OF ALL THE end-game scenarios possible for Sunday night's Eagles visit to Dallas, the most unlikely might have been the one where the Eagles' offense saves the battered, tattered defense by holding the ball for the final 4 minutes and 22 seconds, running LeSean McCoy down the Cowboys' throats.
The Eagles are not known as a running team under Andy Reid, you'll be shocked to learn. The fact that they ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game coming out of the weekend is often dismissed as the byproduct of Michael Vick's rambling wizardry. Playing into that perception was that McCoy managed just 15 yards on six carries in the first half Sunday.
Afterward, McCoy noted that patience is a virtue. That's particularly true for a running back working under the Reid-Marty Mornhinweg regime. His 10 second-half carries netted 134 yards. The gaudy one was the 56-yarder that set up a field goal, as the Eagles worked back from a 20-14 deficit. But equally critical, and maybe more amazing, were the 12-, 19-, 13-, and 6-yard runs McCoy reeled off in making sure the Cowboys never got a chance for any more Jason Witten touchdowns after they got within 30-27.
This all had something to do with the strength McCoy gained in the offseason, but it also had to do with his blockers. The last drive was stunning, in that Dallas had to be thinking the Eagles wanted to run, though left guard Todd Herremans noted the Cowboys never brought down a safety to try to shore up their "D."
"We basically were running the same plays over and over, and they were unable to stop 'em," tight end Brent Celek marveled last night on Comcast Sportsnet's "Daily News Live."
* Dimitri Patterson takes too many penalties. It was kinda distressing to hear him dismiss the face-mask grab that kept alive the first Dallas touchdown drive Sunday night as "me being aggressive," and opine that his later illegal-contact penalty "could have gone either way," Patterson feeling the receiver ran into him. But Patterson does have three interceptions in his six starts since replacing Ellis Hobbs, four for the season. His pick Sunday was a huge play for a struggling defense.
* No catches again for Brent Celek. Yeah, they needed him (and more) to stay in and help the o-line with pass blocking. But I thought some short throws underneath would have worked real well against the Cowboys' defense. Stat sheet says Celek was targeted twice; I only recall one of those, the ball Mike Vick tried to force deep down the middle to Celek that got picked off. The other one apparently was a ball batted down at the line.
* I think I said this before, but it bears repeating: The special-teams coverage units added Colt Anderson, and now Bobby April is a genius again. Funny how that works. In 2002, Keith Adams came over from the Cowboys on waivers and did the same thing for John Harbaugh, whose coverage teams had gotten off to a terrible start.
* I've been to Dallas a bunch of times now, and it still seems odd to me after the game, when they hand out the transcript of Jerry Jones' press conference, where the owner discusses how this guy or that guy played and how his coach did. You want to know what's really wrong with the Cowboys, start right there. Yeah, Jerry once played at Arkansas. So did Shawn Andrews. Everybody who played college football isn't NFL general-manager material. It's always good to have a healthy respect for what you don't know. Not sure Jerry ever takes that concept into consideration.
* The stats don't really say so, but the Eagles did a solid job of stopping the run when they needed to. Subtract Jon Kitna's 27 yards on three carries and Miles Austin's 26-yard end-around, and Dallas' "real" runners got 57 yards on 20 carries.
That Terry Gregson didn't need to be present for a diving penalty to be assessed?
After a 1-for-6 start on third-down conversions, the Eagles converted three of their last five, starting right near the end of the third quarter, which was an excellent time to start, as it turned out.
Michael Vick was not flawless Sunday - he held the ball too long and made some poor decisions in the face of relentless Dallas pressure - but with yet another fourth-quarter comeback to win, Vick further cemented his status as the leader of the offense.
"Mike, the way he plays, the way he fights, getting hit like that, he drives you," LeSean McCoy said Sunday night.
Afterward, Vick knew exactly what he was expected to say about DeSean Jackson's decision to fool around and dive backward into the end zone instead of being content to merely score the go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown in a conventional manner. Vick said he was upset about it, noted that the penalty assessed on the ensuing kickoff could have been devastating (though it wasn't, thanks to exceptional coverage).
But Vick also knew to lighten his criticism by reckoning that if you take a hitch pass 91 yards for a touchdown, maybe you should be able to do whatever you want in celebration. That was the right note to hit, acknowledging that Jackson's talent saved the day, while also holding him accountable for what could have been a game-altering mistake.
As the Eagles try to navigate the minefield of DeSean's contract unhappiness, Vick is a huge weapon in their arsenal. Jackson has to know playing with Vick will enhance his stats, his money and his fame in the long run. Plus, Vick isn't under contract after this season, but isn't worrying about it.
BTW, Vick was asked about referees' treatment of hits on him, last night during his weekly Virginia Beach radio appearance on the "Tony Mercurio Show." "I don't want to make that an issue," Vick said. "I'm going to continue to play my game. Everyone has their own style of play. I'm not going to beg the refs for calls. They just do what's appropriate at the time. That is something that I don't want to talk about."
On the noncall when he was hit at the sideline by Anthony Spencer, the play when Andy Reid yanked off his headset and got in the officials' faces, Vick said: "I had one foot out of bounds. There was no room to turn up on the sideline. The refs didn't make the call. I didn't complain. I just continued to play the game."