NFC East: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly from Week 8
October 31, 2013 in NFC East
By Guest Writer Nick Clarke:
The NFC East is 11-20 at the mid way point of the season, which puts the division at the bottom of the NFL with the AFC South. Last week was more of the same from this lackluster division with the sole win coming from an inter division game between the Giants and Eagles.
There hasn’t been much if any good from the Eagles in the last two weeks, but their defense did show up last week against the Giants. The Eagles’ defense did not allow the Giants to get into the end zone and held them to just 325 yards of total offense. The Eagles’ defense will continue to keep games winnable for their injury plagued offense if they continue to play like they have been.
Although the Redskins fell apart in the 4th quarter, they flashed signs of their 2012 playoff selves. The Redskins went toe to toe with one of the top tier NFL teams for 3 quarters and entering the 4th quarter the Redskins were ahead; this was due in large part to the way the defense played against an elite offense. On Denver’s first 6 drives the Redskins’ defense only allowed one score, created 2 turnovers, and forced 3 punts. DeAngelo Hall came up with a huge game changing interception for a score, which would have put most opponents out of reach. Despite a 4th quarter collapse, the defense showed it can create turnovers that will give Robert Griffin III and the struggling offense plenty of opportunities to capitalize.
Despite the Giants only scoring 15 points and failing to find the end zone against a bad defense, the offense is finally starting to play mistake free football. Eli Manning did not add to his NFL leading 15 interceptions last week and the Giants have only turned the ball over twice in the last two weeks, which has allowed them to win consecutive games and become relevant in the division. It’s also worth noting the defense has not allowed an opposing offense to score a single point in the last two weeks, which is very impressive even if they did play the Vikings and the Barkley led Eagles.
The Cowboys lost another close game in the most devastating way possible, but there are some positives to take from the Cowboys’ week 8 meltdown. Sean Lee had a monster game against the Lions to add to an already brilliant first half of the season for him. Lee had 2 interceptions and 7 total tackles and he returned one of the interceptions 74 yards, setting up the Cowboys first touchdown of the game. Lee is having his best season yet and needs to continue to make game changing plays if the Cowboys want to stay atop the NFC East.
The Eagles have not scored an offensive touchdown in 2 weeks. Last week against the Giants, the Eagles offense turned the ball over 3 times, managed only 200 total yards, and failed to score any points. Michael Vick started the game but left after only 9 passes, which left Matt Barkley as the quarterback for the reminder of the game. Barkley was absolutely horrible, compiling a terrible passer rating of 65.9. The Eagles best weapon, LeSean McCoy, had a mere 48 yards on 15 carries giving him an unusually low 3.2 average yards per carry. If the Eagles fail to find an answer at quarterback, any hope of scoring points, much less winning, will disappear quickly.
The Redskins allowed the Broncos to score an absurd 31 4th quarter points. The Redskins defense is not entirely to blame because they did play a stellar first 3 quarters of football as well as the offense turned the ball over 4 times in the 4th quarter alone. The Redskins will be forced to step up and beat teams that are better than them in the second half of the season and the only way they will be able to do that is by gaining momentum. And although the ‘Skins collectively lost the last game last week, they will need to start collectively winning games because RGIII is clearly not capable of doing it by himself.
A win is a win especially in the NFL, but some wins mean much less than others. The Giants are now only two games out of the division lead and have won consecutive games, but the offense is still underperforming and the defense hasn’t faced a competent offense in the two wins. Eli Manning has improved from painfully horrible to somewhat competent throughout the season, but the receivers still drop far too many passes (Hakeem Nicks), the red zone offense is nonexistent, and the running back situation relies on Andre Brown, who is coming back from a broken leg. It’s too early to abandon all hope for the Giants, but don’t let the consecutive wins fool you they still have a mountain to climb.
The Cowboys defense allowed 623 total yards, 329 of which came from a single receiver. The Cowboys passing defense now ranks last in the entire NFL, allowing an average of 315 yards per game. It’s absolutely unacceptable to allow 329 yards to a single receiver, even if it’s Calvin Johnson. Having a player dominate a defense like that shows the defense either can’t make adjustments or the coaching is stubbornly sticking with a horrible game plan. One would think after the first 200 yards by a single player the defense would make more of a point of stopping the player and letting everyone else on the offense beat them. If the Cowboys focused more of their efforts on Calvin Johnson earlier and gave players like Kris Durham less attention maybe they wouldn’t have allowed the Lions to amass a ridiculous 480 passing yards. The Cowboys’ secondary has plenty of talent to go around with players such as Barry Church and Brandon Carr, but if Monte Kiffin continues to misuse their talents the Cowboys will continue to get scored on at will.
When Matt Barkley was 10 years old he did not dream that his NFL career would start the way it has. Barkley hasn’t started an NFL game yet, but he has thrown 46 NFL passes, four of which have been intercepted. In Barkley’s two appearances he has yet to throw a touchdown and has compiled an awful 42.6 passer rating. The Eagles are desperately hoping either Nick Foles or Barkley can step because of Vick’s lingering hamstring injury that now appears more serious than ever. To be successful in the NFL a team needs at least a smart mistake free quarterback (Alex Smith) and with Foles and Barkley manning the ship for awhile there is very little reason to think the Eagles can be successful.
Robert Griffin III took a major step back from his encouraging game two weeks ago against the Bears. Not only did RGIII leave the game due to an injury, he also threw two interceptions, lost a fumble, only completed 50% of his passes, which is his 2nd worst completion percentage all year, and compiled his worst passer rating of the year (45.4). RGIII’s start was the opposite of encouraging for the ‘Skins and they need RGIII healthy and firing on all cylinders if they want to flip the script to an awful start to the season, much like they did last year.
The Giants’ special teams continued to make mistakes against the Eagles. The Giants have tied the NFL all time record for punts allowed for a touchdown and in an unusual way they were scored on again attempting to punt the ball away. Steve Weatherford, the Giants punter, could not deal with the snap and the Eagles’ Najee Goode scooped it up at the Giants 2 yard line and tumbled into the end zone for a score. The Giants have not been good and in some cases have been consistently bad in every facet of the game this season, whether it be offense, defense, or even special teams.
Dez Bryant’s “tantrum” was overhyped and misinterpreted throughout the media. The “tantrum” was dubbed childish and immature, yet all Bryant wanted to do was find a way to win instead of sitting back and watching the Cowboys lose another close game that they should’ve won. When the incident first happened it was without audio and the media was quick to assume Bryant was demanding the ball and being selfish and some people were even bold enough to say that Bryant was demanding the ball to solely compete with Calvin Johnson. A day later the audio came out revealing that Bryant was trying to rile his team up and the only focus of his passion was to get the win. Even if his last spat with Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware was a tad unprofessional, he had a good reason to be upset, Bryant was targeted just 6 times and watched the Cowboys squander opportunity after opportunity on offense throughout the game. The Cowboys have lost 4 games by a total of 14 points, so if Bryant or anyone else wasn’t mad that the Cowboys had just let the Lions take the lead with 12 seconds remaining then they shouldn’t be on the team.