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FISH on FOOTBALL: The Cowboys Stand For Everything That Is FIRST In The NFC East

John Harbaugh, the Ravens coach formerly with Philadelphia, has a quote recently revealed in an Eagles-centric book that goes, "The Cowboys stand for everything that is wrong with the NFL.''

My response? If winning five Super Bowls is wrong, I don't wanna be right.

An assortment of post-Philly reflections on a Cowboys team that at this moment stands for everything that is first in the NFC East:


* Few teams make big plays like the Eagles offense makes big plays. McNabb is a quick-strike/deep-strike talent. Jackson catches nothing but 50-yard gainers, and I mean that as a compliment. Even the running back, Westbrook, seems when healthy like a home-run threat on every touch.

But what the Eagles do not do - and I think this was critical to the Cowboys' 20-16 victory at Philly on Sunday night - is sew together multiple series of little plays.

That's not an offensive team capable of grinding you down, of setting up third-and-2's, of facing a good defense (which Dallas certainly is right now) and pulling off a few eight-play/80-yard/eight-minute drives. They are explosive and they are scary, but an over-reliance on 50-yard pass plays means that when they aren't there, the Eagles lose. ..

The Eagles managed just two plays of 20-plus yards. So the Eagles lost.

* Now, compare that to what the Dallas offense did on a trio of late-game third-downs.

Third-and-2 with 2:02 left, a "little play'' for a first-down for Witten.

Before that, third-and- 13 with 8:13 left, and maybe because of Dallas' penchant for "little-play'' success, Philly bites on a pump fake and Romo lofts a beauty to Austin for a 49-yard catch-run-and-score.

Romo's passing on Sunday on third downs? He was 9-of-11. That's nine, nice "little plays.'' ...

* Jerry Jones catches a lot of hell for the swing-for-the-fences personnel moves that don't work out, but I think we take for granted the at-bats that do work out. Example: Jay Ratliff. Came from nowhere. Paid big money while on the cusp of reaching his peak. Now doing so while playing at an All-Pro level. Disbelievers, go watch the Philly-Dallas tape. The kid is taking on blockers as nose tackles must yet doing things not unlike what Vikings DT Kevin Williams does. And that's All-Pro level.

* I thought Felix ran way too "careful'' on kick returns. Was he trying to hit homeruns on every touch? Was he protecting a wound? Somebody needs to tell Felix that a north-south approach that allows the Cowboys decent field-position starts, say, at the 30, is advantage enough. ...

* I'm going to assume that clock operator in Philly doesn't even know how to Fall Back and Spring Forward because his work was an embarrassment to the league. You get home-towned on the clock in high school, not in the NFL.

* Some people might consider the unbalanced line to be a "High-School Harry'' trick. And indeed, when I coached kids, we did it all the time. Flipped our right tackle over to the left side - especially if that was the wide side of the field - and ran left. The other team had to know it was coming ... but they still had to consider staying balanced on defense and they still had to contend with my best blockers all pushing people around in front of the ballcarrier.

It's not a gimmick - it can be a staple. Besides, I dare you to tell Marc Colombo to his face that he's a "gimmick.''

And that's how to exorcise memories of 44-6. ...

* The defensive coordinator of this team - and his players - are starting to come up pretty big in mano-a-mano moments. Dallas had a large fourth-down stop in Denver that didn't result in a win. But Brooking-vs.-Nabb on fourth-and-1? That's practice, gameplanning, preparation and want-to.

Advantage, Cowboys. ...

Now, rookie defender Victor Butler grabbing McNabb's toe to prevent a third-down conversation and creating a situation where Philly never again got the ball back? I'm not sure how you plan for Victor Butler to grab McNabb's toe.

But whatever ... Advantage, Cowboys, again.

* I know conventional wisdom has it that Andy Reid is a genius and Wade Phillips is a doofus. But when Reid decided to kick a field goal with four minutes left to cut the lead to four - while the Eagles, I believe, had no timeouts remaining?

Goes to show you, sometimes everybody is a doofus.

* Roy Williams' positive reaction to Miles Austin's game-sealing TD catch in Philly was suitable for framing. Once all the talk and all the fake controversy was quieted, Roy was the embodiment of what your mama used to say about your character: "It's measured by how you behave when nobody is looking.''

Oh, and five-for-75 was helpful, too.

* Who does Michael Vick play for again? And why?

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