Saturday, January 9, 2010

Eagles - Cowboys Notes: First Half

> As a fan of the laundry, I come into this game with no real expectations or hope, for all of the reasons that were mentioned in the picks column. But on the plus side, this is the last time in 8 months that I'll have to endure Faith Hill. So I got that going for me. And if my laundry somehow wins, they will have the best year in the NFC East, and honestly, that matters more than you can imagine; as an Eagles fan, I content myself with the knowledge that teams of other teams have it worse than me. Let's get to it.

> After enough commerce to choke a goat, we get the cheery stat that Wade Phillips is 0-4 in career playoff games, and Andy Reid is 7-0 in his last seven opening round games. We also get to see QB Donovan McNabb goof off on the Dallas fans. Hmm. Akers kicks it to the two, and the kickoff coverage does the job, dropping KR Felix Jones at the 16. Helpful. First play is a Dallas false start. First and 15 is a give to RB Marion Barber, who had some room but not overly much. Second and 12 is from the gun, and Romo finds WR Roy Williams for a short gain, with CB Asante Samuel holding on to contain the damage. On third and five, Romo rolls out from pressure and finds RB Tashard Choice, and safety Macho Harris can't get him out of bounds before the sticks. Gahhh.

> On first, DE Trent Cole stops Barber for a yard loss on a nice play. From the gun on second, Romo hits Williams on a bubble screen for a big gain, and that's just terrible. Williams leaves the play from Head Pain. On the next first, Jones for a draw for five. Choice from the wildcat isn't touched until past the sticks, and when that happens, it's from his own blocker. Nine yards, a first, and the defense is not responding to a power game. Stop me if you've heard this before. With Eagle defenders looking like they are lobbying for flags in mid-play, Romo fakes a screen right, then comes back left to Jones, who goes down the sideline all the way to the Eagles 14. A delay to Jones gets nothing and a motion flag against the offense; a little surprising that the defense would take the penalty, as 1st and 15 seems worse to me than 2nd and 11, but it works out as Jones only gets two. Romo with another screen to reserve WR Kevin Ogletree, but the refs call TE Jason Witten for the pick that made the play look so good. Williams returns on 2nd and 23, and Romo from the gun is swarmed under for a Tracy White / Chris Clemons sack. The play ends with a little nastiness, as Romo takes extra hits from trying to escape and doesn't like it much. On 3rd and 32 from the gun, Romo misses high, and amazingly, the defense pushed Dallas out of field goal range. Maybe this is a different game from last week after all. PR/WR DeSean Jackson takes a fair catch at the 10.

> Hey, the worst president in American history is at the game, and he's friends with Cowboy alumni. And to think, I wasn't hating the Cowboys enough recently. McNabb misses badly on first, and the Eagles go no-huddle with a give to Weaver for two yards on second. On third and eight from the gun, the ball is nearly intercepted, and the offense just left the field in less than a minute in just about the least confident way possible. Hoo boy. Punter Sav Rocca gets a lot into it, and PR Patrick Crayton takes a big hit but holds on Dallas with the ball near midfield.

> NBC hypes Samuel as we come back from break. Jones with an absurd hole for 20 yards, with CB Sheldon Brown diving at his head for a saving tackle. MLB Jeremiah Trotter got killed there. On first, Romo takes another sack, this one from OLB Chris Gucong, who guesses right on a bootleg. On second and 17 from the gun, a draw to Barber gets two, and this is a big down here -- both from getting off the field and stopping a possible field goal. From the gun, Dallas stays conservative on a draw, and Dallas chooses to punt rather than try a 51 yarder inside a dome. Heh. Dallas is able to get the ball downed at the three. Maybe DJ could have caught it a little further out, but not by much.

> A decent first down run by Weaver gets four yards of breathing room. McNabb has time on second and six and misses Celek high, and the refs flag the defense on DB Ken Hamlin's hit to the head. I kind of hate the flag on principle, and really hate the idea that the Eagles may have just lost the TE that caused Dallas massive match-up issues. The home team's fourth flag in 12 minutes; helpful.

> From the 23, RB LeSean McCoy avoid a loss through talent on first, but not by much. On second, Don has time, but doesn't get away from the tackle box and gets a grounding call; terrible play by the QB. A give up draw to McCoy gets a few yards, and once again, the offense is off the field with speed: time of possession is now 10 to 3 for Dallas. Rocca hits another big punt, and Crayton is a trip away from a very big return. Dallas has great field position again, and the next good play that McNabb makes in this game will be his first.

> From the Dallas 45, Romo finds Witten from the gun for six yards. On second, the give is to Jones for a yard; can the defense get a three and out? The offense takes Dallas's fifth flag of the quarter with a false start as NBC shows Skeletor Jones looking pensive, and the clock run-off ends the first quarter. No score, and I can't imagine that fans of either team's laundry are feeling real thrilled right now.

> Third and eight to start the second, and Romo from the gun hits WR Miles Austin for a ridiculously easy slant, first down, and move into Eagles territory. CB Joselio Hanson blows the play. Next play sees Romo deep to Austin, and CB Sheldon Brown's desperate recovery is obvious pass interference, and a first down at the Eagles one yard line. Romo to reserve TE John Philips ends the drive with a touchdown, and that's just your routine 4 play, 55 yard touchdown drive on three straight disastrous defensive plays. It is also, given the last five quarters and counting of watching this offense, all the points that the Cowboys will need. Cowboys 7, Eagles 0.

> Macho Harris gets destroyed on the kickoff return, to the point where I'm wondering if he'll return to the game, by Ogletree. Yeesh. From the gun on first, Weaver takes a slovenly draw for seven yards. From the gun on second down, it's Michael Vick all of a sudden as Cowboy Fan voices his disapproval, and after some mild running game trickery, he hits WR Jeremy Maclin for an out where the rookei WR abused the corner and goes 77 yards for a touchdown. Ye Freaking Gads, that just might have changed things. Cowboys 7, Eagles 7, and Cowboy conspiracy theorists might note that Vick didn't take a snap last week. Me, I'm just thrilled to see points on the board, even if it gives McNabb Haters a stiffie.

> Maclin is the youngest man in NFL history with a touchdown reception, and we see Harris helped off to the locker room. That's sure to help the TE coverage. More good kickoff coverage on Jones starts the Cowboys at their own 15. From the gun on first, Romo throws a horrible duck from pressure that backup S Sean Jones makes a great diving interception on, and the play is challenged after a nice return. I can't see how the call will be overturned, but if the early game shows us anything, bad replay challenges are worthwhile, right? But during the break, NBC finds another replay to overturn the call, and... I'm still not seeing how that's enough to overturn it. Maddening.

> On second and 10, Jones goes through a big hole for a first, and it's fifteen more for a face mask on MLB Will Witherspoon. Not exactly a great minute for Eagle Fan. LB Moisus Foku with the hit on Barber on a one yard gain. On second, Romo is hammered again, and the ball isn't blown dead right away, but it's clearly an incomplete. Third and nine from the gun is another easy middle throw to Crayton for a gain of 18, and if the defense isn't putting Romo on the ground, long third downs are no problem for Dallas.

> A toss to Choice gets three yards as NBC sideline reporter Andrea Kraemer mentions how Jerry's stadium is a badly designed hothouse. Surprising, no? Romo misses high to set up third and seven on a field goal down, and the pressure doesn't get there as Williams is suddenly three yards free of Samuel, who fell on the play. Not exactly a great time for Samuel to have a bad game here.

> Inside the red zone, it's Romo to Witten at the one yard line, as S Quentin Mikell and Brown are both down after the play; and that's both starting safetys off the field against the healthiest team in football. It's so much fun that the Eagles call time just to see if they have enough players to fit on the field, not that it's going to matter much for the first and goal from the one situation. I'm also starting to think that (a) the overturned interception by Jones is the real game-changer, and (b) if my laundry does somehow win this game, Saints QB Drew Brees is going to throw for 500 yards.

>Time of possession is now 16 minutes to 4. Wow. Mikell returns, Brown doesn't, and Romo gives to Choice for the touchdown. Just your usual 10 play, 85 yard touchdown drive, and this game looks like varsity versus JV, especially with an offense that, even when it works, doesn't give the defense any rest. Cowboys 14, Eagles 7.

> 9:14 left in the half as Maclin takes a knee in the end zone. McNabb with time to throw on first, scrambles, can't connect with RB Brian Westbrook, but it's Dallas's sixth flag for pass interference and a first down. An inside draw to McCoy gets six yards. From the gun on second, WR Reggie Brown with the drop, as once again McNabb takes time to get the ball out under pressure. On third and four from the gun, the good news is that the starting QB finally has a completion today; the bad news is that it's for 2 yards to Maclin as McNabb backpedals against a jailbreak. Crayton gets another huge return, and the Dallas offense takes the field looking for the kill shot against an exhausted defense that's getting absolutely no help from the offense. This game, and season, is about to end. I'm kind of ready for it, really.

> Brown and Mikell back, at least. From the gun at the 41, Romo hits Austin for one of those kitten-easy middle throws that just tells me this defense has a desperate need for better safetys. It gos for 32 yards, and right now, Romo has 166 yards to McNabb's 2. Ye gads. Jones is stopped on second down, setting up third and 10, so Dallas just throws over the middle for the third down conversion, like every other time they've needed big yardage. Honestly, not sure why Dallas doesn't just throw over the middle every play. This time, it's Williams to the seven. On first and goal, the refs give the Cowboys until -3 on the play clock, then finally call the delay. That was fun. From the 11, Romo misses Williams as a Jones blitz hurries the QB somewhat. On second and goal, Romo connects with Williams on a button screen that could have been a touchdown, but the WR slips and falls on the eight yard line. Romo finally misses on third, this one to Williams in the corner, and the Cowboys settle for a Shaun Suisam field goal from 26 yards. Cowboys 17, Eagles 7, 3:39 left in the first half. If the offense would like to show up today, this could still be a game, but I'm not really holding my breath.

> Give the grinning death's head his due: Jerruh Jones paid for a kickoff specialist to produce touchbacks, and he got what he paid for. From the 20 and under center on first, McNabb avoids heavy pressure on first to throw deep, wobbly, and incomplete to Jackson. On second, Vick returns from the gun and what is supposed to be a draw to Weaver is a fumble. Oh well, at least that will keep the Vick Should Be QB people at bay.

> In the red zone on the Eagles 18, Jones abuses the defense (in particular, Brown) for 13 yards, and the CB goes off again. Jones is stopped by the ghost of Trotter on the new first down, and that's the two minute warning. Austin then collects the I'm running out of synonyms to kitten for softness screen, and that's one more kill shot to add to the collection Cowboys 24, Eagles 7, and this is actually becoming, hard to imagine, worse than last week. We're now at 22 to 6 in terms of minutes on time of possession.

> Hey, an actual kickoff return. That was fun. It gets to the 25, with Maclin doing the honors. On first, McNabb actually completes a pass (wow!) to Avant for a first down. In hurry up from the gun, it's a bad snap, McNabb running for his life, a scrambled throw out of bounds and a flag for ineligible man downfield. You've seen better football from children. A terrible screen to Westbrook is incomplete. On 2nd and 15 from the gun, McNabb avoids more huge pressure to connect with Avant, who gets the first down and out of bounds as Cowboy Fan stares at the TV and cheers Emmit Smith. No, really. A fresh disaster happens as Weaver then fumbles a poor idea middle screen, and while Al Michaels thinks a review is unnecessary, the refs disagree, if only to prolong the agony. The call is upheld, and Dallas takes the ball at their own 41.

> Things aren't going badly enough for the defense, so Samuel gives them an extra 15 yards after the whistle on what should be 3rd and 10. Hey, why not? A catch by Witten comes back on yet another Dallas flag -- and honestly, what would this game look like if the Cowboys were actually sharp? Romo uses his super scamper powers for 10 seconds of making defenders miss, then throws it away as even NBC is amazed at Mikell is called for pass interference. Um, OK, whatever. Romo throws a terrible screen to Mikell that was almost a TAInt. A quick out to Williams gets six yards as Dallas angles for a final field goal. Another short throw gets them a 48 yarder from Suisam, and he hits it, of course. Cowboys 27, Eagles 7.

> Thirty more minutes of watching this team, and I'm free. That's a win, right?

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