How long do we get to revel in this moment? How long do we get to bask in the glory of another shutout served up by the Dallas defense? Unfortunately, not very long.
With the Cowboys playing host again to the Eagles this coming Saturday night (8 EST on NBC), it's sure to be a wild week leading up to the NFC Wild Card Round. There is sure to be talk of the Eagles coaches "not wanting to show their hands", or that "it's the next game that really matters". Some of the Cowboys' biggest critics may be hopping on the Dallas bandwagon as you read this. Imagine that!
For now, none of that erases the fact that the Cowboys shut out the Eagles. Zero. A goose egg. The hole of a donut. Nada. Zilch. Zip. No enchilada. 24-0. Gotta love it while we can.
Until these past two weeks, shutouts have seemed a rare accomplishment for the This Dallas defense sure seems to be hitting on all cylinders at the right time of the season.. Back-to-back shutouts have been unheard of, especially considering they have come against two division rivals.
The shutout, before 100,621, marked the first time in franchise history the Cowboys have recorded consecutive whitewashes. One week after shutting out hapless Washington for its third consecutive victory, Dallas blanked an Eagles team that had won six straight and averaged 31.2 points during that span.
The last NFL team to notch consecutive shutouts was Tennessee, which did it in December 2000. Pittsburgh and Baltimore also recorded back-to-back shutouts that season. The only other team to do it the last 25 years was Chicago in November 1985.
"We forced our will on them and made them have an off day," linebacker Bradie James said. "You want to go into the playoffs playing your best ball, and we are doing that."
More VRR after the jump.
"To be frank, we don't really care about that," said Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff, whose fumble recovery killed the Eagles' only legitimate scoring threat.
"We still haven’t accomplished the goal that we all want to accomplish. "I think this is a great stepping stone for us as far as what we can get done, but there are still some things that we can get better at. We did make some mistakes tonight. We’re going to look at those mistakes and fix them. I’m pretty sure Philly is looking at it."
The Eagles may have more recent playoff experience, but the Cowboys have fought through plenty of their own adversity.
"I just think this team is set up perfectly to make a run in the playoffs," LB Keith Brooking said. "We’ve dealt with ups and downs over the course of the year and we’ve really grown as a team. The adversity that we’ve been faced with has brought us closer. We’re really set up perfectly right now to really make a run in these playoffs."
The Cowboys took advantage of the Eagles' inability to stop the run.
Dallas saw only two linebackers behind the Eagles’ front four and plowed through the nickel defense, piling up 179 yards on 32 rushes – an average of 5.6 per attempt. In the first half – when this game was decided – Marion Barber rushed for 68 yards on eight carries, 8.5 per attempt.
"You can’t be surprised," linebacker Will Witherspoon said. "It’s the situations. It’s really the chess game of being on the field and calling the right play at the right time."
The number two seed was at stake for the Eagles, so would they really have viewed this game as a part one of two? Most teams play to win in that situation. Perhaps an excuse for an inability to stop the Dallas ground attack?
There were hints that Reid, McDermott, and Marty Mornhinweg held back in game-planning. The Eagles did not blitz Dallas quarterback Tony Romo the way they needed to. Was that because they thought this was the best approach, or because they didn't want to show all their cards?
"I'd rather not get into what the game plan was, because we have to play them again next week," McDermott said. "You do have to look at the big picture. . . . There was a chance we could face this team again."
That should not be read as an excuse. The Eagles didn't treat this as an exhibition game. They very much wanted to win it. A bye week and a home playoff game were powerful incentives.
Hat tip to Boundforbeach for the post.
Matt Mosely thinks that the Eagles will make some changes, though they may not produce a different outcome.
I fully expect that Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott will come up with a different game plan on Saturday, but I'm not sure it will matter. The Cowboys were so successful in the running game early that McDermott asked his safeties to play closer to the line of scrimmage. That opened up the middle of the field for quick slants to Miles Austin and Patrick Crayton, who combined for 189 yards and a touchdown.
The other issue is that the Eagles don't have anyone who can cover Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten. He finished with six catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. Linebacker Will Witherspoon had no hope against him and safety Quintin Mikell didn't fare much better.
On the Eagles' first offensive play, Jackson was given the ball on an end-around. On their next possession, Donovan McNabb missed him on a deep post. Then there were the drops. Late in the second quarter, with the Eagles trailing 17-0 and trying to put together some kind of drive to get back in the game, Jackson flat-out dropped two routine catches, including a wide-open play over the middle.
"You've just got to catch the ball, man," he said. "When you drop balls, you take chances away from yourself. It definitely slims your chances of winning. We need to erase this one, come back and work hard and do what we need to do."
"I could remember everything. I felt woozy a little bit, I know I wasn't me. I just felt sleepy. I'm playing Saturday, man. I've got to. I'll be OK, it just depends on how they feel because I could've gone back in the game. It just depends on how it goes tomorrow."
Choice was hurt when trying to block a defensive end in pass protection. He said his helmet struck the Eagles rusher's knee.
It was a remarkable hustle play by Free, a fourth-round pick from Northern Illinois in 2007, and one that was the buzz of the locker room after the game.
"I thought that Doug had either slimmed down or he’s been working on his 40 [yard dash] time," Anderson said. "But that’s what you expect of Doug because he hustles every day in practice, so whatever he does in practice carries over to the game. It was unexpected but expected at the same time."
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was watching from his suite and he was gushing about the play after the game.
"You saw big No. 68 [Free]," Jones said. "That is really notable. To see that 68 out in front of Felix Jones down there clearing him in for a touchdown.
The Cowboys' rushing numbers on the year:
The Cowboys rushed for 2,103 yards on the season the first time the team gained over 2,000 yards since 2001 (2,184).
Marion Barber led the team in rushing with 214 carries for 932 yards and seven touchdowns. Felix Jones was productive with 116 carries for 685 yards and three touchdowns.
Tony Romo on the win:
"This ballclub has done a good job of putting its best foot forward when it has to," Romo said. "We haven't arrived and we haven't accomplished anything. This is a step in the process to continue to get to where we want to go. It's a positive one, definitely, but we still need to keep improving. There's hopefully a lot of season left."
And, what he expects for next week's game:
"I think we're going to see every blitz ever invented," said Romo, who was 24 of 34 for 311 yards, with the two touchdowns and an interception. He also capped the most productive season of his career and in franchise history, setting club records for attempts, completions and yards passing. The Cowboys also set a record for single-season yards.
Clip of Coach Phillips and Tony Romo's postgame press conference here.
With six catches for 76 yards, Jason Witten became the third tight end in league history to have multiple 90-catch, 1,000-yard seasons with Tony Gonzalez and Todd Christensen. Witten finished the year with 94 catches for 1,030 yards and scored his first touchdown since Week 2.
A link from the team's Web site indicated tickets were to go on sale Monday morning, to the general public, for Saturday night's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Individual ticket prices ranging from $85 to $500 were listed.
Nice read here on former Cowboys great, Charles Haley.
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