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Fan-Demonium: This Will Not Define 2013

Posted Oct 22, 2013

There is nothing better than beating the Dallas Cowboys. There is nothing worse than losing to the Dallas Cowboys. Sunday was not a fun day. Not by a mile. 

I could have actually accepted a loss if the team had played reasonably well and provided some reason for optimism. That wasn't the case. Not even close. The Eagles played their worst game of the year on offense and that really killed the team. We all expected a shootout between the high-flying Eagles and Cowboys, but strange things happen in rivalry games. The defenses showed up and both offenses were sloppy. 

It was easy to be really bummed on Sunday. I did feel better on Monday after watching Chip Kelly's press conference. Kelly focused on the fact that the Eagles didn't execute well. Some people will scoff at this as an excuse. That's not the case. Coaches must look at a loss or poor performance and ask some tough questions. Are the schemes faulty? Is the team talented enough? Was this just a case of poor execution and sloppy play? 

The Eagles made the playoffs in the 2000 season. They beat the Bucs in a Wild Card game. Next came a divisional round showdown with the Giants. That was an eye opener. The Eagles' lack of talent on offense was painfully obvious. They only gained 186 yards. They only scored three points in the first three quarters. A touchdown was added late in the game. The score was 20-10, but the game wasn't that close. The Eagles lacked talent so they focused on improving that side of the ball once the season ended. In 2001, the Eagles swept the Giants and won the NFC East. 

I'm sure there will be some who watched the game on Sunday and felt talent was the problem, but I'm not in that camp. The Cowboys defense didn't overwhelm the Eagles offense. As Kelly said, this was all about execution. 

The primary culprit was quarterback Nick Foles. He had his worst day as a pro. Foles only completed 11 of 29 passes ... for only 80 yards. Yikes. Foles missed a wide open Jason Avant for a touchdown. He missed a wide open Brent Celek for a nice gain. He missed several receivers on third downs that could have moved the chains and kept the offense on the field. Kelly talked about poor footwork from Foles. I agree with that, but also thought there was something else wrong. Foles timing was off. He just didn't look "right." 

There are some people who wonder if the situation got to Foles. This was the biggest start of his NFL career. Last year, Foles didn't play in any meaningful games. On Sunday, he was at home with first place on the line against a rival. Situations like that can mess with young players. Some get nervous and play poorly. Others try too hard to make things happen and play poorly. I don't know if the situation got to Foles. I do know that he had accuracy issues that we've never seen before. Something strange was going on. 

Sunday's struggles weren't all on Foles. That was a team effort. There were times when the protection wasn't good. There were dropped passes. I wasn't happy with LeSean McCoy and the way he ran. He danced too much for me. Dallas has a fast, athletic defense. You are better off running north-south than going laterally. McCoy kept looking for big plays. I feel like he'd have been better off focusing on running for 4 or 5 yards and not going for the big gains. He got inconsistent blocking as well. McCoy finished with just 18 carries for 55 yards. 

Matt Barkley came into the game late and got his first taste of NFL action. Barkley threw three interceptions and that's what many have focused on. I'm not worried about the picks. Barkley was down a couple of touchdowns and had to try and make something happen in a short amount of time. He couldn't play it safe and protect the ball. He needed yards and points in a hurry. 

Lawlor

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac.

I was pleased with Barkley in a couple of regards. I thought he threw the ball better than any time this past summer. His passes had more velocity than what we saw when his shoulder issues were affecting him. That was encouraging. I also thought Barkley handled the moment well. Some young players look nervous. He didn't. Barkley stood tall in the pocket and dealt with the pressure. Either a player has good pocket presence or he doesn't. I thought Barkley handled that side of things well. The picks were sloppy mistakes, very much due to inexperience. That can be fixed. 

Barkley got his feet wet and showed some potential. We really can't make any more of less of it than that. 

This was the first week that the defense outplayed the offense. The Eagles held Dallas to just 17 points. I thought this was Bill Davis' best week as the defensive coordinator. He was more aggressive than usual and the players responded well. 

Cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher had the tough task of dealing with Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams. That duo combined for 14 catches for 181 yards, but they were targeted 23 times. That is a lot of throws. Fletcher broke up one pass. Williams drove Bryant crazy with his physical coverage. Williams did get lucky that the officials let him play. There was one bad interference penalty on Fletcher. He grabbed a receiver in the end zone. I don't think he needed to do that and it happened on third down. Without the penalty, Dallas might have only been up 6-0 if not for the penalty. That was a huge turning point in the game. 

I liked the fact that Davis seemed to blitz more, which required his corners to play some man coverage. You don't want to expose your players by putting them in bad situations, but I think it is important to challenge players and see what they can do. If you play it safe too much, that isn't good. Players need to be pushed. 

The Eagles' blitzing was more effective than it had been. There were only two sacks, but Tony Romo had his lowest completion percentage of the year and did throw two picks. He only had three coming into the game. The pressure was effective. It came from all kinds of players. DeMeco Ryans and Vinny Curry had the sacks. The entire front seven got after Romo. Even the defensive backs blitzed well. Safety Nate Allen came free on a blitz at one point. 

The blitzing worked because it was executed well. The Eagles were able to confuse Dallas as to who was coming and from where. There were some heavy blitzes, some overload blitzes and just some zone blitzes. Davis mixed up his calls and the players did a good job of getting pressure. You'd prefer sacks or takeaways, but incomplete passes are a good thing as well. 

Ryans had a sack and an interception, something he did last year at home in a win over the Ravens. He isn't a consistent playmaker, but is a steady tackler that has his moments. Earl Wolff had the other interception, which was the first of his career. He picked off a Hail Mary just before halftime. That ball came dangerously close to being completed. Wolff is developing nicely. He's been a pleasant surprise this year. Unfortunately, he got hurt and had to leave the game. 

Dave Fipp's special teams unit did a good job on returner Dwayne Harris. They limited Harris to 23 yards on five punt returns. Harris did break free for a 39-yard kickoff return, but all in all, the special teams had a good day. 

Don't let this game get you too down. The season isn't even half over. Back in 1992 the Eagles and Cowboys had an October showdown for first place in the NFC East. The Eagles dominated the game and won 31-7. A month later the teams met again. Dallas won that game and proved to be the superior team for the season. They ended up winning the Super Bowl. The loss to the Eagles was just one game. It was great for Eagles fans, but it wasn't a defining moment or anything like that. 

Sunday's loss to Dallas was frustrating, but you can't dwell on it. The Eagles are just one game back in the division. Kelly and his staff need to get the offense back on track and keep improving the defense. A month from now this could be a very different team. It all depends on the players and how they play. Poor execution like Sunday will mean sloppy play and losses. If the players go out and play well, games like Sunday could become a distant memory. 

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