Game Tape: The Defense


The Dallas Cowboys gave up 37 points at home against the Philadelphia Eagles. Most of those points came in the first half. So what happened? I’ve watched the entire defensive game tape, and you may be a little bit surprised at what I found:


  • On the second play of the game Chris Canty over pursued and could have tackled Brian Westbrook for a four yard loss. Instead, Westbrook ran for a 14-yard first down. Canty missed the tackle.
  • Kevin Burnett completely screwed up during a play that allowed the Eagles backup tight end to gain about 20 yards. The tight was originally blocking and then he faded out for a pass. Burnett was in the middle of the field and ran to his right for no apparent reason at all, and that allowed the tight end to run for a good long while. Watching the replay, Burnett is staring at the direction of McNabb’s helmet, but McNabb was eyeing a wide receiver nowhere near him. Westbrook broke out very late, but by that time Mcnabb turned toward the tight end.
  • I saw this all game, and it was apparent on the Eagles first possession: the cornerbacks gave a ton of room for the Eagles receivers. DeSean Jackson gains 7 yards because Adam Jones gave him a 10 yard cushion. Why was this the game plan?
  • DeSean Jackson makes Anthony Henry look silly on a slant play. Jackson was out about 8 yards and then slanted in, which completely fooled Henry. He made a shoelace tackle to stop a touchdown. That play was ruled incomplete, after Jackson fumbled. It looked to me like he caught it.
  • On the Eagles second possession, and this is become apparent, the linebackers look real slow at responding. Zach Thomas didn’t react to Buckhalter leaving the backfield for a screen pass. Thomas was just standing there doing nothing, and Buckhalter ran for an 8 yard first down. On the same play, the Cowboys had Bradie James covering Westbrook who was spread out to the left. What? That’s insane.
  • DeMarcus Ware goes offsides, the Cowboys first penalty.
  • On the very next play, three Cowboys miss a tackle on Westbrook who gains a first down. First, it was Chris Canty who looked to be chop blocked, Ware was blocked well and couldn’t get to him and then it was Anthony Henry who made the most glaring tackling error.
  • The defense ended up holding up on the Eagles second series and held them to a second field goal. 7-6 Cowboys.
  • Rookie Mike Jenkins makes a good play tipping a bomb to Lewis.
  • At the end of the first quarter is the bogus pass interference call on Anthony Henry. Clearly, Greg Lewis pulled Henry into him, and the call should have been offensive pass interference. Dirty play by Lewis worked.

Second Quarter

  • The Eagles score on their first play after the bogus PI call on a screen to Westbrook. It looks like Mike Jenkins is held and cannot make the tackle. 14-13 Dallas.
  • In an unbelievable play, some no name receiver for the Eagles covered by Terence Newman makes the catch and then gets clocked by Pat Watkins, jarring the ball loose, but it falls back into the no name receiver’s hands. Nothing you can do about that luck, but a good hit by Watkins. Newman got beat on that play.
  • On the very next play is the infamous DeSean “I’m an idiot” Jackson play. Both Adam Jones and Roy Williams get slaughtered on this play, but you can tell this was Williams’ territory. He got completely burned. Nowhere near Jackson and he easily “scored.” 27-21 Eagles after the Eagles ram it in from the one. I have to say, watching that replay over and over, ROY WILLIAMS looked HORRIBLE. A turtle could run faster than he did. It was not pretty.
  • Greg Ellis and Jay Ratliff both miss a sack on Mcnabb, who makes a great play by breaking loose and running for a big first down. Mcnabb talked a little smack after the run and the announcers were glorifying him.
  • Kevin Burnett makes a clean hard hit on McNabb, but it doesn’t phase him and he almost broke loose again. The Eagles settled for a field goal, 30-21 Eagles.

I think I saw where Jason Witten separated his shoulder, on the bomb catch that allowed the Cowboys to score 3 points to make it 30-24. No wait. I re-watched it and it was his left shoulder that gets pounded on that great play. I still don’t see where he injured his shoulder.

There’s no need to examine the second half because the Cowboys held the Eagles to one touchdown.

Overall, the defense did not play THAT bad. I was actually a bit encouraged watching the game tape. Several calls and a bad play from Tony Romo gave the Eagles two of those touchdowns. That’s an important point. Penalties also seemed to come at the wrong time in the first half, including a face mask penalty when it seemed Dallas was about to get the ball back nearing the end of the first half down by 6. There were some very good plays: Mike Jenkins tipped pass, sacks from Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware, and two from Greg Ellis. The most glaring concern was why the cornerbacks gave so much cushion to the wide receivers and that the linebackers seemed a bit slow to reacting to plays.

For a review of what the Cowboys did in the second half, go here.