FISH on FOOTBALL Top Ten Takes as we bridge the gap from the Cowboys' tripleheader skunking of the Eagles to a Hail Mary Memory-Making trip to Minnesota. ... and let me get right into our dismissal of the overmatched mouths from Philly with a compliment for the foreman of our shop, Dave Halprin.
Dave runs a classy operation here. He makes you wipe your feet before you enter and he makes sure we all put our napkins on our laps before we commence to eatin'.
Because of that gentlemanly style, you may have noticed that Blogging The Boys didn't spent much ink on the story of the Eagles.com employee/writer who videotaped himself sneaking some spittle onto the Cowboys Stadium midfield star.
Mr. Halprin is too classy to over-involve himself in the nonsense. But I'm not too classy to mention it, and you're not too classy to not have thought it, so let's just use a little ink on it, OK?
1. The last time the Eagles visited Cowboys Stadium, they were spitting on the star. This time they left Cowboys Stadium pissing their pants. ...
2. One constant in the first four games of these playoffs: Each of the winners enjoyed the explosion of a big play wrapped inside of the safety of the running game. The Jets' Greene did it. The Ravens' Rice did it. The Cardinals' Wells did it. And of course, Felix Jones - his pedigree showing as the first-round pick -- continued to morph into Dallas' featured back with 16 carries, 148 yards and a TD run of 73 - did it better than any of them.
It's a beautiful combination of low-risk/high-reward ... instead, of three yards and a cloud of dust, it's 30 yards and a ball-controlling, clock-consuming, spirit-breaking burst of flame.
For Dallas, that means more Felix ... and I don't just say that because in the postgame locker room, Marion Barber was quite obviously trudging about with a limp.
4. Donovan McNabb's pregame antics - the dancing, the air-guitaring, the hand-slapping Cowboys fans - don't fool me. I've seen it 1,000 times: McNabb was "fake-loose'' ... so busy putting on a show to demonstrate his "looseness'' that he revealed the truth about where he head really was:
Hoping the world would take notice how "cool'' and "loose'' he was.
The Eagles were destined to play Dallas three times this season and were destined to lose by a combined total score of 78-30.
McNabb knows that. He's not a dope. ... no matter how much he acts like one.
But in pretending he didn't know it, in pretending it wasn't weighing on him, McNabb was a fake.
In the same club: DeSean Jackson. Listen, he's scary. He's got a big career ahead of him. He's already got an other-worldly total of 40- and 50-yard catches behind him, during which he leaves entire defenses behind him, too.
But all the spitting and all the air-guitaring and all of DeSean's talk of victimizing Dallas with his "stinger'' ...
I mean, this kid played against Dallas three times and totaled 90 receiving yards over the course of ‘em all. Something about what the Cowboys do works. ... and works. ... and works again. Is it Ken Hamlin scaring Eagles from feeling cozy between the numbers? Is it Dallas' cornerback tandem, Jenkins and Newman, who seem to be having weekly fun trying to one-up each other? Is it the pressure upfront that chain-reactions its way from McNabb to DeSean?
Philadelphia wasn't going to fix was ever was broken or whatever was mismatched in six days. Andy Reid's not that smart and his players aren't that malleable.
Reid also isn't smart enough to rein in Jackson's knuckleheadedness, which showed itself when he forced a Jenkins fumble and then started yapping in the Cowboys' faces like they were Liston and like he was Ali.
Son, you were behind in the game 34-7. Muhammad Ali didn't yap much when he was down 34-7.
That wasn't a "stinger'' DeSean Jackson has hanging below his belt.
That was a tail. And after his repeated invisible showings, DeSean's tail oughta be tucked ‘tween his legs.
5. One aspect of Dallas' pass rush that should strike some fear into Minnesota's pass-protection scheme: It did seem that some of the damage done by DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer came when the Eagles downshifted into max-protect. For Philly, that meant the Eagles were very intent on McNabb's well-being ... so much so that sometimes only three guys ran routes while seven stayed in to block.
It didn't work. McNabb looked skittish. (Just as he had the previous week, in fact.)
And now, as it relates to the Vikings?
Increasingly this year, Minnesota has gotten away from inserting backup running back Chester Taylor into the game on passing downs. He's a better blocker than Adrian Peterson, but the Vikings are obviously more dangerous when A.D. stays in the game.
So what do the Vikings do? Assemble all their weapons and let Peterson stay on the field to help shield Favre? Or downshift the talent to pass-protector Taylor (along with non-receiving tight end Jim Kleinsasser) as a concession to the heat Dallas can bring?
6. I still don't believe in "hot'' ... wasn't Philly "hot'' before the Eagles started having to play the Cowboys week after week? ... But I do believe in this:
During their four-game winning streak, the Cowboys have never trailed.
That's a task made easier, by the way, if your defense so rarely allows scores. In its last 12 quarters the Cowboys' defense has permitted only 14 points.
7. The Cowboys were well-aware of the "monkey-on-their-back'' theme, well aware of the 4,762-day drought around here. So you have to be happy for Wade Phillips, a good man and a football lifer who finally earned his first career playoff victory - meaning instead of waving the white flag, he got to successfully wave the red hankie. You have to be happy for Tony Romo, as the Dallas QB a face-of-the-franchise job holder who is suddenly making third down (9-of-16 conversions here) his pressure-conquering personal playground.
Oh, and fans. You have to be happy for Cowboys fans.
I've often said that Cowboys followers are spoiled by this franchise's success, that we have come to believe that Super Bowls are our birthright, that there are lessons of humility to be learned around here.
But 4,762 straight days of classes. ... I suppose that's learning enough.
8. Proof that a Super Bowl contender must be lucky AND good:
Exhibit A: Roy Williams seems nearsighted and/or farsighted on some of his reception attempts but the ball still somehow willed itself into his hands a couple of times. Exhibit B: The number of truly impactful games Bobby Carpenter has contributed in his career can be counted on one half of one hand. But by gosh, two of ‘em have been in Dallas' last two playoff games, against Seattle and now Philly. Dude's a Big-Game Hunter! Exhibit C: The lineup that the Cowboys rolled out there for this game is remarkably similar to the lineup that began in Week 1. It is fair to say that Dallas has caught more injury breaks than any team in the NFL.
9. Man, a team works so hard to get to this position. And in the case of Michael Vick, the Eagles worked especially hard. Come-to-Jesus meetings. Legal issues. Negotiations. Press conferences. Months and months and months of work. ... maybe all so the especially talented jailbird backup can come into an important play and make an important play.
Now, in fairness, Vick has actually done himself proud in recent weeks. He's starting to look like a football player again (the Maclin throw was nice), and I bet he's a starter somewhere in the NFL next year.
But that didn't stop me from chuckling when Vick entered Saturday's game for a very special play in the very special moment. ... and mishandled the rock on the way to a fumble.
Karma, it seems, is a bitch.
And of course, a "bitch'' is a female dog.
10. As the Cowboys were putting the finishing touches on their home win over the Eagles - a first-round victory and Dallas' first postseason win in 13 years -- Jerry Jones reached over to his suite-mates and exchanged high-fives. But...
Mr. Jones has scaled the heights long enough to know this - the mission hasn't been accomplished at all.
"I wouldn't necessarily describe this as vindication,'' Jerry says. "We have one win in the first round of the playoffs. Our goals are much bigger than winning the first game. That's just being dead honest with you. We have a lot left that we want to accomplish. This is just the tip of the iceberg for us.''
In other words, the mission is just beginning.