Bledsoe, Parcells Playing the Part

IRVING, Texas -- Two things we are learning about two of the leaders of the 2005 Dallas Cowboys: 1) Drew Bledsoe can play quarterback. 2) Bill Parcells can play possum.

Going into last Sunday's meeting with the Eagles, Philly QB Donovan McNabb was on pace to throw 696 passes this season. That would be a league record. And throwing too much is bad, right?

How about some irony: That NFL record is presently held by some guy named Drew Bledsoe, who threw it 691 times in New England in 1994. When Drew was just a second-year QB. When Parcells was his coach. And when New England was going 10-6 because of it.

Cowboys players spent last week lobbying for a more wide-open approach. They did so in the media, certainly, and they did so while talking among themselves. There is not a lot of evidence that they stormed the Valley Ranch gates, torches and pitchforks in hand, demanding that the monster of conservatism be destroyed, but they did. ... um, lobby.

And the result?

The 3-2 Cowboys suddenly have the confidence that they are led by a playmaking quarterback and when was the last time that was the case around here? The Cowboys' 33-10 victory against the Eagles is a credit to Parcells, of course, even though it is bittersweet in the sense that it makes the coach look a bit silly for the "bus driver'' approach and the "win 13-to-12'' approach.

Forget the Troy Aikman comparisons. Forget the Brett Favre comparisons. (Yes, ex-Packers guard Marco Rivera actually said of Drew, "He's the quarterback, and he's the leader of this offense. He can say whatever he wants. Brett did it in Green Bay, and Drew's doing it here." Easy, big fella.)

Let's just accept some facts:

FACT: From the day Bledsoe came into the NFL, he was a blue-chipper. When you are the first overall pick in a draft, you are something more than a bus driver. You just are.

FACT: He's won big under a variety of circumstances, most notably when he's allowed the chance to throw for 3,000 or even 4,000 yards.

FACT: Bledsoe has been around long enough to have emerged as a student of the game, an extension of the coaching staff. The numbers against Philly are nice (289 yards passing, three touchdowns, no picks), but the under-the-center decisions that led to the numbers are nicer.

FACT: In Buffalo, he regressed a bit. But with Bledsoe heir J.P. Losman now benched, wanna bet the Bills are experiencing a bit of remorse? Said Bledsoe of talk that he was finished: "Well, no one likes to hear that. But the people who know, the people who watch the film, they know."

That would include the Dallas coach, right? InfalliBill must know all this too, right?

Which takes us to the possum theory. This doesn't apply to the loses to Washington and Oakland, where it seemed scoring 13 points was the goal. This applies only to Philly. Parcells spent the entire week talking up the advantages of playing it close to the vest and the like, mentioning in passing that there was a possibility he could open up the offense sometime in the future. If you were an Eagle paying attention, you had every right to assume InfalliBill would arrive at Texas Stadium last Sunday with four things:

1) A yard.

2) Another yard.

3) A third yard.

4) A cloud of dust.

Instead, Parcells put Dallas' offense in pedal-to-the-metal mode. Play-action passes deceived the Eagles right away, leading to three straight completions: 18 yards and 16 yards and then a 15-yard touchdown pass to Terry Glenn. On the next drive, Dallas went for it twice on fourth-and-1. And then came the cherry on top: fourth-and-1 from the 12, up 14-3. In comes the short-yardage gang. The Cowboys were in a bunch. They needed one yard (and sure, a cloud of dust, too). Instead, Parcells calls for more deception, as Bledsoe tossed to an unlikely target, fullback Lousaka Polite, who scores on his first catch of the year.

In retrospect, it makes one wonder why we pay such close attention to Bill's press conferences; heck, he's not telling us anything, anyway. On the day after the win, Parcells conducted another session. He was asked something about the de-activation of a defensive lineman. Parcells said it was because he knew the Eagles would be running. On the very next question, he was asked something about some decision in the secondary. Parcells said he was because he knew the Eagles would be throwing.

Parcells played possum. Bledsoe played quarterback. They're both pretty good at it.

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