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Posted: Sunday January 10, 2010 12:04AM; Updated: Sunday January 10, 2010 11:56AM
John P. Lopez
John P. Lopez>INSIDE THE NFL

NFC wild-card round grades: Eagles-Cowboys

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Grading the performances from the Cowboys' 34-14 win over the Eagles on Saturday in Arlington, the second of four wild-card weekend games.

Philadelphia Eagles

Quarterbacks: Donovan McNabb was off-target early and often. Too many things were working against him -- protection was horrible, the Cowboys' secondary hounded the receivers and he was throwing off-target. The best moment for any Eagles quarterback was Michael Vick hitting Jeremy Maclin for a 76-yard touchdown. Vick also made a bone-headed decision that led to a crucial fumble early. Grade: F

Running Backs: Until the last play of the third quarter, when things already were well decided, Brian Westbrook had no carries, no receptions, no yards. It was perhaps the sad end to a stellar career. The Eagles' rushing attack was even sadder, all night long. Grade: D

Receivers: No matter the rivalry, no matter the stakes, no matter the emotions involved, there comes a point when receivers have to make plays for their quarterback -- not the other way around. DeSean Jackson, Maclin and Brent Celek did nothing in the first half, outside of Maclin's play on Vick's surprise pass. There were some decent numbers, but little impact. Maclin also showed stupid rookie immaturity. Grade: C-

Offensive Line: You could make the case the Eagles offensive line lost this one even before kickoff. These guys were so bad all year, the Cowboys clearly game-planned for it: With no running-game, get physical with the Eagles receivers and tee-off on the quarterbacks. Philly's O-line was manhandled all night. Grade: F

Defensive Line: If there was one unit that seemed ready to play, it was the D-line. But only briefly. Tracy White's sack of Romo on the first Cowboys drive pushed Dallas out of scoring range. The Eagles' D-line had Romo on the run early, as well. Ultimately, though, they gave way to the powerful Cowboys run game and were pushed around like children playing a man's game. Grade: C-

Linebackers: A couple of big early sacks could not mask bad tackling and bad effort. Note to Eagles linebackers: That Felix Jones kid is pretty fast. You may want to gang-tackle. One other thing: These guys were abused by the Cowboys' short-passing game and wide receiver screens, just as they were a week ago. They learned nothing from Week 17. Grade: D

Defensive Backs: The Eagles secondary was overwhelmed from the opening whistle. Worse, they accounted for the vast majority of big penalties against Philly, including a huge early pass interference call that set up a Cowboys' touchdown. They also dropped a pair of sure interceptions. Grade: D

Special Teams: Kickoff coverage was fantastic. Then again, there weren't a lot of kickoffs. That's about all you can say. Grade: B-

Coaching: Until last week, the Eagles had won six games in a row and were the hottest team in the leauge. What happened? Eagles coaches could mask deficiencies for only so long. And once the Cowboys exposed weaknesses in Week 17, there was no counter-punch. By the way, enough with the Michael Vick experiment. It didn't work. Grade: D-

Dallas Cowboys

Quarterbacks: Does Tony Romo look like he's lost weight? Or is it just the million-pounds worth of pressure and burden that was resting on his shoulders being lifted? He managed the game, made plays and carried his team to an even higher level of play. Oh, yeah. He won. Take back everything you said about Romo, America. He earned this one. Grade: A+

Running Backs: As a group, Cowboys backs punished the Philly defense early, broke off some nice gains and set up the passing game with consistent excellence. And then there was Felix Jones. The Human Exclamation Point did it again with a back-breaking 73-yarder late in the third-quarter. Grade: A

Receivers: Miles Austin was not the magnificent force he's been of late, but more than adequate. Most significantly, there was a Roy Williams sighting and this X-factor of sorts could mean trouble for any Cowboys opponent. Grade: B+

Offensive Line: Nearly 200 yards rushing and more than 200 yards passing. Offensive linemen look at numbers like that and go home happy. A couple of sacks notwithstanding, it was a perfect night for the Cowboys' big uglies. Grade: A

Defensive Line: Wow is the operative word. The Cowboys defensive front had Donovan McNabb on the run all night and sufficiently stuffed the running game. The numbers don't even begin to tell the story here. The Cowboys abused the Philly O-line. Grade: A

Linebackers: Virtually every big play on the defensive side of the ball was made by a Cowboys linebacker. From Bobby Carpenter's key fumble recovery of Vick's fumble early to Bradie James' clinching fumble recovery late -- and all the tackles and sacks in-between -- this was a clinic on tackling and play-making. Grade: A+

Defensive Backs: Not to splash a bucket of cold water on the Cowboys' joyous night, but if Brett Favre was watching this one, he had to notice that when the Eagles did have protection, there were plays to be made. The open chances mostly came in garbage time, but plays were made thanks to bad tackling in the Cowboys secondary. Also, there were a few blown coverages. Grade: C

Special Teams: Now you know why the Cowboys drafted kicker David Buehler. The Eagles never got a foothold on field position, thanks to Buehler's huge leg on kickoffs. Shaun Suisham was perfect, as was tackling and coverage. Grade: A

Coaching: Sometimes, coaches out-think themselves. The Cowboys staffers did not, which is why they duplicated their Week 17 romp over the Eagles. Jason Garrett did not greatly alter the offensive gameplan from last week, using quick screens to set up downfield throws and leaning on the power running game. Defensively, the Cowboys also stayed with a harassing attack on McNabb, knowing the Eagles could not run. And give Wade Phillips credit. He won a huge game in his career. Grade: A

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