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Eagles Must Take Long Road In Playoffs

ARLINGTON, TX --They came to Dallas with an eye on the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs, a bye week and a home playoff game. The Eagles left with their tails between their legs after a 24-0 loss, embarrassed, and faced with a return trip to Dallas as the sixth seed in next week's games.

Not to mention a huge number of questions to answer.

The Eagles were completely dominated in this one, unlike in any game in recent memory. The defense couldn't get off the field, especially in the first half, and the offense couldn't keep drives alive. Dallas took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards and the rout was on. It was so awful from every angle that, truthfully, it would be unfair to pin the loss on any one, two or three groups.

Everybody stunk. From the top on down, the Eagles were whipped.

So now they have a short week to regroup. Dallas has handled this Eagles offense completely in two games this season, and the defense on Sunday in Cowboys Stadium was outclassed. There was no pressure on Tony Romo. The Cowboys ran for 179 yards, the most the Eagles have allowed all season. The coverage wasn't good at all. Dallas got the matchups it wanted and absolutely destroyed the Eagles in the middle of the field.

It was just as bad on offense. Oh, Nick Cole and Max Jean-Gilles were OK, at best, but the Eagles dropped a half-dozen passes, ran the ball poorly and finished off nary a drive.

So what do the Eagles hang their hats on heading into the post-season? They have to come back a completely different team when the playoffs start, and they must jump out against a Cowboys team that had 100,000 fans fired up from start to finish on Sunday. I wish I could point to one or two or three things the Eagles needed to improve to beat Dallas next week, but other than saying offense, defense, special teams and coaching, well, you get the idea.

There is no way to paint any kind of pretty picture on the loss. It was shocking how flat and out of sync the Eagles looked. It was, in fact, a reminder of the NFC Championship Game in Arizona last year when the Eagles were on the verge of being blown out after two quarters. The only difference was that the Eagles had no comeback in them, and a six-game winning streak went down the drain.

The Eagles aren't this bad, but the challenge is that Dallas could be this good. The Cowboys were deadly on defense, pressure Donovan McNabb and the makeshift offensive line, stopping the running game and keeping DeSean Jackson in check. As they did in the first game, back in November, the Cowboys turned Jackson into a non-factor. He had just 3 catches for 47 yards and the Eagles surely need more than that from Jackson to win in the playoffs.

How do the Eagles, with Cole at center and Jean-Gilles at guard, make up for the lack of experience and quickness against the Dallas front? How does this offense manufacture a running game? How can the Eagles spring Jackson and Jeremy Maclin -- who had a critical drop when he was wide open on a third-down throw from McNabb -- and make some big plays against this stingy Dallas defense?

On the other side of the ball, McDermott has some real concerns. He started Akeem Jordan at middle linebacker with Moise Fokou on the strong side and the Cowboys immediately attacked that side with Barber and a running game that ripped off gains of 32 yards and 18 yards on that opening drive. Clearly, McDermott is trying every combination possible at linebacker and in this game, the results were not positive. Dallas ran early and then attacked the middle of the field in the passing game against a zone defense that had its signals crossed all too often.

So, the NFC East title goes to Dallas. The Cowboys swept the Eagles and they deserve the crown in the division. Something more important happens next: Andy Reid must gather his team and figure out a way to win a game against a team that has showed no defensive weaknesses in two dominating performances against an Eagles offense that set a franchise record for most points scored this season.

Instead of continuing on their roll, the Eagles were flattened by the Cowboys. Gone is the winning streak. Forgotten is the chance to grab the second seed, a bye week and a home playoff game.

To go where the Eagles want to go, they have to take the long, long road. Right now, the prospects are as daunting as they have ever been for a Reid-coached Eagles team. Once the embarrassment of this loss fades, the Eagles have a mighty mountain to climb, and it will require a quantum leap to start the playoffs on the right kind of note.

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