From the Philadelphia Eagles:
The Eagles continue to be plagued by bad starts. They were outscored 14-0 in the first quarter Sunday by the Broncos and fell behind 28-0 in a game they would eventually lose, 49-21.
On their way to the Super Bowl last season, the Eagles had the league's best first-quarter point differential. This year, they've been outscored 62-14 in the first period. All 14 of those points came in the Eagles' Week 2 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
"One of the things that's pretty obvious is you can't get down by four touchdowns against a good football team," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "Therefore, you have to start faster. Which we realize we haven't done a good job of this year."
The Eagles have scored just once all season on the first two possessions of the game. Against the Broncos, they went three-and-out on both of their first two drives. Quarterback Donovan McNabb has completed just 12 of 35 passes on the Eagles' first two possessions this season.
Sunday, the Broncos attacked the Eagles with nine-man blitzes to open the game. The Eagles seemed completely befuddled by the strategy.
"They did a nice job with their blitz package early in the game," Reid said. "It was something they hadn't featured, at least with that particular blitz.
"It took a series or two to get it right, then we figured it out and were able to move the ball a little bit and have a little more production there."McNabb, who is playing with a sports hernia injury, was only sacked two times, but was knocked down constantly. He completed just 12 of 34 passes in the game.
Quotes and Notes
--Andy Reid said there's a chance that kicker David Akers may return this week for the Eagles' game against Washington. Akers has missed four games with a torn hamstring. If Akers returns, the Eagles' current kicker, Jose Cortez, who was signed just last week, likely would be kept on the roster to handle kickoffs.
"There's a chance (he'll be back Sunday)," Reid said. "We will have to see how he does. He's making improvement. He's started kicking. Not a lot. But he did kick a little last week with a snapper and a holder."
--The Eagles entered the season with a secondary that was considered one of the best in the league. Three of their four starters made the Pro Bowl last year. The fourth may have been even more deserving than the other three.But they are struggling in a big way right now. The Eagles gave up four touchdown passes in their loss to Denver Sunday. That makes 13 in the last five games. Last season, they gave up 16 the entire year.
--K David Akers may be back this week. Akers has missed the last four games with a torn hamstring, but started kicking in the club's indoor practice field last week. He'll kick some more this week before a decision is reached.
--DE Jevon Kearse suffered a sprain of the AC joint in his right shoulder Sunday. He left the game in the first quarter and didn't return. He had an MRI Monday and currently is listed as day-to-day.
--P Dirk Johnson has re-aggravated his groin injury. Johnson had June surgery to repair a sports hernia, but is having problems again. He kicked Sunday, but there's a good chance the Eagles will have to put him on injured reserve and bring in another punter.
--DE N.D. Kalu injured the rotator cuff in his shoulder Sunday. He played the entire game, but had an MRI Monday. He is listed as day-to-day.--WR Terrell Owens sprained the ankle Sunday that he had surgically repaired last December. He played the entire game with the injury, but had an MRI on it Monday. His status for Sunday is uncertain.
Reports Card vs. Broncos
PASSING OFFENSE: F -- The Eagles were not at all prepared for the all-out blitzes the Broncos threw at them early in the game. Donovan McNabb didn't complete his first pass until eight minutes were gone in the second quarter. He finished with just 12 completions in 34 attempts.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus -- The Eagles ran the ball 19 times, which, for them, is a lot. It was the second most rushing attempts they've had this season. Brian Westbrook did a decent job of running out of spread formations. Lamar Gordon had 16 yards on 2 carries.
PASS DEFENSE: F -- The Eagles were torched for four touchdown passes by Jake Plummer. That's 13 they've given up in the last five games. Last year, they gave up 16 the entire season. Plummer's bootlegs and play-action gave the Eagles major problems.
RUN DEFENSE: F -- Until they wore down in the second half, the Eagles actually weren't doing a terrible job against the run. They held Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell to a collective 78 yards in the first half. The Broncos finished with 255 rushing yards. Anderson and Bell both collected 100-plus.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- The extra distance and hang time provided by new kicker Jose Cortez helped the Eagles' kickoff coverage unit contain the Broncos' Darrent Williams. P Dirk Johnson had a 42.1 net average. KR Rod Hood averaged 24.8 yards per return.COACHING: F -- There's no excuse for how ill-prepared the Eagles were for the Broncos' early-game blitzes. Andy Reid's offense still was one-dimensional early. His quarterback completed just 12 of 34 passes.
The Cowboys are 5-3 after eight games.
If you would have asked Coach Bill Parcells before if would take a 5-3 mark he would have said "yes".
And considering that the Cowboys are in second in the NFC East with as many wins as any team in the entire conference, he will take this 5-3 now.
"I think any time you have as many wins as anybody in the division you have certainly a chance," Parcells said. "But it's not Thanksgiving yet. If we could put a couple more wins together here pretty quick, then you know you would at least be in it to the last month. That always gives you something to shoot for."
But the Cowboys are 5-3, knowing they could easily be 7-1 if not for two last-minute losses to the Redskins and Seahawks.
And with a tough second half schedule following this week's bye that begins with three games in 11 days -- at Philadelphia Nov. 14 and home games against Detroit Nov. 20 and Denver Nov. 24 -- the Cowboys know they can't let any more wins slip away.
All totaled, the second half schedule features teams that are a combined 34-23 and the Cowboys will play three divisional road games. The Cowboys also play the Chiefs, the Panthers and the Rams down the stretch.
"At least we're in control of a little it ourself," Parcells said. "We have a tough second half. That Denver put on a show yesterday against the Eagles. That's about a good an offense as I've ever seen in pro football. That game. I've never really seen a game like that where you pass for 300 and run for 250. That's pretty unusual. We've got three division teams on the road, that's not an easy thing. I know Kansas City has a chance to be decent. And Carolina looks pretty good, and so we've got a whole thing in front of us that you don't really know what's to happen."
Quotes and Notes
--The Arizona game couldn't get here quick enough for Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe.
His interception a week earlier clinched a loss to the Seahawks last week.
He was itching to make amends, and did in a 34-13 victory against the Cardinals. Bledsoe completed 19 of 24 passes for 220 yards, with a touchdown and no interceptions. His 79.2 completion percentage was the best of his NFL career.
"It was tough," Bledsoe said about the ending to the Seattle game. "That is one of those (plays) that haunt you for a long time. That is one of the challenges you have in this league, to be able to respond when something negative happens."
--The Cowboys have three games in 11 days, starting after the bye. They play the Eagles Nov. 14, the Lions Nov. 20 and the Broncos Nov. 24. The Cowboys will use the bye week to prepare for the Lions and Broncos. The coaches will break down tape of Detroit on Tuesday and Denver on Wednesday.
--CB Anthony Henry would not have been able to play this Sunday if the Cowboys had a game. He suffered a groin injury against the Cardinals. The Cowboys hope he will be healthy when the Cowboys return after the bye to play the Eagles Nov. 14. Henry has been the team's best defensive player, and will be needed to slow down Eagles receiver Terrell Owens.
--S Willie Pile tweaked his left groin against the Cardinals. He will be re-evaluated when the Cowboys return to practice on Thursday.
--DE Jay Ratliff sprained his ankle against the Cardinals, and is not expected to play against the Eagles in two weeks following the bye.
--K Shaun Suisham made two field goals in his first game with the Cowboys, two 21-yard efforts.
He said the appreciated the short early tries, considering he hadn't kicked in a game since the preseason.
"I would have a good one and then I got under a couple," Suisham said. "I've got room for improvement. I need to become a solid performer, and I feel confident that I will be."
Report Card After Eight Games
PASSING OFFENSE: B -- The Cowboys are ninth in the league in pass offense, led by the surprising play of quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who is the top rated quarterback in the NFC. The receiver corps has been solid if not spectacular led by Terry Glenn, Keyshawn Johnson and tight end Jason Witten. Glenn still has explosion, while Johnson remains one of the league's top red zone targets.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The Cowboys have not run it as well as expected. Julius Jones has struggled when he was on the field. He also missed three games with injuries. However, the Cowboys did run it well enough to keep control the ball and the clock. They also found a runner in rookie Marion Barber -- who will work in tandem with Jones in the second half.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Cowboys are 12th in the league in pass defense. But what's most different about the pass defense is the big plays they make. The Cowboys already have 24 sacks this season, led by Greg Ellis' five. The Cowboys also have recorded 10 interceptions, including a 58-yard return for a touchdown by Anthony Henry.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus -- The Cowboys are sixth in the league in run defense, allowing just 89.1 yards per game. Credit the switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4. Also credit the play of nose tackles Jason Ferguson and La'Roi Glover in the middle of the defense. Inside linebacker Bradie James, Scott Shanle and Dat Nguyen have also been solid against the run.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Tyson Thompson has been solid on kickoff returns. He ranks ninth in the NFL and second in the NFC. Mat McBriar has been very good on punts. But the Cowboys have had shaky deep snapping and unreliable place kicking. Shaun Suisham will be on the spot as the kicker in the second half of the season.COACHING: B -- The Cowboys are 5-3. They are in second place in the NFC East. With so many young players playing key roles, they have a chance to get better in the second half of the season and make a legitimate push toward the playoffs.
The emotional aspect of the game aside, the Giants clearly made a statement that they are in the race for the NFC East and don't plan to make an early exit, the way they did last season.
In 2004, which was head coach Tom Coughlin's first year, the Giants were 5-2 and then proceeded to embark on an eight-game losing streak, one that stretched until the final game of the seaso,n when they managed to salvage the encounter with Dallas to arrive at their 6-10 record.
But that was a season in which veteran Kurt Warner, signed for the express purpose of buying some time for rookie Eli Manning, was taken out as starting quarterback after the ninth game so that Manning might begin the second phase of his education.
This year is different because Eli has far exceeded anyone's predictions. He is a poised, veteran-like quarterback with that rare poise and composure that has been the trademark of the NFL's memorable superstars.
Sunday he demonstrated yet another aspect of the overall ability resume -- he directed a one-sided, completely dominant game and victory while not achieving outrageously brilliant statistics for himself.
The Giants disposed of the Washington Redskins, 36-0, in a tribute game for the late owner, Wellington Mara, who died last week at the age of 89. The game ball was presented to his son, Executive Vice President-COO John K. Mara, who will certainly be elevated to fill his father's position.
The defense was brilliant, limiting the high-scoring, yardage-producing Redskins' offense to just 125 total net yards -- and 38 on the ground.
"I think everyone understood that Mr. Mara would have wanted us to stay focused on the game and he would have wanted us to go out and practice hard every day and compete, have a good game plan and play hard.," said Manning.
More to the point, Manning suggested that this was a game other teams should consider when planning for the Giants. "It was a division game against a good team," he said. "Washington had been playing well and they have a great defense. It was a big game for us and we came and played well. We ran the ball well and the line did a great job."
And the Giants, who travel to San Francisco next Sunday, are legitimate contenders.
Quotes and Notes
--RB Tiki Barber set a career single-game high with 206 yards (in 24 carries) and came within 12 yards of equaling the all-time team record of 218, set by Gene "Choo Choo" Roberts in 1950. Did he think head coach Tom Coughlin was gong to let him in to get the record? "I don't think about such things," he said. "We win and everything is fine. We lose and it really doesn't matter what I did individually."
--The Giants' 19-0 lead at halftime represented the first time all season they had been unscored upon in the first two quarters. The shutout was their first in a regular season game since 1998 (Philadelphia) and their last whitewash was the 2001 NFC Championship game, a 41-0 destruction of the Minnesota Vikings.
--K Jay Feely added five FGs to his record and ran his streak to 13 in a row before missing a 51-yarder that hit the left upright. He is the sixth player in team history to attempt six FGs, and the fifth to get five in a single game.
--Rookie DE Justin Tuck injured his ankle Sunday and was being re-evaluated Monday. "Tuck had the ankle and we're going to go through all the tests (Monday) and try to discover if there's any issue there," coach Tom Coughlin said.
--S Shaun Williams suffered a hamstring injury Sunday, but the team is hopeful he won't miss any game time. "Shaun has a hamstring that hopefully is going to be manageable," coach Tom Coughlin said.
--LB Carlos Emmons is day-to-day after he did not play against Washington. He missed the entire week of practice leading up to the Redskins game with a slightly torn pectoral muscle. "It's a continuation of treatment for Carlos and it ends up being a day-to-day decision about whether he's ready to practice or not," coach Tom Coughlin said. "At this point in time, he would not be ready to practice today if we had to go today."
--WR David Tyree missed the first game of his three-year career with an elbow injury Sunday. "It's a question of, to be honest with you, whether the elbow allows him to tackle and we hope by the end of this week that will have a better feeling for that," said coach Tom Coughlin, who added that Tyree was much improved Monday.
Report Card vs. Redskins
PASSING OFFENSE: B -- The word that best describes the Giants' passing game vs. Washington is efficient. QB Eli Manning completed 12 of 31 passes for 146 yards, one TD and one pick. The TD (10 yards to TE Jeremy Shockey) was his 13th of the season; the interception was his fifth. His leading receiver, as usual, was WR Plaxico Burress. But he caught only four passes for 42 yards. Shockey added three for 29 and the TD while WR Amani Toomer caught two for 43 yards. Manning was sacked twice, but one was a coverage sack; he had no uncovered receivers and didn't get the chance to throw the ball away. Generally, however, the O-line blocked efficiently.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Thanks to RB Tiki Barber, the Giants have seldom enjoyed a better rushing game. They gained 262 yards in total, with 206 coming from Barber. It was his career single-game best and put him at 689 for the season with nine games still to play. He scored one TD and immediately ran to the sidelines and handed the ball to one of Wellington Mara's grandsons, Tim McDonnell, with whom he has enjoyed a special friendship. Barber's career single-season best was set last year with 1,518. He is now averaging 98-plus yards a game and can break his record by maintaining that number. LG Chris Snee and RG David Diehl played particularly well, although C Shaun O'Hara was struggling for a good portion of the game.
PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- The defense held Mark Brunell to just 65 yards gained by completing 11 of 28 attempts. The Redskins had only one first down by passing in the game, a 15-yard completion to WR Santana Moss in the second quarter. The defense restricted Moss, who had been one of the NFL's top receivers with 38 catches and 743 yards, to four for 34. Moss was the Redskins' leading receiver. The Giants sacked two Redskin QBs five times for 40 yards in losses.
RUSH DEFENSE: A-minus -- Clinton Portis entered the game with 544 yards in 123 carries and left it with four more carries and nine more yards. He was totally throttled as the Redskins carried the ball a collective 13 times for 38 yards, and six times ran three plays and punted. Former Redskins' MLB Antonio Pierce had 11 tackles, an interception and two passes defended. DE Osi Umenyiora had two sacks and four tackles, while the other DE, All-Pro Michael Strahan, had four tackles and one sack. Strahan has 6.5 for the season, Umenyiora five.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- The Redskins had six kickoffs to return and just two punts, and they gained a total of 118 yards in returns. The longest gain was 27 yards by Ladell Betts. Giants' P Jeff Feagles punted four times for a 43.0 average (and 39.8 net). K Jay Feely saw his streak of consecutive FGs end at 13, but he did put five through the uprights and now has made 16 of 17 along with all 23 PAT attempts. The Giants recorded eight special teams tackles, with FA rookie LB Chase Blackburn getting three. LB Reggie Torbor and FA rookie SS James Butler had two each.
COACHING: A -- It's hard to find fault with the defense, offense and special teams after this near-flawless performance. Head coach Tom Coughlin said the team's goal was two-fold, and each revolved around the running game(s). "We wanted to stop their ground game, which means holding Portis to something safe, and we thought we could run on them." He never figured Portis would be held so completely in check, nor did he think Barber would explode with a career-best single-game 206 yards.