ReFo: Eagles @ Cowboys, Week 17
A fitting way to end the regular season, with the Dallas Cowboys hosting the Philadelphia Eagles for a spot in the playoffs and the NFC East crown. Only for Dallas fans the finish was anything but fitting as another late game interception sealed their fate, leaving them sitting on their couches in January when they had hoped to use the House that Jerry Built in the playoffs.
The Cowboys defense made plays, but ultimately was overpowered by the Eagles when it mattered most, unable to take advantage of a quarterback who at times was guilty of holding onto the ball far too long. It means the Chip Kelly regime has started with a bang as he’s turned an underachieving “Dream Team” into an outfit no team will take lightly.
As for Dallas? Well it’s back to planning for next year and some likely offseason changes that may include the Head Coach, but are bound to leave some without a job.
Eagles – Three Performances of Note
Offensive Line Powers Big Day
Another game, another 100 yard rushing day for LeSean McCoy (+1.2). Only while Shady will get the plaudits he owes the offensive line more than a pat on the back as they put him in extremely favorably situations, so much so that just 33.6% of his yards came after contact (his season average is 46.5%). Time and again they opened up big running lanes that left him untouched until he’d gone past the linebackers, and were it not for some sure free safety tackling, it’s likely we’d be talking about a 200 yard day with McCoy unable to make that one guy miss to really break it open.
Perhaps the most encouraging thing about the offensive line is just how well Jason Peters (+4.3) is playing. After his double Achilles tear did anyone expect him to be able to reach the heights of years gone by? Well shame on us all then because his second half of the season has been Peters at his very best, amassing a +24.6 grade (his first eight games earned him a +5.9). Perfect in pass protection and a force in the run game throughout, watch out New Orleans.
The Up and Down Day of Mychal Kendricks
There’s certainly a lot to like about Mychal Kendricks (0.0). The Eagles inside linebacker has a knack for being around the ball, and when he does make a play or a tackle the force of which tends to make your eyes widen. He led the team with nine tackles, although only three of them were stops, and laid more than a few big hits out amongst DeMarco Murray and Jason Witten chiefly. One even resulted in a forced fumble, and he was in close enough proximity to turn a tough drop from Witten into a crucial interception.
So why not a higher grade? As many plays as he did make, he also left some negative ones out there, including getting badly beaten by Witten (11:29, Q3) on a double move and allowing three other catches into his coverage for first downs. So while there’s a lot to be excited and encouraged about, let’s not think Kendricks is quite the finished article yet though his improvement on a week by week basis is there for all to see.
The Fantastic and Frustrating One
It wasn’t a flawless display Nick Foles (+2.5) but the positives certainly outweighed the negatives, even if we got a stark reminder of what he does well and what he doesn’t. What he does well is deliver an accurate ball. 17-of-26 might not sound all that accurate but given that five of those were throwaways he actually had an adjusted accuracy percentage of 81% which is not to be sniffed at, with just three overthrows earning him negative grades.
What he doesn’t do so well, despite the five throwaways, comes down to his pocket presence. Sacked on five occasions, his average time to sack was 4.96 seconds, while two of the sacks were charged to him (along with another hit and a hurry). While his line played well, his tendency to drift in the pocket can cause them to lose their leverage and when facing pressure you don’t get the impression he’s going to make the kind of play he might need to in the playoffs.
Cowboys – Three Performances of Note
After a fine rookie year for Tyron Smith had a tougher time of things in his initial year at left tackle. With off field dramas finding their way into the news it certainly wasn’t easy, but it’s good to see the young (still just 23 years of age) tackle moving on from that and delivering some constantly excellent performances.
His work here earned him a season’s best grade of +5.5 with it being his eight consecutive positively graded game. While he and Trent Cole went at it, Smith did just enough, giving up ground, but anchoring in time to ensure his quarterback had a clean pocket. What’s more his work in the run game really mirrored that of Peters, with both men good at the line of scrimmage but a real joy to behold when they get to the second level where linebackers and defensive backs don’t stand a chance.
You really can’t quantify just how much the Cowboys miss Sean Lee. For starters you wonder if the numerous blown coverages that led to big gains would have happened with him on the field, but in a more direct way his replacement really wasn’t up to task.
Rookie sixth rounder Devonte Holloman (-6.6) made his share of plays with five defensive stops, one of which being an unblocked sack. But he also missed two tackles, took some terrible angles in the run game that saw him double filling gaps with his defensive linemen and really struggled getting off blocks. His chief woes came in coverage with the blown tending to involve himself and Bruce Carter (-2.3), but it was the kind of effort that really highlighted how important a healthy Sean Lee is to this team.
Blame the Backup?
So how about Kyle Orton (-1.5)? He was brought in so that if Tony Romo was going to miss a stretch of games he could fill in ably. He might not make the big plays, but then he wouldn’t make the big mistakes.
Unfortunately that’s exactly what he did here and his throw behind Miles Austin that would be picked off by Brandon Boykin, is the kind of play that will live with him for a very long time. Which is a shame because up until then he’d played exactly the kind of solid game that was asked of him. He didn’t make a lot of risky throws (though his completion to Jason Witten with 5:32 to go in the game was special), but he kept the chains moving and had the Cowboys in position to win the game until that fateful throw with 1:49 of the Cowboys season left.
– Travis Frederick was responsible for a hit and three hurries, while the rest of the offensive line allowed just two quarterback disruptions between them.
– Despite his 82 receptions on the year, this was fourth game in the past seven weeks that DeSean Jackson has seen just four targets.
– As the linebackers bore the brunt of Kyle Orton’s aerial assault, Cary Williams allowed just 0.91 yards per snap in coverage with Bradley Fletcher at 0.47.
PFF Game Ball
This was a game of fine margins, and ultimately the plays of one man proved the difference. So step forward Brandon Boykin. Not just for his playoff sealing pick, but his touchdown saving pass defense in the endzone on Dez Bryant was a real game changer.
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