By Jack Henkels
A football “walkoff,” a Giant domination, and Chip Kelly’s time of possession antics highlight a wacky week 4 in the NFC East.
Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
26-20 Overtime Loss to New Orleans Saints
The football equivalent of a “walkoff” is always exciting. Saints Running Back CJ Spiller was able to provide that for New Orleans against Dallas Sunday night with a “walkoff” 80 yard touchdown grab on a beautiful touch pass from QB Drew Brees. Very exciting ending to an incredibly bizarre game. Brandon Weeden, on a 4th and 7 in the red zone inside of two minutes, unleashed his inner Tony Romo, flipping a game-tying touchdown pass to WR Terrance Williams. Then, on the ensuing extra point, New Orleans HC Sean Payton decided to burn his final timeout to argue with the refs, rather than save it for a game winning drive. Brees, unphased by his coach’s careless timeout use, proceeded to take the Saints into the red zone, only for K Zach Hocker to clank the potential game-winner off the left upright. New Orleans won the coin toss, and that’s all RB CJ Spiller needed to give his Saints a big W.Embed from Getty Images
If the Dallas Cowboys were healthy, they would be the undisputed favorite in this division. They’re not. Instead of Romo, there’s Weeden, Terrence Williams holds down the top wideout position, not Dez Bryant, and linebacker and defensive captain Sean Lee went out on Sunday with a concussion. This team is in shambles on both sides of the ball, yet admirably has still been in great position to win the last 2 weeks against Atlanta and New Orleans. Last week, Weeden couldn’t buy a completion to a wide out, but tonight he stretched the field, getting WRs Brice Butler, Cole Beasley, and Terrance Williams involved. He finished with 246 yards and a touchdown, but most importantly, no interceptions. He showed a little bit of promise tonight that even without Dez Bryant, he may be able to keep this offense afloat until Tony Romo can return.
Bottom line, this team is banged up. On paper without injuries, they have the most complete team in this division by a mile, and it’s just a matter of staying around .500 and in the divisional race until their weapons get healthy. As the weeks go by, Cowboy fans should feel more and more thankful that they were able to steal that week 1 game against the Giants, or else this division would look a lot different with the healthy New York Giants sitting at the top at 3-1.
New York Giants (2-2)
24-10 Win over Buffalo
While the Bills were missing offensive weapons RB Lesean McCoy (hamstring) and WR Sammy Watkins (calf), the Giants D still stood up in a big way on Sunday, totally shutting down dual threat QB Tyrod Taylor and a dynamic Bills offense. Buffalo managed only two first downs in the first half, and didn’t get much better after a visit in the locker room. The Giants offense wasn’t overly impressive, but RB Rashad Jennings definitely put himself on a highlight reel as he caught a swing pass on third down around midfield, made Bills LB Nigel Bradham miss, took it 30 yards down the sideline before throwing Buffalo S Bicarri Rambo out of his way and taking it all the way to the crib. It was an Adrian Peterson like run from the Giants veteran back.Embed from Getty Images
The New England Patriots will tell you that Buffalo isn’t an easy place to play this year after the Pats barely held on for an 8-point win in week 2, and Rex Ryan has his Bills team playing inspired football. That being said, this game never really felt all that close, and the Giants defense set the tempo in the beginning and rode it all the way till the final whistle. They neutralized QB Tyrod Taylor and held McCoy’s backup RB Karlos Williams to 40 yards on the ground.
Bottom line, the Giants could (probably should) be 4-0 right now and the odds on favorite to runaway with the NFC East. But, after blowing double digit fourth quarter leads in weeks 1 and 2, the Giants merely sit at 2-2. That being said, not all 2-2 teams are created equal, and the healthy Giants look like the best team in the NFC East.
Washington Redskins (2-2)
23-20 Win over Philadelphia
RGWHO? QB Kirk Cousins on Sunday threw his turnover problems out the window and navigated a near perfect 90-yard game winning touchdown drive that ended with a beautiful tight window throw to WR Pierre Garcon. Cousins doesn’t “wow” you with arm strength or mobility, but on Sunday against the Eagles, he consistently put balls where only his receivers could catch it. This has to be a convincing sign if you’re a Redskins fan. In the past, Cousins has shown a tendency to just drop back and launch, resulting in way too many turnovers. But not on Sunday, where we saw a confident Cousins who read his progressions and made the smart throw. This game could be a huge turning point for Cousins and a usually pedestrian Washington offense.Embed from Getty Images
The only real area of concern for Washington was in the secondary, where today they seemed to miss CB DeAngelo Hall (Toe) in a bad way as Philly WRs Riley Cooper and Miles Austin both got behind the defense for big touchdown scores. These two guys aren’t exactly traditional deep threats, and it’s safe to say that maybe the Washington pass defense just got a little lazy on those two plays.
Bottom line, the Eagles aren’t good, but the play of Kirk Cousins today, especially on the game winning drive, has to be very intriguing if you’re a Redskins fan. Sitting at 22 in a disaster of an NFC East, this division is anything but out of reach, and with continued improvement from the quarterback position, this Washington team could make a move in a weak division.
Philadelphia Eagles (1-3)
23-20 Loss to Washington
Is it time to start questioning Chip Kelly’s system in Philadelphia? Chip blatantly doesn’t believe in time of possession, and it continues to plague his team. Time of possession, whether Chip wants to believe it or not, is the most accurate way to determine how much energy your defense is spending on the field. In Sunday’s game against the Redskins, Chip’s offense once again could not get in any sort of rhythm, resulting in the Eagles defense spending 41 minutes on the field, fighting through injuries, and fully embracing the “next man up” mantra. After Sproles dropped a third down pass right at the first down marker around midfield resulting in a Donnie Jones punt, Chip sent his defense out there one last time to try and stop Kirk Cousins and an overall weak Redskins offense. They couldn’t do it. Cousins dinked-and-dunked his way 90 yards down the field, where he finally found WR Pierre Garcon for a 4 yard touchdown strike. That hurts. A defense that fought so hard for so long, finally just broke.Embed from Getty Images
This game is strikingly similar to the ending of the Eagles’ 2013-2014 campaign, when in the NFC Wildcard game against the New Orleans Saints, the Eagles defense just couldn’t keep QB Drew Brees out of field goal range. Back then, Eagles fans murmured that maybe Chip’s philosophy regarding time of possession was flawed, and those murmurs fully resurfaced today, as Chip’s exhausted defense couldn’t get a stop when they needed to most.
Bottom line, the Eagles offense needs to be better, but is it possible? A quarter of the season is in the books, and maybe it’s not a matter of the Eagles being out of rhythm, but maybe they’re just not that talented. WRs Cooper and Austin beat a lazy Washington secondary for long touchdowns, but that’s about it. The offensive line play is still poor, the running game isn’t working, and it’s resulting in quick three-and-out after quick three-and-out. That puts too much pressure on an Eagles defense that is playing very well, but just cannot bail out the offense week after week.