The Eagles' already sickly pass rush could have even more problems getting to the quarterback Sunday in their final regular-season game against the Washington Redskins.
Left end Jevon Kearse, who has a team-high 7.5 sacks, injured his knee in Sunday's 27-21 loss to the Arizona Cardinals and is very questionable for the New Year's Day game against the Redskins.
The 6-9 Eagles have just 28 sacks this season, including two against the Cardinals, one of them by Kearse. They have just five in their last five games. Kearse's first-quarter sack was his first since November 20, when he notched 2.5 in a 27-17 loss to the New York Giants.
The Eagles' 28 sacks are their fewest in a season since 1976, when they had just 19. The '78 Eagles had 29.
Kearse injured his knee when linemate Mike Patterson fell on his leg early in the second quarter. "If I can go (against the Redskins), I will," Kearse said.
The Eagles signed Kearse in March of 2004, giving him a contract that included $20 million in bonuses. But he has yet to live up to expectations. His 7.5 sacks equals his total from last season.
The trouble is, last year, he got plenty of help. This year, that hasn't been the case. The Eagles' defensive tackles have a total of six sacks in 15 games.
Replay vs. Arizona
The Eagles' season-long problems defending the pass continued in a 27-21 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Cardinals quarterback Josh McCown completed 27 of 38 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles, whose inept pass rush was seldom able to put much pressure on the quarterback.
Eagles quarterback Mike McMahon's sixth start since replacing Donovan McNabb wasn't any more impressive than the previous five. He completed just 12 of 33 passes and threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby.The Eagles' rushing attack was non-existent. The team's three running backs, Ryan Moats, Reno Mahe and Bruce Perry, combined for just 22 yards on 14 carries.
--DE Jevon Kearse sprained his right knee in the second quarter of Saturday's loss to Arizona and probably won't play Sunday against Washington.
--DE N.D. Kalu probably will start Sunday's final regular-season game at left end in place of injured Jevon Kearse.
--RB Bruce Perry made his NFL debut Saturday after being signed off the practice squad. He returned kickoffs and averaged an impressive 31.7 yards on six returns.
--RB Lamar Gordon was inactive for Saturday's game. He is nursing ankle and foot injuries. He probably won't play Sunday with the Eagles wanting to take a better look at Bruce Perry.
--CB Sheldon Brown, who was listed as questionable all week with a knee injury, played Saturday against Arizona. He'll likely play Sunday against the Redskins.
New York Giants
The Giants failed to lock up the NFC East championship Saturday when they were drubbed by the Washington Redskins, 35-20, but they nevertheless earned a spot in the playoffs -- a wild card spot, for the moment -- when the Baltimore Ravens beat the Minnesota Vikings.
The Giants could have clinched the NFC East division championship with a victory over Washington, but must now depend on a victory on the other side of the country -- in Oakland -- next Saturday night to clinch their first NFC East prize since 2000.
The Raiders, woebegone and sadly disappointing this season, nevertheless have the offensive weapons to spring a major surprise on the Giants, and nobody would enjoy it better than Oakland quarterback Kerry Collins, who left the Giants in anger after the Giants traded for Eli Manning on draft day 2004.
He saw the handwriting, of course, and was not in a mood to be charitable. "I ain't no baby sitter," he said at the time. He turned down an offer from general manager Ernie Accorsi for a three-year contract worth $7 million, with the second and third years voidable by either party -- and he would still get the full price.
So he left, demanding his release, and signed with Oakland for approximately $2 million less.
It has been disappointing for him in Oakland, and he was even benched for a game in favor of seldom-used Marques Tuiasosopo. The Oakland offense was thought to be a barn-burner this year, with the acquisition of wide receiver Randy Moss to go with Jerry Porter, and the signing of free agent running back LaMont Jordan from the Jets, a budding starter just itching to get clear of Curtis Martin.
It was not to be, and now the only thing the Giants want from Collins is a division championship, the prospect of which should make for a delightful cross country flight on New Year's Eve.
Replay vs. Redskins
The Giants were never in the game against the Redskins, save a brief portion of the first quarter when rookie Chase Blackburn, starting at middle linebacker for the injured Antonio Pierce, intercepted a Mark Brunell pass and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown, giving the Giants a 10-7 lead.
After that, however, it was a case of sloppy offense and shoddy defense and a failure to stop Washington wide receiver Santana Moss (five catches, 160 yards, three touchdowns) and running back Clinton Portis (27 carries, 108 yards, one touchdown -- and one touchdown pass).
Giants running back Tiki Barber, who has carried the team during its stretch run, struggled to get 80 yards in 16 carries, and could not light a fire for the offense. Perhaps the most glaring weakness was quarterback Eli Manning. He struggled for the fifth consecutive game, and it became clear that the receivers were not in synch with their young leader.
Defensively, cornerbacks Curtis Deloatch and Will Allen were beaten unmercifully. Allen, a five-year veteran who has played reasonably well until the last two games, was embarrassed more than a few times by Moss. Incidentally, after 15 games Allen has yet to record an interception.
--Rookie LB Chase Blackburn was released from the hospital Sunday after leaving Saturday's game on a stretcher following a collision that left him with a neck stinger. Coach Tom Coughlin said he would be surprised if Blackburn was available to play next Saturday. "The medical post trauma obviously is in the neck area. But, all the tests disproved any fact that there might be some type of fracture or anything like that," Coughlin said. "There was nothing of that nature. He is sore, his neck is sore, and we think he's going to have to recover from this obviously, but he's out of the hospital and he does not have any type of debilitating injury."
-- LB Jessie Armstead, who has not played in the league this season, worked out for the Giants last week. Coach Tom Coughlin did not rule out signing Armstead to bolster a beat up linebacking corps.
-- LB Carlos Emmons (strained pectoral muscle) did not play against Washington, and coach Tom Coughlin said he did not expect him to play against Oakland.
-- TE Jeremy Shockey appeared to be working the referee's for a penalty Saturday while Redskins LB Lemar Marshall was intercepting a pass intended for him. "We need to finish the play obviously and the result was an interception, which probably should not have been thrown in that area anyway," coach Tom Coughlin said. "But, you can't expect officials to -- they're not going to make that call anyway until probably the play is over."
Shockey, who labored with a sore/sprained ankle for most of the second half Saturday, caught just two passes and, for most of the game, was covered by Redskins SS Sean Taylor, a former teammate at the University of Miami. "He always does a good job," Shockey said. "We work out together in the off-season. He's tough but he doesn't usually stop me."
-- C Shaun O'Hara was particularly upset after Saturday's loss. "The last thing we wanted to do was fly to Oakland to win our division championship," he said. "We had many, many opportunities to win today. We just couldn't finish it."
-- The Giants' Game Inactive list included four starters -- MLB Antonio Pierce, SLB Carlos Emmons, ORT Kareem McKenzie and RDT William Joseph. Blackburn, Reggie Torbor, Bob Whitfield and Fred Robbins, respectively, filled in.
-- RB Tiki Barber, who had 80 yards in 16 carries, giving him 1,656 yards in 329 carries this season, tried to explain Saturday's loss. "We had plenty of chances," he said. "We just couldn't find the big play when we needed it." He needs just 12 carries vs. Oakland to tie the single-season team record (341, Joe Morris, 1986).-- DE Osi Umenyiora, the NFC's sack leader in just his third season, was rewarded by the team with a six-year, $41 million contract extension.
The Cowboys still don't know if they are playoff worthy.
But Bill Parcells has long said his team would be in it until the end.
And he's right -- thanks to Sunday's never-say-die 24-20 comeback victory against the Carolina Panthers.
The Cowboys (9-6) now must win next Sunday against the St. Louis Rams and for the Redskins (9-6) or Panthers (10-5) to lose.
"It feels good to have a chance," receiver Keyshawn Johnson said. "If we lose here, we don't have that chance."
Yes, the Cowboys would rather be in position to the control their own destiny. But they are now just thankful to have that opportunity after being on the brink of elimination.
With less than a minute to go against the Panthers that's where the Cowboys stood, trailing 20-17.
A loss would have put them out of the playoff race and spoiled a pair of great efforts by running back Julius Jones and linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who did their best to personally deliver a victory against the Panthers.
Jones emerged from a season-long funk with the fourth-best outing ever by a Cowboys running back. He rushed 34 times for 194 yards and two touchdowns.
Ware also broke out a slump with a record-setting performance. He became the first player in team history to record three sacks and three forced fumbles in a game.
After Billy Cundiff's game-tying field goal went wide right on their final drive it all seemed for naught. But of course that was before the Panthers were flagged for running into the kicker, giving the Cowboys new life.
Three plays later, quarterback Drew Bledsoe hit receiver Terry Glenn in the corner of the end zone for a two-yard touchdown pass with 24 seconds to go.
"You can say what you want about us," Parcells said. "We're not the best team in the league but they fight hard. That took a lot of guts."
Parcells doesn't know what the future holds regarding the playoffs. But he knows his team is resilient.
"That's the way we have been playing," Parcells said. "It's just the way it is. I think this team has some spunk to it. I know we have had some ups and downs but I told you I like them and I do.
Owner Jerry Jones said it's disappointing that the Cowboys don't control their own destiny. But he's not disappointed in his team, which proved to him that the Washington game in week 15 was "an aberration."
"That game didn't reflect what this team was about," Jones said. "This to me was what this team is about. After falling flat last week and then to come here and battle back and play like they did. I am so proud of them. This feels good."
Replay vs. Carolina
It took the guts of wide receiver Terry Glenn, who played the majority of the game with a dislocated thumb, and a couple of carry-you-on-my-back performances from running back Julius Jones and rookie linebacker DeMarcus Ware to beat Carolina 24-20 on Saturday.
Jones had 194 yards and two touchdowns rushing. Ware had three sacks and three forced fumbles.
Of course, typical of the Cowboys this year, those efforts didn't appear to be enough when receiver Ricky Proehl caught a 35-yard touchdown pass, giving the Panthers a 20-17 lead with 3:24 left in the fourth quarter.
Proehl snuck behind a battered and bruised secondary that began the game without cornerback Anthony Henry (abdominal strain) and lost safety Roy Williams in the fourth quarter.
But the Cowboys refused to quit.
Quarterback Drew Bledsoe moved the Cowboys in position for a game-tying field goal with 1:08 to go, but maligned kicker Billy Cundiff was wide right on a 33-yard field goal attempt.
The Cowboys, however, got new life because defensive end Julius Peppers was flagged for running into the kicker, giving Dallas a first down at the Carolina 11.This time they left nothing to chance, as Bledsoe found Glenn in the right corner of the end zone three plays later. He made brilliant, twisted stab with the right hand before tip-toeing the end line.
--CB Anthony Henry did not play because of an abdominal strain. Aaron Glenn started in his place. Henry missed four starts earlier this year with a strained groin.
--RB Julius Jones rushed for 194 yards, his first 100-yard rushing game of the season and the fourth of his career. The Cowboys are 3-1 when Jones rushes for over 100 yards. The 194 yards was the second-best rushing performance of his career and the fourth-best day in Cowboys history. The 34 carries by Jones was a career-high and the second most in club history. Emmitt Smith holds the record with 35 carries against the N.Y. Giants (11/7/94). Smith also had a 34-carry game at Washington (11/24/91).This was Jones' second two-touchdown game of the season.
--WR Terry Glenn recorded his seventh touchdown catch of the season, a single-season career-high.
--LB DeMarcus Ware became the first player in club history record three forced fumbles in a game. He became the first rookie since Randy White in 1975 to record three sacks in a game. With seven sacks on the season, he set a new rookie record for linebackers for sacks in a season. He also has posted the third-best sack total by a linebacker in club history.
--RB Tyson Thompson continues to climb the rookie kickoff return charts. With five returns for 132 yards Saturday he has established rookie club records for kickoff returns and kickoff return yards. He has 52 returns for 1,256 yards. The marks are second-best in club history in both categories behind Reggie Swinton's 52 returns for 1,327 yards in 2001.