Let's kick things off with the game analyses that continued to trickle in over the course of the day on Tuesday...
The Broad One with twelve post-game thoughts. Here, he praises the defense's sure tackling (which was certainly praiseworthy!):
8) Last season, this Dallas defense had some games where I thought they really tackled well. This year, the only game where I felt like they were outstanding was in Week 2 against Philadelphia. But I thought this defense was where it needed to be in this one, not only at the point of attack, but also those times when defenders were one-on-one in space. Sean Lee, Barry Church and Rolando McClain were especially good throughout the night.
Sturm's game analysis. He spends much of it remarking upon how poor both teams are, then sends this zinger Darren McFadden's way:
I suppose you could argue that McFadden has so seldom been on the winning side of a game in his NFL career that the finer points of killing off a game might have been a course he has not fully completed, but that was remarkably poor awareness on a night where he also had 2 vital fumbles lost.
Eatman's weekly run-down of five critical yet under-the-radar plays. Of the five, I though this was the most key:
Offensive P.I. on Garcon – This officiating crew called plenty of offensive pass interference penalties on both teams, but a big one against Washington’s Pierre Garcon before halftime might have prevented a good chance to score a touchdown. On third down from the Cowboys’ 25-yard line, the Redskins seemingly had a first down on a pass to DeSean Jackson to the 19. But Garcon was flagged for creating room for Jackson, and it pushed the ball back to the 35 for third-and-13. The Redskins went with a short pass and settled for a game-tying field goal. Without the penalty, the Redskins would’ve had a minute on the clock with a chance to take the lead with a touchdown.
Broaddus with some more observations after reviewing the tape. Here, he heaps some pretty high praise on the Cowboys' rookie returner with the unlucky number:
I am excited to see what Lucky Whitehead can do with more opportunities in the kicking game. When I was in Green Bay we had Desmond Howard as our primary returner and he was that electric type of player. Whitehead has those similar qualities as Howard in his ability to break a game open with the ball in his hands.
ESPN's Dilfer spent a few minutes chatting about the Cowboys after watching their victory over Washington from the sideline. From that vantage point, he came away impressed with the Dallas defense:
I was really impressed with the defensive effort. The energy, in general - all Steve [Young}, Ray [Lewis], and I were on the sideline. We always stay out on the field for a couple of series. We looked and said to each other and said, 'Wow. The Cowboys have way more energy. They are the team that is 3-8. They are the team going on the road. They are the team that everyone is kind of packed away and they are playing with awesome energy. ' They were loose. Defensively, I thought the game plan was exceptional. The front seven was just awesome in the game. That's a big takeaway.
Ickes, the Wizard of the Whiteboard, strides up to the post-game analysis plate and takes a few swings. Here, he gives tribute to another strong defensive performance:
The three sacks by the defense—along with the eight tackles for losses and six quarterback hits—were impactful plays in the game and contributed heavily to the Cowboys holding an opponent to under 300 total yards for the third straight week, and sixth time in 12 games on the season.
Stockwell with the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Cowboys’ 19-16 victory over the Redskins. Here's a takeaway:
After enduring the worst game of his pro career to date against Ndamukong Suh in Miami two weeks ago, Zack Martin has got back on track in the last two games and turned in one of his best performances of the season last night (+4.6). Martin and left tackle Tyron Smith (+3.0) put in strong efforts up front, but the backs added little to the line’s blocking (1.65 yards per carry after contact, one missed tackle forced on 20 attempts) and the rest of the linemen weren’t as consistent, which prevented Martin’s efforts from having a bigger impact in Dallas’ conservative offense.
And the top-graded Cowboys:
LB Sean Lee (+4.8)
RG Zack Martin (+4.6)
S Barry Church (+3.6)
LT Tyron Smith (+3.0)
DE DeMarcus Lawrence (+2.0)
Thanks to the victory, and the fact that it put the Cowboys a single game out of the division lead, the playoff scenarios are once again proliferating:
Archer with the "hope remains" piece. Here are the last three paragraph, starting with the irrepressible Jerry Jones:
Jones was pragmatic in the locker room after the game, saying he looks at the Cowboys more as a 4-8 team than one that is one game back in the division race. But he was struck by the effort.
"There’s no question this team will fight," Jones said. "It’ll fight right down to the end and it doesn’t know the meaning of no. And it’s been told no several times."
But with this win, there’s a chance now to say maybe.
Sherrington says the heck with +.500 records, a first-round bye, or home field advantage in the playoffs:
Forget your pride for a moment and buy in. Why root for a playoff team with a 12-4 record, which is oh-so-last-year? Better to challenge the likes of Carolina, which took a 7-8-1 black mark into the playoffs last year, and the 2010 Seahawks, who went 7-9. Where's your sense of adventure? Better yet, where's your sense of humor?
Just get in, baby!
The two teams Sherrington asks us to emulate? This AP piece reminds us how they did come playoff time:
The same questions were circulating a year ago about the NFC South. Carolina recovered from 3-8-1 to win four straight for a 7-8-1 finish before beating Arizona at home in the wild-card round. The Panthers haven't lost in the regular season since, a winning streak that's up to 16 games now.
There is one other fairly recent example of a painfully weak division getting a wild-card win from its champion: Seattle in the NFC West in 2010, when the Seahawks rode their rowdy home crowd to a victory over defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans after a 7-9 finish.
Archer's weekly "Five Wonders" seems to have morphed into a "Five Reasons" piece. Here's reason number two the Cowboys can make the playoffs:
2. The defense is figuring it out. Well, they can’t take the ball away and that is a huge problem, but in three of their past four games they have given up just one touchdown. The Redskins' only TD drive was aided by a long kickoff return and a face-mask penalty. The Panthers scored just one offensive touchdown in the 33-14 Thanksgiving win. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers scored their only touchdown with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter.
Incidentally, reasons number one and five are the same: "Have you seen the rest of the division?"
The usually sober and lucid Banks goes on a bender and plays out the remaining NFC East schedule week by week to project a division champion. For whatever reason, he sees Philadelphia running the table (which would mean a highly improbable five straight wins for the Iggles), beating the Giants in the season finale to win the whole shooting match. The Cowboys? They lose the next three and then win the season finale against the Redskins, which give us the following final standings:
Final NFC East standings
New York (8–8)
I don't dispute the order, or the eventual champ; what I take issue with is the records. The idea that Philly can win five in a row? Preposterous!
Thanks to Tabletgate, Cassel went through a game without studying pre-snap pictures between series for the first time in his career:
"It limits you a little bit in terms of what you are seeing on defense and the communication that takes place," Cassel said. "As you move forward, the adjustments that you make … you have a better understanding for what’s happening on first and second down based off what you’re seeing. It helps you establish a rhythm as you move forward."
Toddzilla with a post detailing the many family (wife, sons, mother, older brothers) and friends present to witness Jason Witten's landmark 1,000th reception. He caps off the piece with an encomium from Jones the Elder:
"...of all the people I’ve met since I’ve been in the NFL: players, commissioners, owners, coaches, [Witten]’s in the top five of all the people I’ve met in the NFL. He’s an outstanding individual."
Sabin records a post-game Q&A with Trent Dilfer. Here, he's asked about whether or not the Cowboys erred in letting DeMarco Murray leave for, err, greener pastures:
I actually think long-term they made the right decision. It hasn't worked out in Philly because [Murray] is not a transcendent player. Transcendent player enhances a scheme. Very good player is enhanced by a scheme. What you are seeing with DeMarco is that he is a scheme-fit guy. He can't just go into any scheme and be successful. He needs a certain type of scheme and I think Philly made the mistake of valuing him as a transcendent-type back.
Apparently criticism of the running game and complaints about distribution of carries aren't exclusive to Big D. Frantz makes a little stink about the Redskins running woes:
...despite the general incompetence of the rushing attack, Gruden and McVay kept dialing up runs. They also called runs almost exclusively for rookie back Matt Jones, who received 18 carries for 49 yards (2.7 yards per carry), compared to Morris’ six carries for 12 yards and Chris Thompson’s one carry for six yards.
So lopsided was the Redskins’ play-calling that Morris did not receive a single carry after the first quarter, and Thompson’s only carry of the game came with 57 seconds remaining.
Spofford cites a Packers veteran wideout's analysis of the Cowboys' defense:
"Very fast. Very fast defense," Packers receiver James Jones said. "To be honest with you, their record doesn’t really say how good their defense is."
"They’re flying all over the place," Jones said. "They look like they’re well-coached. They don’t really give up too many points. They’ve got a nice little package. They know what they’re trying to do to every team."
Very fast. Very fast defense. I like the sound of that...
Get your picks in for the BTB Pick 256 Challenge!
If you haven't yet submitted your picks, now would be a good time. Here's the link to the entry form.
If the link above doesn't work for whatever reason, use the following alternative, which does not autofill your BTB user name into the entry form.
We have 80 participants who've already submitted their picks for Week 14, and they predict another tough weekend for the NFC East:
87% like the Bills over the Eagles
85% like the Bears over the Redskins
85% like the Dolphins over the Giants
57% like the Cowboys over the Packers
If you haven't submitted your picks yet, you still have until 8:30 pm EST on Thursday to do so, but might as well get it done now by following the links above.