NFC East Report, Week 7: Washington let Wentz escape, Cowboys back on track

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NFC East Report, Week 7: Washington let Wentz escape, Cowboys back on track

Each week, we'll take a look at how the Eagles' division rivals fared the previous weekend (spoiler alert: THE EAGLES GOT THIS THING ON LOCK-DOWN) and what they have upcoming. This week the Giants finally got their GM of eleven years on the hot seat, the Cowboys gave their fans false confidence, and the team from D.C. got humiliated on national television.

Here’s what happened in Week 7 in the NFC East:

Washington (3-3)

What Happened: Well, yeah, we gotta start here, don’t we? Despite playing a rusty Iggles team in what was essentially a must-win if they wanted a shot at the division, Washington blew a 10-3 lead, falling to the best football team on the planet by a score of 34-24. Dan Snyder’s property had a chance to stake their claim to the NFC East throne last night, and instead they were soundly murdered in the North in front of a major audience. They’re sorta like Peter Baelish, if the nickname “Little Finger” was actually a racial slur.

Sure, Birds fans are giggling this week like they’re Barry and Dubya in retirement, but let’s not forget Jay Gruden’s squad was at one point out-gaining Doug Pederson’s team, 178-32. Deep into the second quarter, the Washington D had held Carson Wentz to 24 total yards. Early on, this game felt like a statement from Kirk Cousins and Co., similar to what they delivered against Oakland back in September. At 9 pm Monday night, the newspapers were already plotting puns for headlines based around the phrase “TRAP GAME,” if, y’know, newspapers were still a thing.

Then they blew it.

Washington didn’t do anything particularly egregious … they simply didn’t look like the better team. Some would say ‘outclassed,’ which is a recurring theme for anything owned by Snyder. Carson Wentz led a touchdown drive at the end of the 2nd quarter, giving the Birds a lead they would never relinquish. Gruden oddly opted to run out the clock with like 30 seconds to go in the half, and the Birds opened up the 3rd quarter with another touchdown drive. The Washington D, featuring domestic abuser Junior Galette and down a number of big names like Josh Norman and Jonathan Allen, just never had an answer.

The closest Washington came to coming back Monday Night was right before “The Escape.” Had Wentz actually gone down, the Birds would have been forced to punt and protect a one-score lead. Instead, well … Carson Wentz happened, and residents of the Greater D.C. Area will be having hot flashes about that play in the same way that Mike Vick’s 6-touchdown Monday Night still gives them the sweats. 

FLASHBACK: In 1999, an entire generation of Washington Football Fans learned they’d be subject to misery for years at the hands (and feet) of Donovan McNabb when he led a woeful Eagles squad to victory in his very first career start. Monday Night’s contest had to feel eerily similar for this long-suffering fanbase.

Positive Spin: In 1978, the NFL adopted the Wild Card, meaning you don’t need to win the division to make the playoffs. So hey, there’s that!

Sure, Washington still has a shot at the Wild Card, the NFL's version of ‘Last Chance Kitchen,’ though being resigned to that this early in the season is never a good look. As the conference currently stands, they’ll be competing with Green Bay (sans Rodgers), Detroit (coached by Jim Caldwell), Carolina (Cam Newton hates women), Atlanta (wicked hangover), Seattle (tissue-paper O-line) and Dallas (straight garbage). If Washington can recapture the formula they used against Oakland a few weeks back (or the first drive on Monday night), a postseason berth isn’t completely out of the question.

Negative Spin: Seriously, this team isn’t winning the division. Just ask their coach. Looking at the numbers for the sabermetrics nerds out there; if the Birds go 4-5 the rest of the way (which they won’t), Washington needs to go 8-2 in order to take the crown. That would likely require sweeping Dallas, sweeping New York, and beating the Seahawks at home. If you believe that, you’re probably the type that mentions their Trump University diploma when applying for jobs.

Making matter worse, Trent Williams is banged up, and it showed. He joins the likes of Morgan Moses and Brandon Scherff, who seemed to spend most of Monday night being looked at by trainers. 

What’s Next: A home game against the hated Dallas Cowboys. Washington needed a win against Philly to stay afloat in the division this week, and they blew it. They now need a win against Dallas to stay a foot ahead in the Wild Card, so one can only hope they learn to wrap up their tackles.

Dallas Cowboys (3-3)

What Happened: There was reason for hope here for Iggles fans (and fans of anyone who believes in truth, justice, and joy). Despite being winless, San Fran had played every opponent tough so far this season. The game was in Santa Clara. Dallas’ locker room seemed in disarray, and the Niners were due. Could an upset be brewing?

Not at all. This game was what every delirious Big D fan had been imagining all summer; Zeke had three scores and over 200 all-purpose yards, Dak threw for three himself, and Dez had nine catches overall to ruin your fantasy day. Even Jason Witten had a touchdown, which always feels completely outdated, like every time I see a commercial for the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie (which went to DVD awfully fast).

The closest this one came was when the score was 20-3 (seriously) and the Niners appeared to be driving towards the end of the second half, getting as far as the five-yard line. A touchdown there, and suddenly we have ourselves a game.

But this one wasn’t a game; DeMarcus Lawrence sacked Niners quarterback C.J. Beathard (NOT DJ Beat-Hard, as I’d originally hoped), forcing a fumble, and essentially ending this one at halftime. Dallas walked out with a 40-10 victory and good vibes all around, and the rest of us who had to watch Beathard ‘perform’ were left wondering how Colin Kaepernick still doesn’t have a job.

Oh, and for those keeping score at home, Jerry Jones said that social injustice protests during the national anthem are hurting the NFLs bottom line. The NFL revenue projections for 2016 were around $13 BILLION, and Jones never made such a comment when he opted to pay domestic abuser Greg Hardy $11.3 MILLION for one season (nearly the same amount Dez Bryant is receiving THIS season, just to put that in perspective). #RealNews. 

Positive Spin: At 3-3 and with two games against Philly still remaining, the Cowboys feel like the only legitimate threat to stealing the divisional crown off the Wentz Wagon. It’s hard not to feel good after a 40-10 shellacking, even if it is against Kyle Shanahan and the only team in the NFL not from Cleveland that’s probably worse than the Giants. Good teams beat bad teams soundly, and on Sunday, the Cowboys sure sounded like a good team.

In other news, the difference Sean Lee makes to this defense has been well-documented but is still tremendously underrated. Like the seasons of SVU with Chris Meloni. 

Negative Spin: Sadly, it’s hard to throw garbage on a team after winning 40-10, even if it was against the Niners. Like Washington, the Cowboys will have to go on a bit of a run in the second half to catch the Birds, though they have the advantage of getting to play Philly twice. And the Zeke suspension still hangs over this team like the Sword of Damocles, if a Greek literary illusion was comparable to pulling a girl's top down in public.

Oh, and their kicker got hurt, which means I get to boot in (haha) another kicker analogy;  kickers are like health insurance, in that it really shouldn’t be so complicated, but apparently is, and please please please just let it work when I need it. Here’s hoping the Cowboys miss enrollment following the injury to Dan Bailey.

What’s Next: The Cowboys have to go out to D.C. for a rivalry game, then come home to face Andy’s Chiefs, followed by a trip to Atlanta against a Falcons squad that may be pretty desperate. That means this Sunday is a pretty big game for Big D. While the easy-bits of the Iggles schedule have been well documented, the Cowboys schedule is a bit bumpier. It’s like comparing a shot of Fireball to a snifter of lighter fluid (though most doctors agree, the latter is probably better for you in the long run).

New York Giants (1-6)

What Happened: Seriously, you want a recap of the Giants/Seahawks game? Why not read something more consequential, like Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” translated into Klingon? Aight sure, here it goes…

Thanks to some effective defense (especially in the trenches) and a touchdown pass to rookie tight end Evan Engram (who will likely be a thorn in the Eagles' side for years, assuming he still has a quarterback to throw him the ball come 2019), the Giants actually led at home against the one-time NFC juggernaut Seattle Seahawks going into the second half. It all unraveled shortly thereafter, however, when formerly-great tight end Jimmy Graham stopped dropping passes and Russell Wilson (who’s just a smaller, older version of Carson Wentz) threw three second-half TD’s, including one on a nifty trick play that had all the creativity of “Mr. Peanutbutter’s House.”

The Giants just couldn’t muster enough offense despite playing a beat up Seattle D. That’s what’ll happen when your GM only prioritizes the passing game (as opposed to the running backs or the offensive line) and they all go down to injury faster than a 76ers first-round draft pick.

Speaking of the GM, Jerry Reese said this week the Giants may have bought into their own hype too much. YOU DON’T SAY!? In other news, water remains wet, the Earth is still round, and 71-year old Donald Trump uses a spray tan. Wake me when you hear something surprising. 

Positive Spin: The Giants held in there tough, and blahblahblah. If you’re looking for some hope that this team can bounce back next season with a healthy wide receiving corps and a rebuilt offensive line … and you also believe that the 2017 Seahawks are as legit as the versions from the past few seasons …  then this is the kind of game an optimist can cling to, like a pair of pocket eights. The rest of us know this squad is in deep kaka, including the General Manager, who may be looking for a new place of employment come 2018, leaving the next guy to figure out what to do with a veteran squad built around a $75 million defensive line.

Negative Spin: Watching this team brings the same level of enjoyment as chewing on a slug. They’re an older team with far too many glaring holes to fix in a single offseason, especially when you consider they’re paying Eli $22 mil for 2018. 

The best thing the Giants can do for themselves, and for America, would be to beat the Dallas Cowboys on December 10. Make it so.

What’s Next: “With the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the New York Giants select … an offensive linemen you’ve never heard of!” But before that, games against the Rams, 49ers, and Chiefs, which has the same amount of excitement as a reality show about Ben McAdoo’s hairline. 

Get ready to cry watching Julie and Zach Ertz

Get ready to cry watching Julie and Zach Ertz

Find yourself a love like Julie and Zach Ertz.

While Zach Ertz was having his best season on the gridiron, Julie Ertz, who changed her name from Julie Johnston after their March nuptials, was having an amazing season on the pitch. After a 5-1 victory over Denmark on Sunday night in which Julie scored in the 19th minute, U.S. soccer captured this incredible moment.

“Is he really going?” she said.

Oh, he’s going. The Eagles trounced the Vikings, 38-7, advancing to Super Bowl LII (see Roob's observations).

When Zach was shown this video in the locker room, he was overcome with emotion (watch the video above).

Oh, to be young, in love, scoring goals and touchdowns.

Eagles score high grades in NFC Championship Game

Eagles score high grades in NFC Championship Game

Grading the Eagles' 38-7 win Sunday night over the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field to advance to Super Bowl LII (see breakdown):

Nick Foles: 26/33, 352 YDS, 3 TD

From the Eagles' opening snap, Foles looked sharp, picking up right where he left off last week. Yet, even the way he was slinging the football on those first few possessions, I doubt anybody envisioned this performance coming. Foles completed 78.8 percent of his passes, averaged 10.8 yards per attempt and connected on touchdown passes of 53, 41 and five yards — against the No. 1 defense in the NFL. He moved well in the pocket but stood tough when called upon to do so. Most importantly, no turnovers and just one sack. This was the finest moment of Foles' career, which is truly saying something for a guy who set multiple franchise and NFL records in 2013.

Grade: A+

Jay Ajayi: 18 ATT, 73 YDS, 3 REC, 26 YDS

Though Ajayi got the bulk of the word, LeGarrette Blount had the play of the game. Blount would not be denied on his 11-yard touchdown in the first quarter, barreling over and through Vikings defenders on his way across the goal line. It was exactly the kind of hardnosed postseason mudding the Eagles envisioned when they signed the two-time Super Bowl champion, even if he only finished with 21 yards on six carries. Ajayi was having a mediocre game, but picked it up on the Eagles' final possession and did his part to help put Minnesota on ice.

Grade: A-

Alshon Jeffery: 5 REC, 85 YDS, 2 TD

Torrey Smith was seen apologizing to Foles after dropping what should've been a 50-yard pass on the Eagles' second play from scrimmage. Smith did a bit better than "I'm sorry" in the third quarter, making a tough 41-yard grab at the pylon to complete a 41-yard flea flicker. That wasn't even the longest play by a receiver, falling short of Jeffery's 53-yard score in the second quarter. The play fell apart, so Jeffery broke off his route and headed for the end zone. All told, Jeffery, Smith and Nelson Agholor combined for 13 receptions, 213 yards and three touchdowns. Flat out dominant against the league's No. 2 pass defense.

Grade: A+

Zach Ertz: 8 REC, 93 YDS

It became clear early the Vikings had no answer for Ertz. The Pro Bowl tight end hauled in all eight targets that came his way, leading the Eagles in both receptions and receiving yards. Brent Celek and Trey Burton weren't as productive with their opportunities, combining for one 12-yard catch on three targets, but no matter. Ertz was a monster.

Grade: A

Credit Jeffery for turning his route up the field and catching the ball (see Roob's observations). Credit Foles for hanging in the pocket and delivering a perfect pass. But make sure you credit the offensive line as well for giving Foles' 53-yard touchdown to Jeffery time to develop. That pretty much personified the unit's performance. The quarterback was only hit five times and sacked once. The Eagles weren't nearly as strong on the ground, averaging a modest 3.7 yards per carry. Regardless, the run blocking wasn't exactly ineffective, either, not to mention that really seems like nitpicking.

Grade: A

Chris Long: 2 TKL, 2 QBH, 2 PD, 1 FR

Long has been good all season, but it was as if he took a dip in the Fountain of Youth right before this game. The 10th-year veteran caused a momentum-altering interception with one of his two quarterback hits, then fell on the fumble forced by fellow defensive end Derek Barnett's strip sack, both plays in the first half. Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry each got two pressures on the signal caller as well, as the D-line made throwing down the field next to impossible for the Vikings. Minnesota ball carriers averaged a respectable 3.9 yards per carry, but it wasn't enough to influence the game in any meaningful way.

Grade: A

Mychal Kendricks: 8 TKL

Ugly start for this unit. The Vikings' offense went right down the field on the game's opening drive, largely at the expense of Najee Goode. Playing for the injured Dannell Ellerbe, Goode was torched for 25-yard touchdown pass amid some confusion, and generally looked in over his head. Goode was on the field less as the game progressed, while it seemed at times there were two of Kendricks, who led the team in tackles. After a quiet first half, Nigel Bradham picked up his play as well, finishing with four tackles. No major complaints are given the outcome.

Grade: B

Ronald Darby: 7 TKL, 3 PD

Who knows the way this game may have transpired were it not for Patrick Robinson's interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter. Robinson took the woefully underthrown pass forced by Long, weaved across the field and outraced the Vikings' offense for a 50-yard score. Darby threw a key block on the return and later forced another turnover, one of his three pass breakups deflecting into the hands of Corey Graham. The Eagles' secondary was active and physical, as Minnesota completed just 58.3 percent of pass attempts for 5.6 yards per attempt.

Grade: A

Donnie Jones: 43.3 AVG, 3 IN20

Little of note from special teams. All three of Jones' punts pinned the Vikings' offense inside their own 20-yard line. Jake Elliott was perfect on one 38-yard field goal and five extra points, and all six kickoffs went for touchbacks. Kenjon Barner returned one punt for 10 yards. It was exactly what it needed to be.

Grade: B+

Eagles' record: 15-3

Absolutely masterful job by the Eagles' coaching staff on both sides of the football. Doug Pederson's play-calling was brilliant from start to finish, keeping the Vikings' No. 1 defense completely off balance. Jim Schwartz's defense recovered after an opening march 75 yards on nine plays for paydirt — it was the last time Minnesota would score. This was the No. 2 seed in the NFC, a team with 14 wins, including playoffs and the Eagles, went right through them like it was nothing. Amazing job and an amazing season overall by Pederson and Schwartz.

Grade: A+