NFC East Good, Bad & Ugly from Week 10
November 14, 2013 in NFC East
By Guest Writer Nick Clarke:
The NFC East finished a lackluster 2-2 in week 10, with the only wins coming against the 3 win Raiders and the “Aaron Rodger-less” Packers. With the Cowboys and Eagles knotted at 5-5 for the division lead, only one and a half games ahead of both the Redskins and Giants, it’s sure to be a wild final 7 weeks in the NFC “Least”.
Despite falling to the Vikings by seven points, the Redskins outgained the Vikings by 123 yards, won the turnover battle, had the ball for 13 minutes more than the Vikings, and had 5 more first downs. There are no moral victories in the NFL, but the Redskins played some pretty encouraging football, probably the most encouraging football a team can play in a loss. Robert Griffin III was able to thrive in the rushing attack and in the passing attack. RGIII and Alfred Morris gashed the Vikings defense for 183 rushing yards and RGIII also found his top targets Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed through the air for 181 of the 242 total passing yards. If the Redskins can consistently play with balance on offense and keep defenses on their toes, they should be on the winning side of the ball more often than not.
The Eagles moved into a tie with the Cowboys for the division lead with their victory over the Packers. Nick Foles didn’t miss a beat yet again and lead the Eagles to their 2nd consecutive win. The Eagles displayed their balanced offensive attack with 415 total yards on 211 passing yards and 204 rushing yards. Just a couple of weeks ago it looked as though Chip Kelly’s offense was too far down in the dumps to turn it around, but a combination of steady quarterback play from Foles and an explosive rushing attack led by LeSean McCoy has the offense looking like one of the primer offenses in the league.
The Giants picked up their 3rd consecutive win last week against Oakland. After the 0-6 start to the season there was certainly nowhere to go but up, and the Giants have done just that. The biggest positive for big blue in their home win last week was Andre Brown’s production. Brown had 115 rushing yards and a touchdown and was able to manage 30 touches in his first game back from a broken leg. If the Giants are able to create a consistent rushing attack with Andre Brown, then defenses will have to respect the run more and Eli Manning will be able to decipher defenses more easily and will find more opening passing lanes down the field.
The Cowboys couldn’t have played worse and nothing concerning their play could be considered good. The upcoming bye week is the only positive for the Cowboys, giving the Cowboys time to regroup and have key players like Morris Claiborne, J.J. Wilcox, Jason Hatcher, and Miles Austin heal up and get ready to play for their week 12 contest against the Giants.
The Redskins managed to outplay one of the worst teams in the league and still lose. With just 3 wins on the season the Redskins cannot afford to lose close games, especially one’s they deserved to win. Although the Redskins’ offense was effective throughout the game, the Vikings stopped the Redskins at the goal line twice, one being on the last drive where the Redskins could’ve forced the game into overtime with a touchdown.
The Redskins’ inability to contain Christian Ponder is a serious concern going forward, seeing as the ‘Skins’ secondary will have to face much tougher tests in the coming weeks. Ponder completed 17 of his 21 passes for 174 yards and 2 touchdowns before exiting with an injury. The Redskins need to figure out a way to grind out wins and get back in the division race, regardless if they outplay their opponent or not.
Although the Eagles held the Packers to just 13 points, they did allow the Packers to amass almost 400 yards of total offense. The Eagles allowed Scott Tolzien, the Packers’ third string quarterback, to rack up 280 yards through the air. Sooner or later all those yards will translate into points and if the Eagles had difficulty dealing with an offense with Scott Tolzien under center, they should in for a rude awakening when they host Robert Griffin III and the Redskins next week.
The Eagles certainly have the momentum in the division with almost everything clicking, but if they want to continue the momentum and run away with the division, the defense will have to step up against stiffer competition in the future.
Although the Giants have won three straight, their offense has looked out of sync for the majority of the win streak and last week it hit a low point. The Giants managed just 251 total yards of offense and turned the ball over three times. If not for Terrell Thomas’ 65 yard interception return to the Raiders’ one yard line that Andre Brown converted into an offensive touchdown, the Giants would have only managed one offensive touchdown. If the Giants want to get back in the division race their offense has to regain its explosive self.
The Cowboys suffered one of their more embarrassing losses in recent memory last Sunday night against the Saints. The Cowboys defense surrendered an NFL record 40 first downs and an astonishing 625 total yards, while the Cowboys offense only managed 9 first downs and 193 total yards. Although the production was horrific on both sides of the ball for the Cowboys, it doesn’t even begin to hint at how poor the offensive and defensive play calling was.
Monte Kiffin’s hire was a head scratcher from the beginning, but now it’s just plain silly that he has a job even concerning football. The Cowboys offense ranks 19th in yards, which is much lower than it ranked with Jason Garrett calling the plays, and Bill Callahan deserves one hundred and ten percent of the blame.
Callahan has yet to figure out a way to consistently find ways to get Dez Bryant involved and as long as he remains inactive in the offense the Cowboys are going absolutely no where. There is absolutely no excuse to give your best offensive player two targets during a crucial game, no matter the coverage. Bryant has proven time and time again he can go get the ball regardless of the coverage, so if the offense isn’t working why not give him a chance to make a play? The play calling must become instantly more aggressive if the Cowboys want to reach even close to their electric offensive potential and hold their lead in the division.
A combination of mental mistakes that resulted in the eight penalties caused the Redskins to beat Redskins. The Redskins committed eight penalties for 63 yards in their otherwise valiant losing effort against the Vikings. Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan was not too pleased with the penalties, saying; “You make mistakes like that and so often it will cost you the game” and the untimely, drive halting, momentum shifting penalties certainly did cost the Redskins the game.
The Redskins simply aren’t a good enough team to let a win slip away because of mental errors and if they make a habit of these mental miscues they can forget about January football and move their focus to the upcoming draft.
Usually nothing bad can come from a good record on the road, except for the Eagles, who seem to only play well on the road and remain winless at home. I’m not suggesting the Eagles fantastic road record (5-1) is any way bad, but it’s at least puzzling that they have earned all their wins away from Philly. As much as the Eagles want a home win, they are perfectly playing close to perfect football away from home. The Eagles will look to break their 10 game home losing streak in a crucial division match-up against the Redskins.
The Giants offensive woes stem from Eli Manning’s struggles. Manning compiled the 3rd worst QBR (quarterback rating) of the season for any quarterback with a 15.2 QBR and only managed 140 yards through the air. Manning also added to his league lead in interceptions by throwing an interception to Tracy Porter, who promptly returned it for a 43 yard touchdown. Manning has hit rock bottom and hopefully a more balanced offense with the addition of Andre Brown can cure his tendency toward mistakes and poorly thrown balls, but even with a balanced offense, Manning will need to make huge strides quickly if he wants to get the Giants back into the thick of the division race.
Every year the injury bug seems to harm the Cowboys in a significant way. It started with Anthony Spencer and Miles Austin, spread to DeMarcus Ware, Morris Claiborne, and DeMarco Murray, and has now affected the Cowboys’ defensive ace in the hole, Sean Lee. Sean Lee, who is arguably the best inside linebacker in the league, suffered a pulled hamstring on Sunday night and will miss either two or three of the Cowboys final 6 games. Other than Tony Romo or Dez Bryant, there is no one’s absence more crucial to the success of the Cowboys than their defensive signal caller and captain Sean Lee. Lee’s absence will make for a tough stretch of games in which the offense will have to carry most of load.