The Eagles offense lays down the smack on Dallas and their brash defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, 34-7

By Jeff Labrecque
Updated October 31, 2011 at 06:37 AM EDT
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Football Night in America

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Sunday’s NFL games were just the latest example of the sport’s seismic week-to-week swings that enthrall and infuriate devoted face-painting fans. Take last Sunday night’s slaughter, in which New Orleans humiliated Indianapolis, 62-7, and combine that with Dallas’ 34-7 laugher over St. Louis. Now explain how the winless Rams upset the Saints today, 31-21 — without their starting quarterback! — and the Cowboys got torched by the rejuvenated Philadelphia Eagles, 34-7. As the saying goes, on any given Sunday, any team can win. But after another Sunday-night beatdown, we might need a new corollary: On any given Sunday night, you can safely go to sleep at halftime.

St. Louis is enjoying a magical week. Just two days after its baseball team upset the Texas Rangers in the World Series, the Rams showed signs of life after seven straight losses. The Cardinals even showed up at the game with their championship trophy to rally the home team, and hatless manager Tony LaRussa donned a Rams jersey. (He’s no Leo Farnsworth but there’s no arguing with the end result.)

Meanwhile in Denver, last week’s Cinderella hero Tim Tebow turned into a pumpkin against Detroit’s defense, turning the ball over twice and getting sacked seven times in a 45-10 shellacking. And in Baltimore, the inconsistent Ravens had to rally from a 21-point deficit to edge one-win Arizona. During the Football Night in America pregame show, Dan Patrick inadvertently called Ravens QB Joe Flacco, Sacko. It was during a highlight of him being sacked, so I don’t think he intended to insult Flacco by comparing him to the last-place fantasy-football trophy from the sitcom, The League. Because that would just be cruel.

As Patrick and the FNA crew swept through the highlights from their Halloween-decorated set, it was impossible not to realize that today’s games were the final pink-themed affairs to honor national breast-cancer-awareness month. I hope it goes without saying that I salute their effort and honor the cause, but I have to admit I’m ready to retire the pink until next season. In some ways, the pink fashion highlights — wristbands, shoes, towels, chin-straps, etc — felt a little more like the flair scene at Chotchkies with every passing week.

Before the game, Bob Costas sat down with the Cowboys’ brash defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, whose comments about the Eagles ruffled a few feathers in Philly leading up to the game. In his first year in Dallas, Ryan, who’s a physical hybrid of John Madden and Joe Eszterhas, has the Cowboys’ D ranked first in the league, but I’m sure head coach Jason Garrett just loves that his subordinate always has time for a quote or an on-camera interview. Actually, after last night’s collapse, in which Philly’s Michael Vick treated the Dallas defense like dogs picked apart the Dallas defense, Garrett might be grateful that the cameras lingered on his bearded lieutenant so frequently.

Finally, just before kickoff, Costas lobbed some softballs at NBC News’ Brian Williams about his new show, Rock Center, which debuts tomorrow night WITH SPECIAL GUEST JON STEWART!! So, you football fans who apparently love fast food (Subway, Wendy’s, Papa John’s) and violent video games (Call of Duty, Elder Scrolls), clear your schedule for Monday nights at 10 to watch Ted Koppel and Harry Smith!! No, no, there’s no Monday Night Football anymore, why do you ask?

As a curious observer of the Philadelphia sports scene, I take great interest in every Eagles game. This allows me to know whether their head coach, Andy Reid, will be called a genius or an idiot for the next six days on local talk radio. Lately, Reid has been an idiot in the eyes of the Iggle faithful, as he’s been blamed for the team’s failure to live up to their high preseason expectations. No matter that he’s led the team to the playoffs in nine of his 12 seasons in Philly; he’s never won a Super Bowl and his current team is 2-4. Idiot! Ah, but Reid’s teams are a perfect 12-0 in games following a bye-week, and he’s had two weeks to prep for tonight’s showdown… Stay tuned.

NEXT: What has four legs, one hip, and hates cowboys?

On the first play of the game, Rob Ryan sacked Vick in the backfield. Alright, it wasn’t Ryan, but I’m sure he told his players exactly what to do on that particular play. But that was really the last highlight for Dallas. Running back LeSean McCoy quickly ripped through a huge hole for a 21-yard gain, and Vick later found Jeremy Maclin for the game’s first score. On their next drive, McCoy scampered for another 34-yard jaunt, and then punched it in from two yards out to give Philly a 14-0 lead. McCoy was shifty and elusive, but the Eagles offensive line was steamrolling Rob Ryan the Dallas front-seven.

It was just as bad on the other side of the ball: Philly’s D locked down on the Cowboys’ receivers and quarterback Tony Romo completed only four passes in the first half. It was 24-0 at the break, and Dallas never discovered its rhythm. They abandoned their running game once they fell behind by multiple scores, and Romo was inaccurate and overly cautious, dumping the ball underneath repeatedly. McCoy and Vick combined for over 230 yards on the ground, more than three times what the league-leading Rob Ryan had been allowing per game.

Romo finally connected on a 70-yard touchdown strike in the fourth quarter, but by then, the score was already 34-zip, and the NBC cameras were restless. Rob Ryan was no longer interesting, but how could they possibly top a wild-and-wooly defensive coordinator? Hello, Howard Mudd! That’s right, a grizzled old offensive-line coach on crutches after hip-replacement surgery easily tops a self-promoting coordinator who looks like Wolfman Jack. “If you called central casting and said ‘Send me an offensive line coach for a movie,’ they couldn’t send you anyone that good,” said Al Michaels, referring to the 69-year-old Mudd, who’s O-line trampled the Cowboys all night. To be fair, central casting might also ask why you were making such a stupid, no-quadrant movie, by I digress.

So Philadelphia squashed Dallas, 34-7, the fifth straight Sunday night game decided by more than 10 points. McCoy finished with 185 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, many of those yards coming through enormous holes in the line that Howard Mudd sculpted with his own two hands. He, like Andy Reid, is a genius — for six days. ”For the moment, all is good in Philadelphia,” said Michael. “Wait till next week.”

I’ve totally ignored the day’s other heavyweight matchup, but what did you think about Pittsburgh’s 25-17 victory over New England? The Steelers face Baltimore next Sunday, and they owe the Ravens some payback after a week 1 loss. They’d love to give Flacco the Sacko. The Giants scored 10 fourth-quarter points to edge winless Miami, 20-17… relieving Miami fans who were terrified their team was threatening to burn their winning ticket to the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes. Admit it, Fish fans, you were pulling for the Giants late in that game! Lastly, I think it’s time as Americans that we sit down and have a serious conversation about Dallas calling themselves America’s Team. I mean, sure, if you want to use the Cowboys as a metaphor for our struggling economy, fine, I get it. But I don’t think that’s how Cowboys fans see it. Thoughts?

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