Heroes & Zeroes
Heroes & Zeroes
Dallas Cowboys 20 Philadelphia Eagles 16
I certainly didn't expect the Cows to be where they are today. Not after barely beating Kansas City, just a few weeks ago. But here they are at 6-2 and thanks to the sudden demise (although, I dare say it won't be permanent) of the New York football Giants, they find themselves alone at the top of the very challenging NFC East.
However, as much as winning a road game in Philadelphia - especially after what happened there last year (6-44 anyone?), it is tough to get too excited about a game in November. After all, we have been here before. But I also believe that this year's team is quite different from the past. There is a certain cohesiveness that was lacking in years gone by. I won't place all of it on Terrell Owens. But ever since Miles Austin broke out, the Cows seem alive and extraordinarily confident.
Tony Romo, Quarterback -- His numbers were not as stellar as it was the past few weeks, and he threw his first interception in a month Although, he did throw for over 300 yards against an excellent defense). Still, with what seemed to be a blitz in his face on every play, Romo was not rattled and was almost always on target. His lone interception was a joint effort with his receiver, who thought Romo was going to throw to his other side. Romo is showing vastly improved leadership skills and finally got Roy Williams involved.
Gerald Sensabaugh, Safety -- In what may turn out to be the best free agent acquisition of the off-season (along with Keith Brooking), former Jaguar Sensabaugh adds a terrific element to this defense. Because of a broken arm, he missed most of three games this year and the team suffered for it. Tonight, he led the team with 6 tackles, made a diving interception which led to the first touchdown of the game. In addition, his reputation as a big hitter led directly to two dropped passes by Eagle receivers.
Wade Phillips, Head Coach -- I have to admit, most of the last three seasons I found much to criticize a head coach who has amassed a 28-12 record since joining the Cowboys. However, I stand by all I've said in that regard. But certainly, Phillips deserves a tremendous amount of praise and respect for the way the Cows' defense played against the 7th ranked offense in the league (the Eagles score an average of 29 points a game, 3rd best in the NFL), and held them to 16 points and under under 300 yards. In addition, Donovan McNabb had thrown one interception all year. Tonight, he suffered two - and could well have had two more, had the defenders had better position. McNabb was harassed all day and was unable to find his big play receiver, DeSean Jackson, all night.
Marcus Spears, Defensive End -- I can't really find a reason for Marcus Spears to play, much less start. The only reason I can come up with is that he plays his position so well, that he allows everyone else to make plays around him. For the season, he does have 14 tackles and two sacks. These are great numbers for a third-string lineman. But Spears, a former first round pick, is a full time starter. In comparison, Stephen Bowen has a couple of sacks and is always around the quarterback. Yet he plays 1/4 of the time that Spears does.
Felix Jones, Running Back -- I really don't want to rag on Felix Jones. This guy is definitely a play maker. But either because the Eagles were ready for him, or he simply had a bad game, he was a non-factor for the second week in a row. In his defense, the Eagle defense is outstanding against the run. But early on, when they were plugging up the middle and stopping Marion Barber, Jones was needed to spread the offense out. Unfortunately, because he is still less than spectacular (and I'm being very nice here) against the blitz, Phillips was forced to go with either Barber or Tashard Choice since Philly blitzed so much.
The officials -- This goes out to both teams. The officiating was average at best, horrible at worst. Non-calls on certain plays and phantom calls on others nearly wrecked the flow of the game. It certainly destroyed any chance that Philadelphia had for a comeback. While I fumed at a couple of misses the refs had that benefited the Eagles, I can't help but feel sorry for Andy Reid's bunch when McNabb seemed to clearly get a first down (on a 4th and one), only to lose the challenge. That play spelled the end for the Eagles hopes because the failed challenge left them with no challenges and no timeouts left in the game. I won't go so far to say the Eagles were robbed, because the Cows were victims of the poor officiating as well. But if I were an Eagle fan, I'd be pretty upset.
For three and a half games, the Cowboys are looked like one of the best teams in the league. I won't saw the best team - not while New Orleans, Denver, Minnesota and Indianapolis are out there - but certainly a team to contend with. Given where they were a month ago, I think that is amazing. A lot of credit goes to the coaching staff who has kept this team focussed on the big picture. Even had they lost 20-16, instead of winning, I would still feel like these guys were heading in the right direction.
Here is my pick for next week: