Ugh. I hate the world, and I hate Thanksgiving. That about sums up my feelings after watching that nasty beat down the Eagles gave us on Turkey Day. So if these five thoughts seem more positive than warranted, it's because, well they are. We all saw the ugly, there's little point in rehashing it. I'm not interested in self-flagellation, that will come when I watch the coaches tape. Today let's just focus on the constructive takeaways, both positive and negative, from Thanksageddon.
1. Missed Tackles: Want to know the top three games for Dallas missing tackles?
- New York Giants (Part Two). 15 missed tackles
- Washington (Part One). 12 missed tackles
- Tied, San Fransisco/Eagles (Part One). 10 missed tackle
That's the list. What do all those games have in common? They were all losses except for the Giants game which required a miracle comeback.
What did Dallas get for all those missed tackles? Their first game giving up both 100+ yards after contact for running backs and 100+ yards after the catch. That's what killed the defense. Oh they gave up some big plays in the passing game where a receiver was wide open, but what really killed them were missed tackles that lead to first downs.
"I think the best thing we did in that first Philly game up there was to set edges and to force their runners back inside," Garrett said. "For a variety of reasons, we didn’t set the edge quite as well [Thursday]… Trying to defend the run, it was almost too aggressive. We had a number of missed tackles where guys were flying around and they were a little bit out of control. Too much of that instead of playing with the poise necessary that we’ve played with for a lot of this year."
2. The Coaching: This is one of the few games I've felt that our coaching failed us. I'm not talking about x's and o's or scheme here, rather our Boy's were simply not mentally ready for this game.
I've already mentioned the missed tackles, but there's more. Linebackers and defensive ends repeatedly crashed inside, leaving the edges open for Eagles running backs to bounce outside. Defensive linemen were getting good penetration in the running game (as evidenced by our 6 TFL's third highest mark of the season), but didn't set the edge.
We got a ton of dumb penalties, something this team has usually been able to avoid.
What do all these things have in common? They are a hallmark of a team playing in a moment that's too big for them. Whether it was the quick turnaround, the pressure of getting over the 8-8 hump, or just that the moon was in the 8th stage of Aquarius, our Cowboys were not mentally prepared. We've seen this team go down early and keep its cool. We've seen the Boys fight back out of big holes without panicking. But for some reason it just didn't happen in this game. Whatever buttons Jason Garrett and Co. were pushing, it wasn't working.
3. The Turnaround: About halfway through the first quarter the meme was already old; Dallas was gassed. The quick turnaround and Philly's quick pace have worn the Cowboys out. Well to put it plainly, that's just a tad bit of crap.
The Eagles ran 77 plays this game, and yeah, that's a lot. But in last year's first meeting the Eagles ran 81 plays (!!), and the Cowboys defense managed that pace just fine, holding the Eagles to three points. So pay no heed to talk about the defense being gassed. They weren't gassed, they were overwhelmed.
Tony Romo is another story. We haven't seen Romo play this poorly since Week 1, and I have no doubt that one of the main causes was the short schedule and its effect on Tony's back. I had this to say to some of my other front page writers:
I do think the short week had a big affect on Romo. He looked like he did in the 49ers game. Everything was just off...he was either sailing passes or underthrowing them. Early in the game he just went down when pressured, with no attempt to buy time. I think not having his customary "day off" really messed with him.
We couldn't take advantage of the Eagle's secondary because Romo couldn't drive the ball. He was fine throwing underneath (DeMarco Murray had six catches for 40 yards), but he had no zip on his throws deep. Not having his "stretch" Wednesday had a big impact on Romo.
4. The Good: The special teams battle was either a draw, or a slight advantage to Dallas. The Cowboys didn't allow a single kickoff return, and Darren Sproles was basically a non-factor returning punts, with three returns for 32 yards. After a poor first half of the season it appears that Dwayne Harris is turning it on; he didn't have any punt returns but averaged just a tad over 30 yards a carry returning kickoffs. It's a small comfort in a big pile of poop; but a comfort nonetheless.
5. The Fumble: In our two losses to NFC East opponents fumbles have played critical roles. We all remember Murray's fumble on the goal line against Washington; Cole Beasley's fumble might not have been quite so costly but it was close. Dallas had just put up a strong goal line stand, holding the Eagles to a field goal, and Dwayne Harris busted off a 29 yard return. Dallas was set up to score right before the half, and get the ball back to start the second.
And it was looking so promising. Cole Beasley takes a little dump ball, and turns upfield, picking up the first down. Has momentum turned? Of course not; an Eagles player knocks the ball out, and the Eagles recover the fumble. Instead of going into halftime down 20-14 or 20-10, or even 20-7, the Eagles score and Dallas ends the half down 23-7. In a game with an on-edge team and a struggling quarterback, that swing in momentum was a disaster.