Archive | December, 2013

NFC Wild Card Playoff: Can the Eagles Stop Drew Brees and the Powerful Saints Offense?

31 Dec

 

SaintsversusEagles

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

The Eagles have to figure out a way to stop Drew Brees and the Saints offense in Saturday's NFC Wildcard Playoff game. Photo by Neworleanssaints.com.

The Eagles have to figure out a way to stop Drew Brees and the Saints offense in Saturday’s NFC Wildcard Playoff game. Photo by Neworleanssaints.com.

PHILADELPHIA—After beating the Dallas Cowboys to win the NFC East and surviving the rigors of an elimination game, the Eagles open their playoff run at Lincoln Financial Field Saturday night against Drew Brees and the potent New Orleans Saints offense.

While Eagles fans can take comfort in the fact that the Saints have never won a playoff game on the road, were 3-5 on the road in the regular season and that dome teams are 3-25 in road playoff games when the temperature dips below 35 degrees, the Birds players and coaches can’t.

The Eagles are expecting the Saints come out to come out on all cylinders and then some.

“They’re a good football and like any good team, they don’t let those outside factors get to them,” said Eagles inside linebacker Mychal Kendrick.  “They’re going to come in here, they’re going to try and play a really good game no matter what the situation is and that’s just what it is.”

On the defensive side of the football, the Eagles will be facing the league’s No. 2 passing offense, led by Brees and a host of playmakers including tight end Jimmy Graham, who has 16 touchdown passes.

“This offense is so efficient and it is run on Drew Brees and his decision-making and quick release,” said Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis. “He really makes you defend the field both horizontally and vertically because all five of his eligible receivers are up and active. …they stretch you horizontally and vertically.”

For an Eagles secondary that’s had to go up against some of the league’s best receivers like Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant, it’s another monumental challenge. Eagles cornerback Cary Williams said he nor the Eagles secondary is fazed by the caliber of talent lined up against him.

“I’m going to play my game, regardless,” Williams said. “I could care less what Drew Brees does with his release. I’m going to be in the guy’s (receiver’s) face, I’m going to disrupt the timing and I’m going to try my best to play 60 minutes as tough as I possibly can.”

What makes this Saints team a difficult challenge for the Eagles is their array of weapons from Graham to wide receiver Marques Colston or even speedy running back Darren Sproles, who caught 71 passes coming out of the backfield during the regular season.

So how do you cover those guys, especially when you have a quarterback like Brees who gets the ball out to his playmakers with the blink of an eye? Do you man up one-on-one and get physical? Should you lay back and play zone?

“I think the key is to change up that type of coverage and it’s more about the quarterback than the actual coverage and what he’s looking at, what he sees and how quick he can read it,” Davis said. “He’s seen every coverage and he’s seen all kinds of different tactics and then so has Sean (Payton, Saints head coach).

“They’ve got adjustments to everything.”

The Eagles are going to have to figure out a way to disrupt Brees timing in the passing game even if they can’t get physically close to touching him. That means pass rushers are going to have to be like basketball shot-blockers and put their hands in the air.

“It’s definitely one of those things where you have to get after him and try to rattle him a little bit,” said Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham. “That’s one of the challenges we have every week is who’s going to get to the quarterback and how many times. I think it will definitely change the game if we can get there a couple of times.”

If there’s a weakness in the Saints offense is that they don’t run the football very well. They are averaging 91 yards per game running the football with backs like Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Sproles.

Considering what Brees can do in the passing game, the Eagles seemed to be more concerned about the Saints backs as receivers.

“That’s going to be our task at hand to handle them coming out of the backfield,” Kendrick said. “Those guys are quick, agile and they can get into small spaces.”

Garrett Holding Out Hope for Romo, Orton Says He Ready to Go Just in Case

26 Dec

by Chris Murray 

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Kyle Orton has been getting first team reps for the Cowboys with Romo trying to get relief from a herniated  disc in his back.

Kyle Orton has been getting first team reps for the Cowboys with Romo trying to get relief from a herniated disc in his back.

PHILADELPHIA–With all the reports saying that Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback Tony Romo will probably miss Sunday night’s game for the NFC East crown against the Eagles, head coach Jason Garrett still is not ruling his starting quarterback out just yet.

Romo has not practiced all week and, according to the Dallas Morning News, hasn’t attended meetings this week as well. Garrett said there are some players who can step in play without practice. If Romo, who has a herniated disc in his back, is feeling better by Sunday evening, he could play.

“We don’t have any hard and fast rules that if he doesn’t practice by this day, he can’t play,” Garrett said during a conference call with the Philadelphia media.  “We don’t believe in treating everybody the exact same way in that regard. Certainly a more experienced player is more comfortable and you give him more of an opportunity if he hasn’t practice. Tony would certainly fall into that category.”

That leaves open the possibility that Romo might give fans at Cowboys Stadium a Willis Reed-like moment circa the 1970 NBA Finals. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, back-up quarterback Kyle Orton, who has started 69 games as a pro with 35 wins, said he’s confident because he has weapons like running back DeMarco Murray, wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten to help him out.

“You just ease your way into the game a little bit and get the ball to the guys that can do great things,” Orton said. “We’ve got plenty of those guys. I’ve been here for a couple of years and so timing is not too big of an issue, so we went out and had a good practice today.”

Though he’s only thrown 15 passes in a Cowboy uniform, Orton told the Dallas media Thursday that he’s no spring chicken and has worked extensively with the starters during minicamp and organized team activities back in May and June while Romo was rehabbing from another injury.

“I’ve been here for a couple of years it wasn’t like I was just walking through the door,” Orton said. “I’ve had plenty of experience with these guys and like I said these guys are great players and they get open.”

With the memory of getting picked apart by a Minnesota Vikings squad playing with a back-up quarterback still fresh in his mind, Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin said the Birds are not taking the Cowboys lightly.

“We saw what happened to us the last time we faced a back up,” Barwin said. “There’s nobody taking anybody lightly this week.  … I think (Orton) is hard to get to because he gets the ball off fast. He doesn’t mess around back there. It’s important for us to get our hands up and in get in the way of those.”

On Thursday linebacker Sean Lee was ruled out and Dez Bryant left practice early because of a sore back. With all the injuries cropping up in Cowboys camp these days, it’s easy to say that Dallas has an uphill climb to win on Sunday night against resurgent Eagles squad. Witten said his team doesn’t have time to dwell on their injury woes.

“Obviously, it’s been tough, but now is not the time to feel sorry for yourself,” Witten said. “We’re going out there and so we’re going out there and preparing because we have a tough opponent in the Eagles.”

It would be also easy to say the Cowboys are even more fired up for this game after missing the playoffs in the last two years because they lost in week 17. Witten said the team can’t get too caught up in the emotion of the last two years.

“There’s no question that being in this situation and experiencing what we did the last two years and obviously we came up short, it sits deep in your gut and you feel that,” Witten said. “I really think you have to take the emotion out of it because it’s a new year, a new team.

“What our focus has to be on and needs to continue to be on is what’s going to allow us to execute in a game against a tough opponent?”

That’s a question both teams will know the answer to come Sunday.

With or Without Romo, Eagles Get Ready for Showdown Against Dallas

24 Dec

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo may not play in Sunday's because of a back injury. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo may not play in Sunday’s because of a back injury. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—With the very distinct possibility that the Dallas Cowboys  will be without starting quarterback Tony Romo because of a back injury, it is easy for Eagles fans to think their squad will be a shoe-in  to win Sunday night’s game for the NFC East crown.

That’s not how the Eagles players and coaches are looking at it. For starters, they lost to the Cowboys 17-3 at home on Oct. 20.

If anything else, the Birds 48-30 road loss to a Minnesota Vikings squad playing without its starting quarterback and running back is a reminder to the Birds that Romo’s possible absence is no guarantee they will walk out of Cowboys Stadium with a win.

With a division title on the line, the Eagles players are saying than ill afford to take anybody lightly at this juncture of the season.

“This is the National Football League, man, you can’t overlook any team,” said Eagles cornerback Cary Williams. “Any given Sunday, I have been saying that week in and week out. As far as I’m concerned, it’s nameless, faceless individuals, we just have to go out there and get the job done. We have to play with intensity from the start. If we do that, we’re a force to be reckoned with.”

If Romo is not playing on Sunday, veteran backup quarterback Kyle Orton, who has 69 starts under his belt, will be the starting signal caller for the Cowboys. While Dallas will miss Romo’s ability to run and extend plays in the pass pocket, they still have running back DeMarco Murray, wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten.

“If anything, we’re more heightened, more aware of what’s going on,” said Eagles inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans.  “They’re going to run the ball more if that’s their plan. Kyle Orton is a capable guy. It’s not like it’s some practice squad guy they called up to run the show. He’s a starter in this league, he’s made plays and won games in this league. We’re not taking anything lightly by any means.”

Meanwhile in Dallas, ESPN.com reported that Romo received an epidural injection in his back to relieve the pain and reduce the inflammation on the herniated disc in his back. Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has been saying that Romo is day-to-day.

With Romo possibly on the shelf, the Eagles will no doubt being seeing heavy doses of Murray, who scored the winning touchdown last Sunday against Washington. So far this season, Murray has gained 1,073 yards with nine touchdowns and is averaging over five yards per carry. If he gets it going in the running game, Orton will have some opportunities on play-action to get the ball to Bryant and Witten.

“We’re not going to underestimate him, we’re going prepare for him like he’s a Pro Bowl running back,” said defensive end Cedric Thornton. “From watching the last game, we know that they want to run it a little bit more than the previous game. Our offensive line is one of the best in the NFL and they’re going prepare us and have us ready to go on Sunday night.”

Defensive coordinator Billy Davis said he figured the Cowboys were going to run the football more in this game whether it’s Romo or Orton behind the center.

“One of the things we emphasize is the offensive scheme, we don’t think it will change that greatly,” Davis said.  “No matter which quarterback we get, we’re prepared for both.”

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles said he is praying for Romo’s health and expects to see a fired-up Cowboys squad who will rally behind Romo and Orton.

“I know that Dallas is going to rally for (Romo),” Foles said. “In situations like that, teams are resilient and they’re going to be ready to go. It’s important for me to have a great week of preparation to put my team in a position where I can execute the plays.”

Bring on the Cowboys: Eagles Ready for Big D Showdown After Stomping the Bears

23 Dec

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

LeSean McCoy scores two touchdowns in win over the Bears. Photo by Webster Riddick.

LeSean McCoy scores two touchdowns in win over the Bears. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—It’s official, the Eagles 2013 season will come down to a nationally-televised Sunday evening contest in Dallas.

It’s win or your season is over.

“It’s going to be the biggest show on earth and it’s going to be a circus down there like always and we’re going to treat them like every other team,” said Eagles linebacker Trent Cole.

Actually next week’s matchup was decided before the Birds put a king-sized 54-11 butt-whuppin’ on the Chicago Bears in their final regular-game at Lincoln Financial Field when the Cowboys got a last-second win over the Washington Redskins.

Suffice it to say, the Birds are now in playoff mode.

“Playoffs just start a week early for both teams,” said Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. “If you win, you get an opportunity to keep playing. You lose, you’re going home.”

Though the game was meaningless to them, a fired-up Eagles squad made quick work of a Bears squad who blew an opportunity to clinch the NFC North. The Birds played like a team with its season on the line.

“Very simply, we’re from Philadelphia and we fight. That’s it,” Kelly said. “If there’s a game on, we’re playing, end of story. All this stuff about backing in and not worry about things, I have no idea. There’s so many different scenarios. It could have been a tie. What if there’s a tie when we go to play Dallas next week and then we give a game away the last week?

“If we’re going to line up and kick off, you tell us what time to show up and we’ll be there.”

The Eagles jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter on a one yard by LeSean McCoy and pair of Nick Foles touchdown passes to wide receiver Riley Cooper and tight end Brent Celek.

In the second quarter, the Birds added a 49-yard field goal by Alex Henery. The Bears got on the board with time running out in the half on a 50-yard field by Robbie Gould.

The Birds ended the competitive portion of the game early in the third quarter on a safety forced by defensive end Cedric Thornton, who tackled Bears running back Matt Forte in the end zone. After the free kick, the Eagles drove 67 yards in six plays to McCoy’s second one-yard touchdown run.

That’s when Eagles fans starting chanting, “Dallas Sucks” and “We want Dallas.”

Speaking of Shady, the Eagles put the ball in McCoy’s hands early and often after giving him only eight carries against Minnesota last week. He gained 133 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns.  McCoy is 37 yards away from Wilbert Montgomery’s club record for yard rushing in a single-season.

“Shady said early in the week that he wanted to put the offense on his back,” said Eagles center Jason Kelce.  “I think that everybody saw on film that this was a team that can give up some big plays on the ground, so it’s exciting to see such a crucial player in your offense to be that enthusiastic about taking over a game.”

For the game, the Eagles rushed for 289 yards. Along with McCoy’s rushing totals, back running back Bryce Brown gained 115 yards, including a 65-yard run for a touchdown.

Defensively, the Eagles dominated Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, sacking him five times. Leading the Birds charge was linebacker Cole who had the pleasure of putting Cutler to the turf three times.

“Trent was lights out tonight and that’s what Trent is capable of doing,” said Eagles inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans. “He’s capable of taking over games, dominating the offensive tackles, getting to the quarterback. That’s what he’s capable of doing.”

The Eagles also forced two turnovers including a 54-yard interception return for a touchdown by nickel cornerback Brandon Boykin.

 

 

 

The Quarterback Hunter: Trent Cole Comes up for Big Eagles in Win Over Chicago

23 Dec

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

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Trent Cole (58) sacked Jay Cutler three times in the Eagles win over the Bears. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Trent Cole (58) sacked Jay Cutler three times in the Eagles win over the Bears. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—One of Trent Cole’s favorite pastimes, whether it’s on or off the field is hunting.  Off the field, it’s usually a deer running through the woods within the periscope of Cole’s shotgun.

On the field, Cole has always had a passion for hunting down quarterbacks and putting them to the turf.  In the Eagles 54-11 blowout of the Chicago Bears at Lincoln Financial Field, Coles hounded Bears quarterback Jay Cutler as if he were a Lion stalking its prey.

“He doesn’t know what he means to this team,” said Eagles inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks. “He just goes out there and he just plays his heart out. I don’t think he realizes the type of energy and the type  of charge he gives the offense when he makes those big time plays on third down.

“When we see him make a play, here’s a guy still doing what he’s doing, raising the bar on every play. He just goes, man. …He’s a big part of this team.”

Cole had three of the Eagles five sacks on including one on the game’s third play that forced an early Bears punt. After the game, Cole’s teammates said he set the tone for the defense with his aggressiveness.

“Trent was lights out tonight and that’s what Trent is capable of doing,” said Eagles inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans. “He’s capable of taking over games, dominating the offensive tackles, getting to the quarterback. That’s what he’s capable of doing.

“We just had to put him into situations where he is able to rush the passer and showcase his talents.”

Cole said he likes to be the catalyst of the defense and to make things happen to get the team going.

“As a team player, I want to go out there and make an impact and do whatever I have to make an impact on this team,” said Cole after Sunday’s game.

With the new coaching staff and the Eagles 3-4 defense, Cole had to make the difficult transition from being a defensive end in a three-point stance to a stand-up outside linebacker, something that wasn’t all that easy for him.

“I kept a great attitude about it. That transition from eight years as a defensive end and now transitioning into a linebacker in my ninth year is kind of hard, you got to suck it up,” Cole said. “I told myself that I was going to be great at this position. I kept a good attitude about it and listened to the coaches and talked to some of my teammates about how to play outside linebacker.

“Things are going good for me, I’m just going to keep improving and doing what I can.”

So far this season, Cole has eight sacks from the linebacker spot, not bad for a guy who hasn’t played the linebacker position during his professional career.

“It’s a tough transition when you ask a guy who has been rushing for 10 years to drop back and cover zones and things like that. That’s a big chance,” Ryans said. “That’s a big change. He’s an unselfish player and he does whatever we need him to do for our team to win.”

FBS Should Have a 16-Team Playoff to Determine the National Championship

20 Dec
Florida State and Auburn will lock horns for the BCS National Championship next month in Pasadena.

Florida State and Auburn will lock horns for the BCS National Championship next month in Pasadena.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

PHILADELPHIA—A couple of years ago, I wrote a column for this blog about the need for the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS—aka  Division I-A) to have a 16-team playoff.

https://thechrismurrayreport.org/2009/12/24/once-and-for-all-there-needs-to-be-a-playoff-in-fbs-div-1-a/#comments

The automatic bids would go out to the winners of the 10 FBS conferences. Six at-large bids would go out to the highest ranked non-conference champions, according to the final Bowl Championship Series poll of the regular season.

The opening-round and quarterfinal games might be played at the home of the highest seeded team or at the existing bowl sites. Semifinal and championship games would be played at the major BCS bowl sites on a rotating basis.

As a disclaimer, I am probably not the only one who has come up with this idea and so I am not seeking a patent. If you got a better plan, put it out there.

To accommodate final exams for the student-athletes, I would start the first-round games a week before Christmas. Most universities are either finished or close to finishing up exams by that point in December.

The playoffs, even if there’s a two-week delay between the semifinals and the championship game would end by mid-January—when most students would be coming back from the winter break.

Meanwhile, if your team doesn’t make the playoffs and has a good season, they can still go to a postseason bowl game. It would be the football equivalent of college basketball’s National Invitation Tournament—which is kind of what we have now in college football with the plethora of bowl games.

Even with next year’s four-team playoff on the horizon for next year, I still believe there needs to be a 16-team playoff.  On one hand, I think the four-team playoff is a step in the right direction because sooner or later it’s going to expand to eight and then to 16. It may take a few years, but it will get there eventually.

If there is an expanded playoff, it will no doubt make tons of money for those institutions—some of which should go to the student athletes putting their bodies on the line to play in those games.  In other words, they should pay the athletes in the revenue producing sports just on general principle, but that’s another column.

Bracketology College Football Style

So what if he we had a 16-team playoff THIS year? As we said earlier, your automatic bids would go to the winners of the 10 FBS conferences.  The at-large teams would be the six highest ranked non-conference champions in the final regular-season BCS poll.

According to the final 2013 BCS rankings, the six highest ranked teams without a conference championship are: No. 3 Alabama; No. 7 Ohio State; No. 8 Missouri; No.9 South Carolina; No. 10 Oregon and No. 11 Oklahoma.

In the round of the 16, ACC champion and No. 1 seed Florida State would play No.16  Louisiana-LaFayette, champions of the Sun Belt (UL-L had the same record as Arkansas State but beat them head-to-head).

FSU would beat Louisiana LaFayette and in the quarterfinals they would face the winner of eight-seed Missouri versus No. 9 seed South Carolina—I would pick Missouri to win that game.

An intriguing matchup in the first round would be Big-10 title-holder and No. 4 Michigan State and the nation’s best defense versus No. 13-seed and Mountain West standard bearer Fresno State, with their high-powered offense. If you believe defense wins championships, Spartans would probably win.

That would be a dangerous matchup for Michigan State with the way the Bulldogs can put points on the board.

The 5-12 matchup would be a tough fight. Pac-12 champ Stanford as the No. 5 seed versus American Athletic Conference champion and No. 12-seed University of Central Florida would be a heck of a contest. It’s another game that could go either way. Stanford would be the more physical team, in my opinion, and  would probably win.

In the quarterfinals—Florida State would overwhelm Mizzou while No. 4 Michigan State toughs out a physical contest with Stanford to face FSU in the semifinals. The Seminoles would beat the Spartans to get to the title game.

On the other end of the bracket, SEC champion and No. 2 seed Auburn would easily defeat No. 15- seed and Mid-America Conference champion Bowling Green.  In a game that could probably go either way, No. 7 Ohio State would probably be upset by No. 10 Oregon. Since both of these teams are lacking in defense, this is a pick-‘em game.

Meanwhile, No. 3 Alabama would easily run over No. 14 seed and Conference USA champ Rice.  Big 12 champion and No. 6-seed Baylor would beat No. 11-seed Oklahoma—another one of those games that could go either way.

In the quarterfinals, Oregon versus Auburn would be a game of whoever has the ball last wins since neither team is really that great on defense. The Tigers would beat a Ducks team that wasn’t all that sure of itself at the end of the season.  The Crimson Tide would rough up the Bears and would beat Auburn or Oregon to get to the national title game.

In the national championship, I believe that Florida State and 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston would be slightly better than Alabama. The Seminoles would take home the trophy.

I know some of the big conferences would complain about the idea of having to share the wealth with the smaller conferences. Even worse, I can almost hear the bigger conferences saying their fourth and fifth team is better than the champion of the Mountain West.

Every so often, we have teams from small conferences beating the big boys from the so-called bigger conferences. What harm is it to give those kids a fair shot at the title by including them in football’s big dance? Are big conferences afraid that a team from the MAC or the Sun Belt might upset an SEC team or an ACC squad?

I don’t know if this plan is perfect, it’s not.  Whatever plan or scheme they come up with, I hope it’s fair to the student athletes and their well-being, gives all FBS schools a chance to participate without big conference bias and gives those smaller to mid-level programs that one shot to slay Goliath on a big stage.

NFC Least: Bad Play-Calling Defined Eagles, Cowboys losses

16 Dec

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw two fourth-quarter interceptions in Sunday's loss to Green Bay. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw two fourth-quarter interceptions in Sunday’s loss to Green Bay. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—After witnessing the play-calling in Sunday’s games involving NFC East teams, I have come to the conclusion to every armchair quarterback, every Madden video-game junkie, retired ex-jock (regardless of sport) and every football beat writer will now think they’re better play-callers than the coaches who get paid to do it.

  With the bad play-calling by coaches in some of Sunday’s games, it is easy to understand why folks would have that delusion.

Let’s start in Dallas where the Cowboys blew a 23-point halftime lead to a Green Bay Packers squad that was without Aaron Rogers. Now granted, we all know that Dallas’ defense is just awful in every aspect of the game and we’re not all that surprised to see them give up points.

The Cowboys had the ball and were leading 36-31 with 4:17 left in the game. Football 101 says you run the football and make Green Bay use their time outs.

On first down from the Cowboys 20, Tony Romo tried to hit Dez Bryant on a fly pattern that was incomplete, forcing a stoppage of the clock.  On second down, Romo gets sacked, loses two yards while the Packers call their first time out.

Luckily, on third and 12 from the 18, Romo hits Bryant for a 13-yard gain to the 31 and a first down. On the next play, Romo hands off to DeMarco Murray, who was averaging 7.4 yards per carry, for a four-yard gain that forced Green Bay to take their second time out with 2:58 left.

With the way Murray was running the football, you would think that the Cowboys would put the ball in his hand to further melt the clock and force Green Bay to take their last time out.

On second and six from the 35, Romo, according to head coach Jason Garrett, audibled to a pass play instead of a run. The pass was thrown behind wide receiver Miles Austin and intercepted by Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields.

“I think (Romo) be the first to tell you that he should have run the ball in that situation,” Garrett said after the game.

You can blame Romo’s penchant for tossing interceptions in key situations and for being dumb enough to call for a pass play when you need to run out the clock. To tell you the truth, I blame that on Garrett and his lack of leadership.

At that point, Garrett and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan, should have made it clear to Romo that it was more important to run out the clock, especially when Murray was killing the Packers in the running game.

Football 101—whether we’re talking Pop Warner, high school or college, says when you have a lead with under five minutes, you milk the clock and make your opponent use his timeouts. You don’t risk a pass there because an incomplete pass stops the clock and an interception or a fumble gives the other team an opportunity to rise from the dead.

The Packers did exactly that and won the game 37-36.  If the Cowboys don’t make the playoffs and Garrett is fired, he will look back on this game and have only himself to blame.

Thanks to the generosity of the Cowboys, the Eagles (8-6) are still a game ahead in the NFC East after a bad 48-30 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly made some questionable coaching moves in Eagles loss to Minnesota. Photo by Webster Riddick

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly made some questionable coaching moves in Eagles loss to Minnesota. Photo by Webster Riddick.

While not as egregiously bad as Garrett’s play-calling, Chip Kelly had his own unique contribution to why coaches do stupid things.

In the third quarter with the Eagles down 24-9, they faced a 4th and one situation at their own 24. Common sense or conventional wisdom says you cut your losses and punt for field position.

But Kelly decided to go for it and they Eagles didn’t make it. To their credit, the Birds defense held the Vikings to a three and out and a field goal.  If they had punted and held the Vikings to a three and out on Minnesota’s half of the field, you wouldn’t have given up any points.

Once again, we have to remind Kelly that this is an NFL game in December, not Oregon versus a Washington State squad in the Pac-12. Even the worse teams in the league will stop you on fourth and short deep in your own territory. If he doesn’t believe that notion, give him Barry Switzer’s number.

Of course, there were a couple of other bonehead decisions in this game by Kelly today. When you have the NFL’s leading rusher at your disposal, shouldn’t you use him a little bit?

LeSean McCoy had just 38 yards (4.8) on eight carries while quarterback Nick Foles led all rushers with 41 yards. Really?

One week after rushing for 217 yards against one of the league’s best interior lines in a few inches of snow, McCoy became a forgotten man in the Eagles attack Sunday even before the game got out of hand. He got just four carries for 19 yards in the first half.

Trailing 17-9 going into the third quarter, you would think they would put the ball in McCoy’s hands on their opening possession of the second half to establish some rhythm . But on their first three plays of the half, they passed and went three and out.

The Vikings didn’t stop McCoy, the Eagles coaching staff did.

On special teams, Eagles placekicker Alex Henery was pooch kicking the ball short to keep it away from the Vikings dangerous kick-returner Cordarelle Patterson, who has a 109-yard kick-off return. All that did was give Minnesota the ball in good field position to launch scoring drives.

The most glaring example was the kickoff after the Eagles scored a touchdown to cut the Vikings lead to 27-22 near the end of the third quarter. Henery short-hopped the ball into the arms of tight end Chase Ford,  who took the ball from  his 31 and returned it to the Vikings 46.

It took the Vikings six plays to score the touchdown that extended lead to 34-22. The Eagles would come no closer.