowboys deserved to win. They got consistent pressure without blitzing. They got great field position from rookie kick returner Felix Jones and they moved the ball on the Eagles' defense all night. They converted 6 of 10 third downs. They won the battle up front, especially after Shawn Andrews went down with a back injury.
But were they way better than the Eagles? Obviously not. This Eagles team, which has scored more points (75) after two games than any unit in franchise history, has a lot of talent and plenty of time to get better. DeSean Jackson, premature ball ejection issues aside, is the real deal. Donovan McNabb is certainly still good enough to take a team to the playoffs.
Second observation: Jim Johnson has had better nights. Never before, in 75 previous seasons, had the Birds scored 37 points and lost. Johnson's defense made a couple of big plays, which he had thought would be key, but it gave up about a dozen. Was anybody covering Jason Witten in the second half? It was hard to tell. I wasn't at all surprised by the narrow loss, but I was very surprised at the 41 points allowed, even if 7 of them did belong to Rory Segrest's kickoff coverage team. Johnson didn't blitz much and paid dearly, especially on third and long. The frustrating thing was, Tony Romo threw wide several times under pressure, but wasn't under pressure nearly enough. And is there a nice way to tell Brian Dawkins -- one of the all-time Eagles warriors -- that it's time to share the free safety job with somebody who can run a little faster? (Say, Quintin Demps?)
Third, while the Eagles probably didn't deserve to win, I think they would have won if McNabb hadn't stuck that handoff into Brian Westbrook's hip, leading to a fumble and eventually, the game-winning touchdown. This game was McNabb's career in a nutshell. He was excellent -- courageous, combative, running out of sacks, making plays nobody else can make, dodging pressure and throwing completions -- until that handoff. And that was the game.
I liked that he squarely took the blame afterward. But I would have much preferred there to be no blame. I wish he hadn't looked at his flanker to try to sell the fake reverse, and instead had just tucked the ball safely into Westbrook's midsection.
If you're going to argue that Romo outplayed McNabb, I would absolutely disagree; Romo fumbled the ball away in his own end zone, if you'll recall. Give McNabb Romo's protection and Witten and he wins that game.
There is a real danger here, coming home after such a tough loss, that the Eagles might not be able to refocus quickly enough on 2-0 Pittsburgh. Given that the Cowboys game ended in the wee hours, and many media members weren't able to ask all their questions, there will still be some 'splaining to do tomorrow, when the team reconvenes to get ready for the Steelers. That isn't ideal.
I think watching Dawkins and the Eagles' linebackers in coverage probably made Ben Roethlisberger's shoulder feel much better. I am worried about Shawn Andrews' back injury, since he seemed to be in great pain after the game.
But I also think you're watching a talented, playoff-worthy Eagles team, even if the journey is going to be a bit bumpy.