It's only fitting, Eagles fans, that this man's face (DeMarcus Ware) is the last you see before the playoffs begin this coming weekend...we sacrificed a loss to Dallas and this man for the chance to come out fresh against the Packers in the Dance, Round 1...Let's hope we're the better for it.
I definitely get it... put every breathing body you can find from the UFL or the free agent wire on the roster, and throw 'em out to the Cowboys while resting your studs...and trust your head coach can get your first-string varsity fired up again for the Homecoming Game next Sunday...you know, the one that really counts.
In theory, it makes sense. In practice, it can backfire...and maybe it did just a little Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia.
I know, that might be just the "whistle past the graveyard" complex in me. But am I the only one who was shocked by Kevin Kolb's utter lack of timing or game-speed awareness on Sunday night? Yeah, I know it was raining, and the ball had to be slippery... But at this point in his career and this season, I expected more command from Kolb... and at least a puncher's chance at putting 21 offensive points on the board.
Well, give Mr. DeMarcus Ware (pictured above) a lot of credit for the reality check on Kolb. And it's certainly no disgrace to be able to tell your grandkids someday you were sacked and manhandled by DeMarcus Ware...the same Ware who just dominated the Eagles' JV offensive line...and who even when double-teamed by chipping tight ends and fullbacks... the same Ware who personally took rookie tackle Austin Howard to school and back...Cut to the chase: Kolb looked like a doe in the headlights.
Dallas scored their first touchdown of the game when Anthony Spencer stripped the stunned Eagles quarterback during a sack and Ware scooped up the ball and returned it for a touchdown. Ware finished the game with three sacks and three quarterback hits, along with other plays where he flushed Kolb out of the pocket. Whenever Dallas needed him, Ware was there...
The Cowboys' #3 QB had some problems of his own. Rookie Stephen McGee wasn't very effective in his first start, although he made some nice plays with his feet to keep drives alive. He finished the game 11 of 27 for 127 yards, plus the all-important winning touchdown to Jason Witten. He was also the Cowboys second-leading rusher with 55 yards. The Eagles were intent on blitzing McGee - they managed to sack him twice-and they forced a lot of quick decisions and short throws that bottled up the Cowboys offense. Felix Jones managed to pitch in with 81 yards on 11 carries.
It was a defensive effort by the Eagles second-team unit that was good enough to win against a depleted Cowboys first unit...that has to count for something. But the Eagles offense was their own worst enemy.
We must give props to Chad Hall, the rookie from Air Force small in stature but huge in heart...Hall strung together a nice combination of receiving and punt return yardage...and caught his first NFL TD to give the Eagles a temporary lead. And running back James Harrison had a nice early impact that looked like the Eagles might take the sensible approach and try to win this thing on the ground.
But a mid-game injury to right guard Max Jean-Gilles changed that line of thinking. Max got rolled over on his left ankle and had to leave the game as what hopefully is the only first-line casualty of the "meaningless" game. He walked off the field under his own power, but I'm thinking "sprained ankle" and hoping for the best for his return against the Packers. But when Jean-Gilles left the game, the Eagles' run attack stalled.
So where does this leave us, Eagles fans?
J. Wood is an established commenter for the conservative members of the Eagles On The Inside gallery...here is his post-game reaction:
"Winning a 'meaningless' game always feels better than losing one. Glad back-ups got some playing time.. a few Cowboys are ProBowl calibre ( Ware). Thought McD might hold ' em scoreless---he owes me two now. Losing to Cowboys isn't meaningless. Red Zone ailments haunt MM. A big blocking TE is needed. Two would be better. Team will go as far as defense takes them in play offs.."
"I'm just saying that this team has all the attributes of being in a tail-spin right now. Team looks WORSE than at middle season, and has just dropped back-to-back games heading at the playoffs. You expect this squad to rise like Lazarus? Not me. Vick looks exhausted. Teams have enough film to neutralize "divaSean" Jackson. Celek is below average. Maclin can't do it alone. McCoy doesn't have the blocking that Westy enjoyed in his prime. Defense just hasn't jelled--- and has not shown any SPINE. I am expecting a great smackdown from the Packers. Feel free to disagree, refute if you want. Team is stumbling towards the playoffs..."
Now see, that's just the risk Andy Reid knew he was taking when he decided to concede the outcome of this game--- that the conservative right of his fan base would have a field day tearing him up on "over-reaction Monday"...
Well, I'm going against the grain (no pun intended, Mr. Wood)... I'm going to choose to see this game as the ultimate "Rex Ryan Swagger" side of Andy Reid...Andy basically just told the league, "I don't care if I lose, I'm getting my 2nd and 3rd teams some reps..." And truth be told, a lot of the young guys played very well, especially Hall, Te'o-Nesheim, Hughes, and Lindley. And in a way, this game was fun from a pure football perspective.
If we somehow manage to beat Green Bay next weekend, Andy will be hailed as a genius for tanking this game in a strategic way.
As for Kolb's disappointing performance? I prefer to think of it as a misdirection play. Do you think the Eagles were going to show off any of the formations or progressions they have in store for Green Bay? Heck no... And Kolb's protection was so scarce it was a case of "insufficient data"... impossible to grade his offensive numbers without a curve...
My major concern with Kolb is how he looked in escape mode...sometimes slow and a little brittle in his moves. He looked quicker and more elastic in his moves back in October. He wasn't throwing off his back foot. He looked like he had gone backwards Sunday night.
But then, DeMarcus Ware can do that to a guy...especially when he's playing your junior varsity.