Last Sunday we witnessed three meltdowns and a team that narrowly escaped a fourth. The NFC East has not only been short on wins but has exhibited a lack of toughness, focus and execution in all phases of the game. All four teams are in the thick of a division title race plagued with poor play. Overall, Week 8 was marked with both on the field and sideline breakdown, going forward will these teams find a way to man up or meltdown?
The Redskins stifled Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos offense well into the third quarter and were up two touchdowns and couldn’t seal the deal. In addition to giving up a second half lead they completely collapsed, allowing 38 unanswered points to end the game. Yes, you have to expect a late push from Peyton but make him work for it, especially on a wounded ankle. The Redskins defense wasn’t totally inept; there were opportunities to minimize the forthcoming surge from the Broncos explosive offense. Surprisingly Peyton was intercepted three times but his 35-yard TD pass to Knowshon Moreno took the fight out of the Redskins defense and was the beginning of Sunday’s meltdown. Robert Griffin III is being battered and needs help from the defense to minimize opposing scoring opportunities. The Redskins won’t win many shootouts with their offense; the defense needs to step up and play hard for 60 minutes to solidify late game wins.
Whether or not you want to dismiss Bryant’s sideline rant as passion or condemn him for carrying on like a screaming toddler, it’s clear the Cowboys need a voice of composed reason to offset the flare that Bryant brings to the locker room. Preferably this person needs to be Tony Romo; he is the leader of the huddle on the field and the lifeline of this offense. Romo did all the right things by defending his star receiver in the face of the media and let’s hope he will or has already addressed matters with Bryant personally.
Matthew Stafford’s late game-winning drive seems to illuminate what we’ve been saying about the Cowboys all along, they lack the ability to close the deal and the mental toughness to stay focused in pressure situations. Before the fixation on Bryant’s sideline breakdown the Cowboys had already surrendered their composure on the field and the culmination of the two, casts a perception of instability and lack of focus on the entire team. Some tough losses tend to linger but expect the Cowboys to win big against the Minnesota Vikings in attempt to hush the critics of Bryant’s actions and the Cowboys mediocrity.
Remember back in Week 1 when we were in awe of Chip Kelly’s offensive scheme and there were hopes of revolutionizing the way NFL teams approach the game offensively? Well, the Eagles have scored 10 points in the past two games and their last offensive touchdown happened in Week 6. The engine is running but the offense has no drive or direction. It doesn’t help that the top two QBs on the depth chart have been injured but it doesn’t excuse an Eagles offense that features an explosive runningback like LeSean McCoy.
Nick Foles is expected to return from injury but he wasn’t effective prior to suffering a concussion against a depleted Cowboys defense in Week 7. Whether or not Foles is the answer until Michael Vick is available is the preluding smaller issue to the larger adjustment issue Kelly has to address with his offensive scheme. Aside from DeSean Jackson, the Eagles don’t have the wide receivers to stretch the field enough to give McCoy breathing room to run through bigger lanes. The strike quick and strike often style of offense with less explosive weapons creates quick three –and-out drives and as a result puts extreme wear and tear on a defense still trying to gel. If the stars on the Eagles offense don’t man up, expect this team to meltdown.
The Giants barely escaped with a win on Sunday after taking five trips to the redzone and kicking five field goals. Eli Manning is throwing a high rate of interceptions but the lack of a running threat also contributes to the Giants offensive struggles. Manning has little to no margin for error and has to be extremely precise with his passes as teams equip their on-field personnel with an extra defensive back as oppose to another lineman or linebacker.
A legitimate running threat would give Manning’s talented trio of wide receivers space to make catches and accumulate yards after the catch. When effective, Peyton Hillis’ straight-forward running style can enable the use of play-action strikes down the field to stretch out a defense. The bye week allows Hillis to get accustomed to the offensive scheme and possibly alleviate some of the pressure off Manning’s arm.