Last night, I watched a back-and-fourth battle between two offensive juggernauts. Unfortunately for us (Eagles and their fans), we got the short end of the stick (41-37). One team would score, and then the other would counter. This went on for the duration of the game. Besides disappointment, I took away some observations from the game. Some Good, Some Bad, and Some Ugly.
The Good: The Eagles won the turnover battle. Tony Romo threw an interception at the end of the first quarter ,that the Eagles were able to turn into a touchdown. Then we receovered Romo's fumble in the end zone for another touchdown. Winning the turnover battle will more times than not get you a win. We didn't get many turnovers last year, but the fact we got 2 against a very good team is praise worthy.
We only had 5 penalties for 44 yards, and the Cowboys racked up 10 penalties for 108 yards. Committing fewer penalties than your opponent is yet another key to winning games. Dallas was loud all night long, and the fact that we committed so few penalties indicates to me, that the were focused, and disciplined.
We won the time of possesion battle too, but not by much.
The Eagles defense held the Cowboys running game to less than 80 yards. Marian Barber was held to 63 yards rushing, and Felix Jones added another 10. The Eagles were all over the ball. Seldom were the Cowboys able to open holes to run through. We didn't allow Barber to get the extra yards after contact that he's known for. If the first guy their didn't bring him down, he didn't let go either, and we swarmed to the ball. The front seven looked fierce against the run.
Donovan completed passes to 9 different receivers for 281 yards. DeSean Jackson caught 6 of them for 110 yards. A great deal of credit should go to our offensive line. They gave McNabb a ton of time to make his reads.
Brian Dawkins can still lay the lumber! made a great play to knock the ball out of Martellus Bennett's hands, while leveling the boom on him as well. He had 4 tackles, and a forced fumble recovery.
The Bad: Blown Covverages. Terrell Owens' 1st quarter 72-yard TD reception opened the offensive flood gates. He made a tiny hesitation move between Lito Sheppard and Sean Considine, that allowed him to get behind the defense. The Eagles were in a zone when T.O. made that move. Did that freeze Considine enough for him to blow by him, or did Sean blow his assignment? There's truth to both sides, but the overall body of work for the night would lean towards blown coverage. Jason Witten got in on the action too. He got behind Brian Dawkins for a 42-yard reception on his way to over 100 yards receiving.
In the 2nd quarter DeSean Jackson put on the afterburners, and ran right by a flat footed Ken Hamlin and Adam Jones for a 61-yard reception which would have been a touchdown, except for the fact that he dropped the ball at the 1-yard line. We were lucky that we still got a TD out of it (B-West). I would have chalked this up to being a Rookie, but he has done that before. It's a lack of concetration, and unacceptable. He needs to understand that one play can be the difference between winning and losing.
Pressure on the quarterback. The Eagles didn't record a single sack, and the Cowboys had 4. With the acquistions of Samuel and Clemons this off season Jim Johnson was supposed to conjure up some serious havoc to rain down on opposing quarterbacks. We were able to get pressure, and force Romo into some bad throws. However, we needed to apply more.
Effective use of the tight end. L.J Smith let the first pass of the game bounce off his hands. That set the tone for his night. He caught one pass for 10 yards. Brent Celek only caught one pass too. The Eagles need their tight ends to be effective in the passing game. Jason Witten, Martellus Bennett, and Tony Curtis all caught passes when their number was called.
The Ugly: Turnovers. They cost the Eagles the game, and by "They" I mean the only one we had! Donovan McNabb did some double pump before handing off to Westbrook. Westbrook never got a hold of the football, and the Cowboys pounced on it. They got the ball back at their own 33-yard line. On the ensuing drive Asante Samuel was called for pass interference in the end zone, which gave the Cowboys the ball at the one. Marian Barber scored, and they were able to take the lead for good. There's nothing uglier than losing a game in the fourth quarter.
We need to regroup, and come back strong. It's a short week, and we have got another tough opponent in the Steelers on Sunday.