As we noted earlier this week, one of the Dallas Cowboys main improvements under Jason Garrett has been an effective running game. That wasn't the case on Sunday night. Dallas was unable to generate consistent yards on the ground, and were forced to rely on a short passing game for almost all of their offensive production. Kitna credits the Philly D.
"I think they were pretty much doing the same thing the whole game," quarterback Jon Kitna said. "The first half, we had a couple of big runs and that seemed to kind of hurt them. But we just weren't as effective as we want to (be). It's a good football team (with) a lot of speed. They move quickly, they hit gaps and that makes it tough and we weren't able to get it done tonight."
The Eagles were effective where Indianapolis wasn't last week, and that was getting guys to the hole, taking on the blocks of the pulling guards, and creating a traffic jam. Also, they were smelling the draw plays coming and were smart to wait for the ball carrier instead of over-pursuing upfield. This effectively shut down the interior run game. When the Cowboys tried to go outside, the Eagles team speed was too much.
On multiple occasions, the Eagles were lining up with seven in the box, then creeping up a safety right before the snap, making it an eight-man box. But the Cowboys, and Jason Garrett, never really challenged the Eagles downfield.
"You would imagine or you would hope that successfully or effectively running the ball would bring people down into the box and then we could throw it deep," said receiver Miles Austin, who finished with only two catches for 22 yards. "I guess that would be the theory, but the game is the way it is."
It wasn't all the time, but there were definitely chances for the Cowboys to take advantage of eight men in the box, but they didn't trust their line to hold the blocks and give Kitna time.
We also noted last week that Miles Austin needed to step up and replace Dez Bryant's production. That didn't happen, either.
Austin was targeted five times, catching two passes for 22 yards. One pass arrived quickly as he came out of his break, and it bounced off his hands for an interception. Austin now has 15 catches in his last six games.
"Miles gets a lot of attention each and every week," Garrett said. "They play a lot of shell coverage and they also play a lot of pressure defenses, a combination of those things. We tried to get the ball to Miles a few different times and he made a couple plays. Other times we had to go elsewhere with the football."
Much of that elsewhere was to Jason Witten. Austin is paid to beat any kind of defense, that's what #1 receivers do. But the Cowboys adherence to the short passing game is hurting Austin's game, along with his year-long penchant for drops.
Dallas was partially undone by two key interceptions. Down 14-7 in the second quarter, the Cowboys had a nice drive going. They reached the Philly 39 and faced a third and four, but Austin's hands missed the catch and an interception killed the drive. The second one came right after DeSean Jackson's 91-yard touchdown. On that play, Kitna kind of takes the blame, but Roy Williams slipped just enough to where he couldn't get back to the ball. The Eagles cornerback was jumping the route because he had deep safety help, and was the only there when the ball arrived.
"There was pressure on that play and I didn't see what happened," Kitna said. "I certainly didn't expect that to happen, but I got hit on the play, and by the reaction of the crowd I knew something bad had happened."
"We turned the ball over twice and you can't do that," Kitna said. "I think we should've had a pass interference on the first one, that's for sure. But you can't turn the ball over ... not against that football team, not in this league."
Even with the tough loss, Jerry Jones still likes what he's seeing.
"I like the way the team is feeling about themselves," Jones said. "Jason does deserve the credit there, and I have a lot of very positive things that come to my mind when I think of Jason. But I'm particularly glad the way I see our team get up when it gets knocked down and gets back up and goes.
"I just like the way Jason is handling the overall head coaching duties, both during the game and certainly during the week. So it's positive. That's all I can and will say."
And what does that mean for the rest of the season?
"We want to go win those games," Jones said Sunday after the Cowboys lost to the Eagles 30-27 . "We want to give us, any way we can, the best chance to win. It's important that we feel good about what we're doing.
"It's important to me that our fans can see that there is something potentially to feel good about. That's very important to me. With what we've got ahead of us next year, in the offseason, we'll try to make every score and every down we can. So, it's all out for me.
Last word to Jason Garrett.
"I thought our guys fought hard, I thought they battled well," Garrett said. "I thought they were rallying to the football, but ultimately they made a few more plays than we did."
Indeed, we made a lot of little plays, they made big plays that added up to more. And a 30-27 win.