For fans of any team in the NFC East week 1 certainly had the blood pressure rising as each team already had an important matchup facing a division foe. The Dallas Cowboys hosted perhaps their most heated rival in the division the New York Giants who were previously 4-0 in AT&T Stadium a.k.a. "Jerry's World". However the Cowboys extended their winning ways in season openers vs the Giants (7-0) with a 36-31 victory in a game that was filled with turnovers, miscues, and exciting play right from the start.
For the other two NFC East teams it would be the rising Washington Redskins hosting the now game changing Philadelphia Eagles (possessing a flashy new offensive system) who would ruin the return of Robert Griffin III who suffered an injury in the 2012 post season. The story of the night would prove to be Eagles head coach Chip Kelly's fast paced, option offense led by big time performances from Michael Vick, & LeSean "Shady" McCoy which resulted in a 33-27 victory for the Eagles.
Each team showed us quite a bit to start the season, and also glaring needs that need to be met. Let's go through the positives, and negatives for each NFC East team based on their week 1 matchup as they head into week 2 of the 2013 NFL season:
Dallas Cowboys (1-0, next week @ Kansas City Cheifs) Positives:
The Cowboy's defense started the game on the right foot with an interception by DeMarcus Ware (now tranisitioning to a down def. end in the 4-3 scheme) off of Eli Manning's very first pass. That would be the first of six total turnovers (3 interceptions, 2 fumbles, 1 muffed punt) as the Cowboy's defense accounted for 5 of them. Known as the team that rarely made plays on the defensive side of the ball we've seen a total shift in the Cowboy's ability to create turnovers thanks to defensive coord. Monte Kiffin.
Despite the amazing play by the defense the Cowboy's offense wasn't as intimidating. In the first half even with the Giants turning the ball over, and giving up great field position Tony Romo's offense was never able to put up enough points (even throwing an interception of his own, caused by wrong route) to put the game away early. The first half ended with the Giants down by 3, and the game ended with the Giants losing by 5. And before the final turnover (tipped pass by RB Darel Scott) Eli Manning had his team at mid field with less than 6 minutes left with the momentum to steal this game.
For your opponent to turn the ball over 6 times, and you only win by 5 points is indeed a troubling sign. And with Romo (ribs), and Dez Bryant (shut down by Giants double teams) (ankle) both suffering injuries that could slow them down this offense may need the defense to do more of this.
Giants (0-1, next week vs Denver Broncos) Positives:
Despite the turnover bug we still saw big time production from the Giants offense. All three starting receivers for the Giants: Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, & Rueben Randle accounted for over 100 receiving yards. Cruz made his presence known throughout with 3 touchdown receptions. We also saw production at the tight end spot from newcomer Brandon Myers formerly of the Oakland Raiders. The Giants defense who were victims of the Cowboys time of possession hold still managed to make plays themselves, and kept this game close enough for the offense to fight back.
TURNOVERS. Yes that was the big issues for the Giants in their week 1 matchup. Head coach Tom Coughlin was well aware of the issue after the game saying "You're not going to win turning the ball over 6 times." And he's right despite the close score the Giants chances of winning went down as each turnover came about. Another issue on offense would be the running back situation as David Wilson the 2nd year back slated to be the starter gave up two costly fumbles.
The Giants wasted no time holding workouts, and eventually signing familiar face Brandon Jacobs to help bring a veteran presence/tough running to this offense. We also saw two key injuries on the defense with corner back Prince Amukamara (concussion) (did not return), and line backer Dan Connor (Burner) (did not return) both suffering setbacks mid game.
Eagles (1-0, next week vs San Diego Chargers) Positives:
To call the Eagles offense impressive might be an understatement. Chip Kelly's option offense lead by Michael Vick, and LeSean McCoy was dazzling as they ran 53 plays in the first half alone. They were fast, efficient, and aggressive with the ball. And if this was the first time you watched the Eagles in your life you'd think this offense was made for them. Receiver DeSean Jackson also had a big time performance.
The defense early on was another question mark until they got on the field. Big plays from the d-line, and the secondary (especially corner Cary Williams) we saw this Eagles defense pressure Redskins QB RG3 into throwing 2 interceptions, and RB Alfred Morris into fumbling. The defense also kept Morris to only 45 yards rushing, the 2nd year back ran for over 1,600 yards last season. In the first half they held the Redskins offense to only 7 points.
Even though coach Chip Kelly's offense had the Redskins defense looking gassed, the same went for his own team. The Eagles slowed down quite a bit in the second half, and most of the players (especially the offensive lineman) showed signs of fatigue. Due to this we saw a near comeback from the Redskins as QB RG3 shook off the first half rust, and got down to business. If this Eagles team can't handle it's own fast paced offense it could cause some major problems.
Michael Vick who was hit a few times was seen limping at times, and holding his groin area in pain which is something to keep an eye on. Vick makes this offense go (along with LeSean McCoy) and if he's hurt I don't see the likes of Nick Foles or Matt Barkley doing much in this system.
Redskins (0-1, next week @ Green Bay Packers) Positives:
Rusty in the first half, and electric in the second half Robert Griffin III was his old self as he attempted to bring his team back towards a victory. RG3's health was the key concern in Washington going into the season, and if he can continue passing the way he did in the second half of this game he'll be just fine. The Redskins defense also looked more focused in the second half as they were hit by a storm no one saw coming being the Eagles offense.
The Redskins were down 26-7 in the first half, and fought back all the way until the end which is telling of how well they played in the 2nd half. The team even shutdown the Eagles offense in the 4th QTR not allowing a single point.
RG3 was rusty in the first half as he looked uncomfortable playing real live football since his 2012 post season injury. He didn't look fluid on his motions, and the throws off his back foot showed how cautious he was trying being on that knee. Throughout the game RG3 didn't look as mobile as he has been in his career either which is also due to the injury. That slight loss of mobility is vital to the Redskins offense which also utilizes his playmaking on the ground as well as in the air.
The defense was gutted by the Eagles offense, and it won't get easier next week as they visit Aaron Rodgers & the Packers in week 2. What was troubling was their poor tackling as LeSean McCoy made it look easy with his rushing attack. Michael Vick was able to make big plays in the air against a Redskins secondary who's main problem last season was the suspect play of the secondary.
This division is arguably the toughest in the NFL, and certainly one of the more entertaining. With that said it only gets more interesting from here on out as each game means so much to every NFC East team. With the possibility of two teams fighting for the division crown every year you can be sure that this season will prove to be more of the same. Stay tuned for week 2 as each team looks to have a tough match up on their hands.
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