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26 Dec 2006

Any Given Christmas: Eagles over Cowboys

by Ned Macey

A year ago, the Philadelphia Eagles' season effectively ended against the Cowboys. Roy Williams intercepted a Donovan McNabb pass and returned it for a game-winning touchdown. McNabb stumbled after him, clearly hampered by a sports hernia injury that ended his season. The Eagles lost McNabb again this year, but their critical matchup with Dallas was a different story. The Eagles controlled the ball, confused Tony Romo, and played surprisingly tough run defense to come away with the win.

The Eagles season has been a rather odd series of ups and downs. They played great football early in the year but lost several heartbreaking games. A mid-season swoon followed during which McNabb was injured and the run defense collapsed. A second disappointing season seemed in the offing. Now, after three consecutive road wins, the Eagles are back in the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years.

Dallas, meanwhile, has captured only its second playoff berth of the post-Aikman era, but the recent disintegration of their pass offense and pass defense leaves them worried rather than jubilant. The Cowboys were considered the second best team in the NFC a mere three weeks ago. Now they will likely be stuck with a wild card.

As always, a four-game win streak leads to enormous credit being given to a team's quarterback. Jeff Garcia has played well since coming in for McNabb. The key is not that Garcia is not McNabb. The key is that Garcia is not Mike McMahon. He is able to make plays in an offense filled with talented players, none moreso than the standout Brian Westbrook.

Philadelphia's offense has been one of the best and most consistent on the season. Overall, they rank third in offensive DVOA. The only more consistent offense is Miami, and nobody wants to mimic that level of consistency.

The Eagles under Andy Reid have always been a pass-first team. In a way, however, they are sort of a reverse Pittsburgh Steelers. On a per play basis, they are generally a more effective team running the ball. The only year this decade where their passing DVOA was higher than their running DVOA was 2004. Even then, they ranked ninth in run offense and tenth in pass offense.

Last year, the proclivity for passing became a problem. One major reason was the lack of a power back to support Westbrook. Westbrook is an amazing player, but he is not great at grinding out yards in the middle of the line. The Eagles had used Duce Staley and Dorsey Levens to great effect in that role previously. Staley and Levens ranked third in DVOA among running backs in 2003 and 2004 respectively. Last year, the best "banger" they had was Lamar Gordon, who was incapable of providing this support.

This year, the job has gone to Correll Buckhalter. Buckhalter has missed three of the past four seasons with extensive injuries. He returned this year to provide consistent yardage for the Eagles. He is not extraordinary by any means, but he keeps the offense in good shape. He ranks second in our success rate measurement. He is nearly incapable of the big play, but he has almost no negative plays. 46.3% of his runs are between three and six yards, the highest percentage in the league.

The Eagles do not need big plays from Buckhalter because Westbrook provides more than enough of those. The diminutive running back is explosive as a runner and a receiver and has been underappreciated this season. He ranks second in the league in combined rushing and receiving DPAR behind only LaDainian Tomlinson. Given that Tomlinson is in the AFC and Westbrook in the NFC, his omission from the Pro Bowl roster is a glaring oversight.

Westbrook's performance this weekend was particularly impressive because the Cowboys run defense has been strong all season. Their primary weakness is in pass defense, but the Eagles still attacked them successfully on the ground. They called running plays 60 percent of the time on their first three drives. Those drives netted 10 points, with the only failure an interception thrown by Garcia.

The Eagles got a little pass happy in the third quarter, but they returned to the ground to ice the game in the fourth quarter. After a Brian Dawkins interception in the end zone, the Eagles marched down the field for a game-clinching touchdown. They handed the ball off on eight out of 12 plays. Garcia added two scrambles. Passing yardage accounted for only 13 of the 80 yards in the drive.

Of course, solid play by running backs almost always correlates with excellent offensive line play. The Eagles still have stalwarts like Jon Runyan and the tackle formerly known as Tra Thomas. They are punishing people on the ground thanks in large part to the solid play of young, physical center Jamaal Jackson and guard Shawn Andrews. Freedom from injuries on the offensive line is also a major reason for the offensive consistency.

The Cowboys should not be overly concerned about their run defense because they were facing the second best rushing offense in the league. The Eagles' success is more a testament to their ability to run the ball than any failings by the Cowboys.

Still, the Cowboys should remain concerned about their pass defense. The Cowboys feature a strong pass rush and solid cornerbacks, but their safeties can be exposed in pass coverage. Against New Orleans, they were exposed on multiple passes to running backs. The Cowboys made adjustments to limit the damage Westbrook made in the passing game. Those moves, however, opened the middle of the field for tight ends. Alge Crumpler caught five balls a week ago. This week, the Eagles completed a 65-yard pass to L.J. Smith and a 25-yard touchdown to Matt Schobel.

The Eagles have had their own troubles stopping the run, but not on Monday. The Cowboys have an excellent two-headed-monster running game. The first two drives featured a healthy balance of run and pass. The second drive ended with three unsuccessful efforts from the 1-yard line. Marion Barber III has had impressive success on short-yardage plays, but the Eagles defense held. That stop was a major turning point in the game. The Eagles run defense has been mediocre overall, but it has been among the ten best in short-yardage situations.

After this stand, the Cowboys completely abandoned the running game. Their first pass-happy drive ended in a touchdown. After Philadelphia field goals bracketed halftime, the Cowboys trailed 16-7. The Cowboys called pass plays on 10 of their first 15 second-half snaps, not including two passes that picked up defensive penalties. The tenth pass was a wild throw into the end zone toward a double-covered Terrell Owens. After a Philadelphia touchdown, the Cowboys' next play was another interception that was as bad a throw as you will see in professional football.

The bloom is definitely off of Romo's rose, but he still remains a solid player. He now has two interceptions in three of the last four games. Opposing teams have sufficient tape on Romo and have made adjustments. The question is whether Romo will adapt to the defensive improvements.

Many were quick to compare Romo to Tom Brady largely because they both replaced Drew Bledsoe. A better comparison is actually Marc Bulger. Like Romo, he took over on a team with amazing talent at wide receiver. Both enjoyed a great deal of early success. The Rams went 6-0 in the six full games Bulger played in 2002. His DVOA was among the best in the league. The next year, he was a turnover machine as defenses caught up with him. He has since developed into one of the better quarterbacks in football.

The question for Romo is whether or not he can turn it around in time for the playoffs. He is still surrounded by Owens, Terry Glenn, and Jason Witten. The running game remains potent. Romo obviously has the physical tools to be successful. If the Cowboys can keep games close, Romo is good enough to win games in the playoffs. If they fall behind, defensive schemes will be able to force turnovers.

The other problem with the Cowboys' falling behind is that it eliminates Barber from the game plan. Barber is much more successful running the football than Julius Jones. For whatever reason, Bill Parcells prefers to play Jones early and Barber late. If the Cowboys are trailing late, Barber is not an effective battering ram. In the one-sided loss to New Orleans, Barber had two carries. He had six on Sunday. Barber is an extremely effective weapon. The Cowboys should use him earlier in a game or risk not being able to use him at all.

For Philadelphia, they have as much talent on the roster as any team in the NFC. In fact, were McNabb still healthy, they would arguably be the best team in the conference at this point. Garcia is a solid player, but he is not their salvation. He has not played as well as McNabb this season, is not as talented as McNabb, and is not as smart a quarterback as McNabb. For two consecutive weeks, he has thrown ill-timed interceptions. Still, he is certainly good enough to win with all the surrounding talent. If the Eagles are able to lean on Westbrook and Buckhalter, Garcia provides enough to help them win any game.

A win against Atlanta gets the Eagles a home game against an 8-8 opponent in the first round of the playoffs. After that, the Eagles would have to travel to New Orleans. A win there will likely be harder to come by. When McNabb limped off the field against Tennessee, nobody imagined the playoffs were possible. Even the most passionate Philly fan can hardly complain about a playoff loss given the circumstances.

Dallas, meanwhile, was facing a make or break season. Questions abound about whether or not Parcells and Owens will continue to coexist. The Cowboys are barely in the playoffs with both of them. Meanwhile, Owens and Glenn are both aging. Without the weapons on the outside, the production of both Romo and the running backs will decline. This year was an important one for the Cowboys, and while playoff berths are nothing to sneeze at, an early-round playoff exit was not supposed to be the highlight of the Parcells era.

Each Tuesday in Any Given Sunday, Ned Macey looks at the most surprising result of the previous weekend. The NFL sells itself on the idea that any team can win any given game, but we use these surprises as a tool to explore what trends and subtle aspects of each team are revealed in a single game.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 26 Dec 2006

34 comments, Last at 28 Dec 2006, 10:41pm by Sid


by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Tue, 12/26/2006 - 6:43pm

Good job, Ned. In the Philadelphia area (especially on the talk radio gabfests), most of the credit is being given to Garcia. There may be intangibles such as leadership, rallying the troops after the loss of their star, etc. involved, but your point that Garcia has, insofar as the data indicate, not played as well as McNabb is enlightening. My own opinion is that without McNabb to rely on, Andy Reid has been forced to plan a more balanced and, for him, creative game. A number of times vrs. Dallas, on third and short yardage, the Eagles simply tossed the ball back to Westbrook or Buckhalter and ran for the first down. When McNabb was at QB, third and one seemed as often as not to be a "passing situation." If the Eagles do, as you suggest, have a great deal of talent on their roster and if Reid can learn from his current success and make broader use of that talent, they could be quite good next year.

by AlexDL (not verified) :: Tue, 12/26/2006 - 6:46pm

I hope I'm not first.

What I gathered from the game last night is that the Eagles are a team that is ready to play in the postseason and is focused on doing just that. I wonder if you FO guys feel any vindication regarding having to defend the Eagles high DVOA rankings during the season?
The Cowboys on the other hand are a team tormented by demons (T.O.) and a quit first attitude.

I'm sure more than a few of you have played sports when one of your teammates just gave up. This is something that rots out the team, especially when that player is one of the more talented that you typically count on.

Great season so far, I love week 16, other than the playoffs, that is by far my favorite of the year.

by Harris (not verified) :: Tue, 12/26/2006 - 7:01pm

I laugh heartily when clowns like Angelo Cataldi suggest Garcia should replace McNabb permanently. The biggest difference with this team is in the playcalling, not the personnel. Without his favorite toy, Reid has turned over most of the playcalling to Morneingweg (sic) who is much more willing to grind defenses into dust than his boss. I can't count the number of short yardage runs the Eagles have called in December that would have been passes (and probably dropped passes, at that) in September.

by mattman (not verified) :: Tue, 12/26/2006 - 7:41pm

I'm glad to see the Eagles' offensive line finally getting props. Their play, not Garcia's, has been the real key to this post-McNabb turnaround. Jamal Jackson is a future pro-bowler at center, and Shawn Andrews my be the best guard in the NFC after Steve Hutchinson. And Westbrook - what can you say? He has a good shot at reaching 2,000 total yards in just 15 games, and may be having the best Eagles RB season ever.

by Ryan (not verified) :: Tue, 12/26/2006 - 7:42pm

"When McNabb limped off the field against Jacksonville"

Nit: Tennessee. The game where I finally admitted I can no longer go to Philly sporting events, because attending just makes the home team lose horribly.

Enjoyed the article.

by Larry (not verified) :: Tue, 12/26/2006 - 8:32pm

The injuries to the PHI O-line last year were key and an overlooked story. Excellent to point out how good they've been lately.

Also, nice point that Garcia hasn't actually played as well as McNabb, though the difference on a per-play basis isn't huge (18% for Garcia (9th), 23.7% for McNabb (7th) in DVOA.). Both have much higher VOA than DVOA, though.

Looking at the QB table, two things jumped out:
1) Damn, Peyton has been spectacular. Over +50% in DVOA. Wow! That Colts defense and the limited number of possessions the Colts get are obscuring a spectacular season.

2) Huard's numbers were really good. Bad move to go back to Green, Herm. Oops.

by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Tue, 12/26/2006 - 9:01pm

I still can't believe Westbrook got stiffed for the Pro Bowl. As Mike Tyson would say, "Ludacrisp, just ludacrisp".

by RogerG (not verified) :: Tue, 12/26/2006 - 9:36pm

TO appears to have turned into a real liability - his noxious behavior notwithstanding. His drop of a gimme catch early in the 4th quarter when the Cowboys still had a pulse was atrocious. If the Cowboys brass have any spine, they should cut him.

by David C (not verified) :: Tue, 12/26/2006 - 10:01pm

Anybody else think that the Cowboys' defense would be a lot better if Greg Ellis wasn't injured? Also, that goal-line stand by the Eagles defense should teach Parcells to quit running Barber up the middle every single time they get a first and goal at the one. And finally, #4, Hutchinson isn't all that great.

by Luke (not verified) :: Tue, 12/26/2006 - 10:25pm

#8. He drops a lot of passes for an elite reciever. I also saw Terry Glenn drop a sitter, which is unusual.

by SJM (not verified) :: Wed, 12/27/2006 - 12:50am

I realize that much of what's being said here is that the Eagles are winning on their own merit, not because of Garcia particularly, but I still want to take this opportunity to pitch him as a darkhorse for comeback player of the year. I mean, I keep hearing experts say Drew Brees is a candidate. Drew Brees?! Didn't he qualify for the Pro Bowl last year?

What do you say? Who in the league has had a bigger comeback than Garcia?

by SJM (not verified) :: Wed, 12/27/2006 - 12:56am

Linked, Pasquarelli agrees with me, though not in so many words.

by Broker (not verified) :: Wed, 12/27/2006 - 1:18am

RE #9: Totally agree on the Ellis comment. Dallas defense has been very bad since his injury.

I also agree with the point in the story-- Barber should be the starter at this point, and Jones should be the later addition. The offense seems to move the ball better when Barber is in.

The comment on defenses figuring out Romo better now-- yep. I think that's accurate. He does give Dallas a few more chances where Bledsoe doesn't-- scrambling for the 1st down on 3rd and 4 instead of taking a sack, for example. Is it just me, or has Romo NOT been looking toward the tight end? It seems like Jason Witten has disappeared in the last few weeks. He's averaged 4 pass receptions in the last six weeks.

After these last three weeks, it looks like the Cowboys are destined to exit the playoffs in the first round. It didn't appear to be that way four weeks back.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 12/27/2006 - 2:55am

David C:

Anybody else think that the Cowboys’ defense would be a lot better if Greg Ellis wasn’t injured?

Cowboys with Greg Ellis coughed up 38 points to the Eagles, 36 to the Giants, 24 to Jacksonville, and 22 to Washington. Lets not go overboard about how great the Dallas defense was with him.


He does give Dallas a few more chances where Bledsoe doesn’t– scrambling for the 1st down on 3rd and 4 instead of taking a sack, for example.

Huh? Bledsoe faced 64 3rd downs and took just 4 sacks, but threw 3 interceptions and 4 touchdowns along with 26 1st downs. Romo has faced 92 3rd downs but took 8 sacks while throwing just 2 interceptions and only 2 touchdowns and 42 1st downs. Dallas has traded a few interceptions and also a few touchdowns for a few sacks and a few more 1st downs on 3rd down with the QB switch. Bledsoe was actually a slightly better 3rd down passer by conventional stats.

Bledsoe's weakness (or Romo's strength) was on 2nd down - 66 2nd downs saw him take 7 sacks and throw 4 interceptions along with just 2 touchdowns and 15 1st downs. Romo has had 129 2nd downs, taken just 3 sacks and thrown only 5 interceptions but 7 touchdowns and 52 1st downs. Romo is a much better 2nd down passer, meaning Dallas has avoided more 3rd downs. While Bledsoe saw a basically equal number of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd downs, Romo has seen 40 more each 1st and 2nd downs than 3rd downs.

Overall on a per game basis:
Romo - 1.60 TD's, 1.20 INT's, 1.70 sacks, 0.50 fumbles, 0 rushing TD's.
Bledsoe - 1.17 TD's, 1.25 INT's, 2.67 sacks, 0.50 fumbles, 0.33 rushing TD's. However, most of Bledsoe's bad statistics are from the Eagles game where he was sacked 7 times, threw 3 interceptions, and fumbled 3 times.

Ironically, for all of Romo's supposed greater mobility he has yet to rush for a TD like Bledsoe did a number of times (Bledsoe had 8 rushing TD's in the past 5 years).

The offense seems to move the ball better when Barber is in.

How much of this is Jones being given most of the 1st and 2nd downs, and Barber most of the 3rd downs and short yardage/goal line? Most backs run better statistically on 3rd down, and more of the glory stats (first downs and touchdowns) are racked up when the yardage is short or the run at the goal line).

by Joe Rowles (not verified) :: Wed, 12/27/2006 - 5:20am

Great job Ned.

One thing I would like to see at least ONE of if they make the playoffs this year: SOME sort of article on Denver, either a Den over someone (if they win somethin in the playoffs) or a EPC. I love reading this stuff but would really like some more in depth stuff on them :D

Prolly just blowing smoke but either way great read!

by MFurtek (not verified) :: Wed, 12/27/2006 - 5:25am

No reference to Parcells, "Chalk this up to inexperience..." comment? I couldn't believe that ESPN would have the lack of journalistic integrity to NOT pick that soundbite apart, ESPECIALLY on NFL LIVE!

Let's see coach... can we review the final few weeks of 2005? Dallas has to win 2 of 3 final games to make it into the playoffs... they control their own destiny. End up losing to Washington, completely embarrassed... then skate past Carolina in the Steve Smith gets ejected and the officials call a dubious "roughing the kicker" game and then lose to the Rams in a game that ends up meaningless.

Cut to a couple weeks ago and you are battling the Saints for a first round bye, get them in a national game, and blow it. The same goes for the game against Atlanta which was another "fight for playoff pulse" type of deal.

And you think we'll just accept it's because of inexperience? Did anyone else raise the flag on this or am I the only one? That's at least 5 playoff-type games right there... how many more do you need?

by Playit (not verified) :: Wed, 12/27/2006 - 5:47am

Dallas' pass defense problems seem to be mostly concerned with an inability to collapse the pocket and rush the passer. Few safeties in the league can cover a tight end for 6+ seconds while the QB has a clear sight of the whole field.

When Ellis went down it was clear that the Cowboys weren't able to provide a consistent pass rush with only 4 of their front 5 as they had been doing up till that point. Moving Ware around helped in the short term, but they have still not found a solution. What I find most troubling is the play calling on Defense. Dallas seems incapable of being unpredictable. They seem to only rush 4 (mostly Ware) the vast majority of the time. When they do blitz they bring 7+ rushers leaving the CBs one on one with no safety help. Obviously, this plan is predicated on getting to the QB quickly, but often the blitz it through the middle. Good Offensive lines just close the gaps and the QB is left enough time to throw bombs. This has happened several times this season. What I want to know is what happened to the 5 and 6 man rushes? How about the delayed blitzes, zone blitzes, and CB blitzes? Roy had 2.5 sacks last season but has been blanked this year. Why hasn't he been used to rush the passer like he has in years past? Why no stunts by the D-Line? Parcells has repeated over and over again that he doesn't like to blitz, but isn't that the strength of the 3-4, getting more athletic pass rushers on the field to surprise the Defense?

I am really at a loss at this point to explain why the talent on that D is being used so poorly.

by Crushinator (not verified) :: Wed, 12/27/2006 - 6:19am

I don't see why anyone would ever seriously suggest replacing McNabb with Garcia. Garcia is an older, weaker armed, slower QB. Do people forget McNabb was having an MVP-caliber season before he was injured, or did all they see was a W-L record and attribute every loss to McNabb?

by Charles the Philly Homer (not verified) :: Wed, 12/27/2006 - 10:57am

I think a hidden aspect of the new success that the Eagles have had late in the season actually reflects part of why Philadelphia has such joy in the turnaround: fearless playcalling.

Andy Reid is calling plays and allocating personnel in a far less cautious manner than he was early in the season. Was that Westbrook returning punts? Were those 4 consecutive runs by Westbrook? Was that an actual pressure defense with a late lead? Honestly, I think the team was so concerned with overusing Westbrook or getting embarrassed by big plays late that they were limiting themselves as a rushing offense and pass-rushing defense. The concern remains, unfortunately - if Westbrook gets hurt we are done, and the fans will still howl at an 80-yard playoff touchdown surrendered on a 6-blitz.

That said, screw it. At this point, there is no downside to a loss. I'm glad to see the reckless, fiery Eagles out there. Early in the season they just seemed so tightly-wound in playcalling and execution and this is a welcome change.

by Krishna (not verified) :: Wed, 12/27/2006 - 12:43pm

The analytical evaluation of the quarterback play of McNabb and Garcia is great. At this time, I want to talk about something that has been bothering me along similar lines and may be some one at footballoutsiders.com can feature this.

We all know that the legend of Tom Brady was made especially by the last drive in the Superbowl against St. Louis. The drive started in the last 2 minutes and ended with a 48 yard field goal.

I thought Jim Kelly should have been provided similar recognition for his play in his first superbowl against the Giants. He got the ball in the last 2 minutes at Bills 10 and drove the Bills for a 47 yard field goal attempt. Scott Norwood missing a 47 yarder while Adam Vinateri making a 48 yarder to me should not make Jim Kelly's drive any inferior to that of Brady's.

Infact, I would rate the Giants defense run by Bill Belicheck and with LT, Carl Banks etc. to be far superior to that of St. Louis. And the rest of the game, the quarterback performance of Kelly was better than that of Brady.

Would someone care to comment?

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 12/27/2006 - 12:46pm

Andy Reid is calling plays and allocating personnel in a far less cautious manner than he was early in the season.

That might be because Reid turned the playcalling over to Marty Mornhinwheg (though I don't think that's that big a deal).

It also might be (and this I think is true) because his skill players in the beginning of the year consisted of two running backs both coming off of injuries (one coming off of three in five years), a second year WR, a free agent rookie WR, and a WR they traded for at the end of the preseason.

I'm guessing it took them a while to figure out exactly what they were capable of.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 12/27/2006 - 12:51pm

Playit #16:

Few safeties in the league can cover a tight end for 6+ seconds while the QB has a clear sight of the whole field.

Wait a minute. Most Tight Ends are big slow dudes who don't have what it takes to be a Wideout, so they beefed up and honed their blocking skills a bit. How can a Safety not be able to stick with them? A Linebacker, yeah, I could see them not being able to cover Tight Ends for long periods of time, but Safeties should be able to do so.

When Ellis went down it was clear that the Cowboys weren’t able to provide a consistent pass rush with only 4 of their front 5 as they had been doing up till that point.

19 sacks in 9 games with Ellis, 10 sacks in 6 games without him. I really don't see the difference being very big here, especially since 6 of the sacks with Ellis were in the Titans game which was Vince Young's first start. More amazing is the failure to sack Carr in the rout of the Texans when Ellis was still in.

How about the delayed blitzes, zone blitzes, and CB blitzes? Roy had 2.5 sacks last season but has been blanked this year.

Perhaps you forgot about the Anthony Henry CB blitz the Cowboys used against the Eagles in October. Surely you haven't forgotten the masterful coverage of Hank Baskett by Pat Watkins yet have you? It only takes a couple of those 87 yard TD plays to rip the CB blitz out of the playbook and get players benched.

I don't know why they aren't blitzing Williams. Its not as though he is actually covering anyone in the backfield.

by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Wed, 12/27/2006 - 1:44pm

We all know that the players need to make plays and that were plenty of goofs to go around (for instance, last week on the EPC I posted that Hoyte was on his way to being a dominant FB - this week be blows like 3 blocks, including 4th down on the goalline). That said, one constant in the three losses in the second half of the season has been poor coaching decisions. Seriously, Parcells's approaching senility kicked into high gear at the end of the half when he sent in TO and played against the hail mary with eight second still on the clock. Did ANYONE watching that game think the hail mary was coming? What's more, his hand-picked defense has more character issues than the offense right now: the offense has TO, but the defense has the unnamed suspects who are whooping it up and p-ing off TNew and Ferguson (probably Spears and Canty, possibly Ware, James, Burnett...) Parcells is again failing to exercise the "control" he built his reputation on.

by Broker (not verified) :: Wed, 12/27/2006 - 1:52pm

RE Andrew #13: Thanks for making my point-- Romo, according to the stats you quoted, has shown an increase of 37 percent in TDs vs. Bledsoe, a decrease of 4 percent in interceptions vs. Bledsoe, and a decrease of 36 percent (36!) in sacks vs. Bledsoe. My overall point remains here-- given the available options to Dallas, Romo gives the Cowboys a better chance of success than Bledsoe does.

by azibuck (not verified) :: Wed, 12/27/2006 - 2:01pm

#15 -- Tell MFurtek! I don't know if we're on exactly the same page, but I think we're reading the same book. I will not shed a tear when Parcells leaves Dallas, and I really hope this is his last year. Zimmer's too, I've never cared for him. Parcells' reputation far exceeds his production. He's great for restoring accountability -- until this year when he signed on for Terrell Owens. And make no mistake, he signed on for that, it was NOT all Jerry Jones' doing. But Parcells is not an X and O guy, and without Belichick and Henning, he is, in his own parlance, JAG (Just A Guy) coaching.

by azibuck (not verified) :: Wed, 12/27/2006 - 2:13pm

Andrew, you might want to check yourself. Romo twice converted 3rd and 3 with scrambles in the Philly game. Your "Huh?" comment came off as a little pompous. I mean, yeah, we all have Romo's 2nd and 3rd down stats right off the top of our head. Don't make it seem like the guy made some egregious statistical error. On any down, Romo gives the Cowboys a better chance to convert.

And your comment in post 21 about TE's being slow, bulked up wanna-be WRs? That was a joke, right? That whole paragraph was utter nonsense. From your belief about what most TEs are to how safeties should have no trouble with them.

by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Wed, 12/27/2006 - 2:33pm

I thought Jim Kelly should have been provided similar recognition for his play in his first superbowl against the Giants.

Jim Kelly is in the Hall of Fame. Exactly how much more recognition do you want?

by JWCC (not verified) :: Wed, 12/27/2006 - 2:44pm

Dallas has zero pass rush outside of Ware. Somehow, there only blitz play is brutally obvious, and it gets stuffed every time. They can send seven guys and the O line will just bury them all. In this game, they showed an obvious blitz, and Madden said something like "this is how you get pressure". There was in fact no pressure, but LJ Smith took a quick pass about 60 yards downfield.

Last year, players such as Canty, Ratliff and Bradie James showed great promise. They have regressed this year.

And please don't get me started on the fact that they have never addressed the FS position. Roy Williams has great issues with coverage, but he can be very effective near the line of scrimmage. However, having terrible FS play does not free up Williams to do what he does best. Now, he looks completely lost and appears to have 'lost his mojo', which I know is similarspeak to "he just wins".

by rashreflection (not verified) :: Wed, 12/27/2006 - 4:20pm

re: Comeback Player of the Year.

I would go with Deuce McAllister myself. The conventional wisdom states that ACL injuries take around 2 years to come back from, yet in just one year he's become a better runner than he was pre-injury. Also a significantly underrated fantasy sleeper...nobody seems to realize he's been a top 10 RB this year. =P

The one other guy who I think has a better case than Garcia is Chad Pennington. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE (from casual fans to FO) thought he was completely done, yet he's had a solid season and will likely lead his team to the playoffs.


by David C (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 12:15am

RE #27: Pat Watkins could still develop into a talented Free Safety, but FS is a glaring weakness. Canty and Spears are both 2nd year players that could be better in their 3rd or 4th years. Bradie James is only useful against the run.

Oh, and Broker, the Cowboys will in all likelihood be up against 4th seeded Seattle (or if Philly loses, at home against Atlanta who they already beat, the self-destructing Giants, Chris Weinke's team, or the Rams, who are even worse than Seattle.) I think we can all agree that for all their problems, Dallas is still a much better team than the Seahawks. As a matter of fact, here's the final four of the NFC in the playoffs: Eagles, Cowboys, Saints, Bears. No one and done playoff chase for the Cowboys this year.

by Tighthead (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 1:04am

Watkins could develop, but they needed help immediately and were hoping to get that help from a fifth rounder - that is just not prudent.

All of the Dallas LBs seem to be poor in coverage, as are the safeties. Sigh.

by Broker (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 1:27am

RE 29: Hey David, I agree with you that they will likely play Seattle. As a Dallas fan myself, I kinda hope they do. I'm REALLY hoping that it's not one-and-out this year. I am hoping that the Cowboys team that played Indy or Tampa Bay earlier this year shows up the rest of the way and into the playoffs.

by Yo (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 5:56pm

Two things I don't see mentioned here.

1 - TO has injured hands. You can tell by how he tries to catch the ball. As bad as he was against the Eagles, he probably shouldn't have even been playing.

2 - Garcia's running was huge against Dallas. His runs came at crucial times and were all very good decisions. He ought to be given credit for this.

by Sid (not verified) :: Thu, 12/28/2006 - 10:41pm

Even then, they ranked ninth in run offense and tenth in pass offense.

I think they were 6th in run offense, actually.