A week's worth of anticipation and excitement for fans of the Dallas Cowboys was bludgeoned into a bloody pulp in the blink of an eye. After Dallas dismantled the St. Louis Rams, by a coincidental score of 34-7, even the most cautious of Cowboys fans had hope that maybe the team had turned a corner on the 2011 season. Standing at 3-3, and with the NFC East wide-open to any taker, the Cowboys future looked promising. All week, there was the optimism that comes with a blowout win in the previous game; the optimism that the Cowboys could be Van Helsing and drive a stake into the playoff-hearts of the Philadelphia Eagles. Turns out, we were thinking about the wrong horror movie. A better take on the game Sunday night was much more Hitchkockian, specifically, The Birds.
Dallas was swarmed by angry avian attackers who utterly befuddled any attempts of the visiting team to defend themselves. Turning the tables on the Cowboys final score from last week, the Eagles 34-7 win was so complete that the saying "it wasn't as close as the final score" feels like a gross understatement. It bordered on embarrassment for the Cowboys, and is a warning shot that the 2011 season could go south in a hurry if they show up unprepared to compete in future contests.
The most shocking aspect of the game was the total disintegration of the Cowboys top-ranked rush defense. Rob Ryan and company were taken to school by Andy Reid and taught a harsh lesson. The Eagles were 12-0 after a bye week, and Dallas stepped in to play the victim for unlucky number 13. Reid used the Cowboys aggressive tendencies against them. LeSean McCoy's feet were the instrument of torture for much of the game, but screen passes, Michael Vick's feet, and passes over the middle also contributed to the Cowboys demise. Andy Reid abused Rob Ryan for one game, and Ryan knows it.
Here's the downside to the Ryan Brother's bravado, when their players on the field can't back up their words. Much was made about Ryan's claim from the offseason concerning the Eagles - "I don't know if we win the all-hype team, I think that might have gone to somebody else, but we're going to beat their ass when we play them." Everybody knew who he was referring to, but when the time came, Ryan's defense was the one getting beat, playing the part of a bad puppy with the Eagles offense playing the part of a rolled-up newspaper. Repeated whacks cowered the Cowboys into submission before halftime even arrived. Now Ryan has to fall on his sword - "I was outcoached, out-everythinged," Ryan said. "So it was all on me. It’s a terrible game plan. I never gave our guys a chance." At least Ryan has the guts to admit the obvious.
It's no time to throw Ryan under the bus. He's accomplished a lot in one-half of a season. On most Sundays, the Cowboys defense is a beast to be feared, a unit that can strike terror into opposing quarterbacks. But not yesterday. You can talk about Andy Reid not being able to win a Super Bowl, but you can't talk about him not being able to win after a bye week.
The Cowboys offense was also a frightful sight, and there needs to be a lot of thoughtful analysis going on, especially with the passing game that is stuck in neutral. The offensive line certainly wasn't ready to cope with Eagles onslaught. Jason Garrett doesn't escape blame for this debacle, and whenever you get beat 34-7, the players are ultimately responsible for the disaster. Still, when you lead with verbal haymakers like Ryan did, you better have the ability to cash the check your mouth wrote. The Cowboys defense now faces overdraft fees, the check most definitely bounced.
OK, we've established that Halloween Eve was a horror show for the Dallas Cowboys. The good news? The Cowboys still have time to rise from the dead, the final reel of the movie has yet to be revealed. Dallas has a string of games coming up that are winnable - in the next five games they face four opponents that are very beatable, Seattle, Washington, Miami and Arizona. Take care of business in this stretch, and the playoffs are still a possibility.
Dallas may have been taken the pounding of a lifetime, but we'll see if they have a little Jason Vorhees in them. You can do almost anything you want to the Friday the 13th star, but you just can't kill him.
Get Rob Ryan a hockey mask.
Happy Halloween everybody!