Here are some observations and notes after re-watching the Eagles’ 38-23 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday:
ON SECOND THOUGHT
Nine out of ten times when Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg are criticized for their unbalanced play-calling it is justified. But after Sunday’s game it was not. LeSean McCoy had only 16 carries, so the gut reaction may have been to scream that the running back was shunned and that’s why the Eagles lost.
Placing aside Reid’s explanation on Monday that he spotted McCoy because he was still sick and didn’t practice much last week, the tailback’s limited touches were not egregious based upon closer examination. When the Eagles led late in the third quarter, 17-10, McCoy had 12 carries for 62 yards. The offensive game plan – one that featured mostly quick throws to aid a weakened offensive line -- worked well up until that point.
After Dallas evened the score at 17, the Eagles called for a pass on the first play of their next possession. Nick Foles threw an interception when the Cowboys were called for defensive holding. On the first down redo, McCoy ran two yards up the middle. Perhaps Mornhinweg could have gone to him again, but he called for a pass on second down and Foles was pressured and threw the ball away. On third down and long, Foles dropped back again, but was hurried and chucked the ball out of bounds.
The Eagles were forced to punt and the Cowboys scored on a 78-yard return.
Down seven on their next series, the Eagles threw on first down with Foles hitting Brent Celek for 14 yards. McCoy got the ball on the subsequent first down and gained only three yards. Foles dropped to pass on second down and threw a slant to DeSean Jackson, but the pass was behind the receiver, the ball was tipped and Dallas had an interception that was returned for a score.
Down 14 with 12 minutes and 19 seconds left, the Eagles understandably tilted toward the pass. They didn’t score on their first possession, but punched it on their next one. McCoy rushed two times during the drive – for nine and six yards – and it could be argued that he could have seen the ball more often on the previous possession. But McCoy’s lack of carries was about sixth or seventh on the list of why the Eagles lost this one.
REWIND THE TAPE
Dwayne Harris’ 78-yard, game-turning punt return for a touchdown occurred, first and foremost, because of a complete breakdown on Bobby April’s punt cover team. But when you slow the tape down there were several Eagles that stood out for the wrong reasons. Linebacker Casey Matthews took a poor angle on Harris, overran the play and appeared to ease up as the returner raced by. Same thing with linebacker Jamar Chaney – bad angle, slow recognition and a lack of effort. Mat McBriar did little to try and corner Harris out of bounds, but it’s difficult to pin much blame on a 33-year-old punter with a bum foot.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
1. We know how tackles King Dunlap and Demetress Bell played Sunday. They were abysmal. But how about rookie Dennis Kelly in his third straight start? He wasn’t as bad, but he had plenty of struggles. Kelly missed a block on McCoy’s third carry of the game. He failed to pick up Ernie Sims blitzing from the A gap when the linebacker hit Michael Vick and apparently caused his concussion. He didn’t stay with his block long enough on a McCoy run on third down just before the half. Kelly had plenty of problems containing Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff in the second half. He also failed to pick up a twist from defensive tackle Anthony Spencer that led to a sack, forced fumble and touchdown that sealed the game.
2. The Eagles defensive line showed signs of life but mostly for reasons other than Jason Babin and Trent Cole. The Eagles starting defensive ends were non-factors again. Babin played 28 snaps but failed to make a single play that made the stat sheet. He had trouble getting off blocks all game and was hardly double teamed. He failed to bring Tony Romo down during the Dallas quarterback’s Houdini-like scramble in the third quarter. Cole was a little more active, but he was exploited in the run game when Felix Jones scooted by the charging end for 15 yards in the second.
3. After a couple of sub-par performances after the bye, Nnamdi Asomugha had perhaps his strongest game in coverage. Romo targeted the Eagles cornerback only once all game with a short slant to Dez Bryant to open the third that was batted away. Asomugha missed another sure tackle when Jones took a screen pass and scored from 11 yards out. He wasn’t the only one that failed to bring down the tailback, but Asomugha had him lined up. He did a fine job of containing Lance Dunbar to a short gain earlier that drive, though.
Of NFL receivers with more than 29 receptions, Jackson is the only one without a dropped pass this season. The Eagles wideout has been targeted 67 times this season and 43 of those throws have been deemed as catchable. Jackson has caught every one and leads the team in receptions and yards (686).
THIS AND THAT
-- Babin wasn’t the only Eagle that could have brought Romo down during his great escape. Fletcher Cox had the first chance but whiffed, and then Cullen Jenkins had Romo in his sights but the quarterback dipped under him and Jenkins flew by.
-- The pass interference call on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie before he gave up a 30-yard touchdown to Bryant looked like a ticky-tack penalty. The catch looked good to these eyes, however. With today’s technology it seems you can take almost any low reception and make it appear as if the ball hit the ground even though the receiver may have had complete possession. That appeared to be the case on Bryant’s dive and grab.
-- Jeremy Maclin was banged up after suffering a back strain earlier, but that wasn’t an excuse for the receiver alligator-arming a pass that would have likely resulted in a collision with Dallas safety Gerald Sensabaugh.
-- The unsung hero on Foles’ 44-yard touchdown pass to Maclin in the third quarter was running back Bryce Brown, who picked up a blitzing Orlando Scandrick off the corner.
-- It might not be saying much, but Dallas Reynolds was the Eagles’ second-best offensive lineman behind guard Evan Mathis. The center had a great lead block on McCoy’s 13-yard run in the second quarter. He also appeared to do a much better job of calling out protections.
-- Sims could have been called for unnecessary roughness when he pushed Vick to the ground and he subsequently suffered his concussion. Sims appeared to be trying to hold Vick up, but the quarterback still fell and banged the back of his head on the ground.
-- The Eagles called for three designed runs for Vick on their first 16 plays.
-- Derek Landri recorded two tackles and broke up a pass, but the Eagles defensive tackle has not stood out for most of this season. The next play he makes in an opposing offense’s backfield will be his first.
-- It should come with little solace, but the Eagles, who came in ranked 30th in the NFL in the red zone, converted 2 of 3 trips inside the 20.
-- Jackson benefitted from blocks from Bell and tight end Clay Harbor on his catch-and-dash on the Eagles’ opening drive. But the Eagles receiver did the rest, burning his way through the Cowboys defense for 31 yards.
-- Vick’s hard count appeared to have drawn Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Hatcher offsides twice on the opening drive.
-- The Eagles opened game with 16-yard pass to Celek. They have opened with a pass in 7 out of 9 games.
-- Brandon Graham should have been credited with at least with a half sack on the Eagles’ first takedown of Romo. The Eagles defensive end zoomed into the Dallas backfield and got an arm on Romo. Mychal Kendricks was there to clean up and was credited with his first career sack. Cox got the Eagles’ next sack on the next play, but Jenkins was the first to arrive when Romo gave himself up and fell to the ground.