NFC East Roundup: Collins A Rising Star

Plus: Which running back is having trouble carrying the football?

Landon Collins. (USA TODAY Sports)

Landon Collins. (USA TODAY Sports)

With the Eagles preparing to take on the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, let’s take a spin around the NFC East and check in with the three other teams in the division.

Let’s begin over in London, where the Giants scored 17 unanswered points to defeat the Los Angeles Rams, 17-10. Eli Manning threw for 196 yards, and Rashad Jennings ran for the only offensive touchdown, as well as 25 yards on 13 carries. But the Giants defense was the main reason for the win, as they picked of Case Keenum four times, including one returned for a touchdown.

Two of those picks came from Landon Collins, including the pick-six in the third quarter. Paul Schwartz of the New York Post writes that the second-year’s stardom rose during his big game overseas.

The Giants expect Collins to make jaw-rattling hits, and he was flying all over the pitch, er, field, laying waste to Rams ball-carriers. This is nothing especially new for Collins. He has had great difficulty coming up with interceptions, failing to track the ball in the air and, when he gets his hand on it, failing to secure it for the takeaway.

After a devastating drop of a rare Tom Brady duck doomed the Giants in a 2015 loss to the Patriots, Collins sounded nonplussed when he said, “It wasn’t my time.’’ If so, his time is now.

Ordinary players do not do what Collins did in the second quarter with the Giants trailing 10-3 and floundering. Rams quarterback Case Keenum deserved better than to have his second-quarter pass glance off the hands of Tavon Austin, and Collins racing in to snare the deflection was a good play. What happened next was spectacular, as his winding, twisting, field-shifting 44-yard touchdown return contained a little bit of everything and caused a whole lot of wonderment.

“I saw the heart. No matter what, he wasn’t going down, running through guys, shifting field, you never seen Landon cut back like that,’’ said [Dominique] Rodgers-Cromartie, who also had two interceptions. “That’s usually a corner thing, me and Jackrabbit [Janoris Jenkins]. To see him do it, that was amazing.’’

A hip pointer injury to Odell Beckham Jr. slowed his production, but as Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News writes, two catches in the second half helped the Giants win the game.

First, he caught an 18-yard pass down the left sideline on a perfect pass from Eli Manning from the Giants’ end zone, digging the offense out from treacherous field position and slowly turning the field.

Then, despite trying a one-handed catch that he dropped and should have used two hands to corral, Beckham redeemed himself on Big Blue’s game-winning scoring drive: Manning essentially blindly launched a jumpball to Beckham into double-coverage on third-and-3, and Beckham made the 22-yard catch down to the Rams’ 6-yard line to set up Rashad Jennings’ decisive TD run.

“That was tough. The first one we threw, the ball kind of got up on me fast, and I kind of just reacted to it,” Beckham said of the one-handed attempt. “The next one (in double-coverage), we needed the play. We needed to do something, and I had the opportunity. Thankfully, I came down with it. I’m not going to lie, it was tough.”

Victor Cruz led the Giants with five catches for 55 yards, including three catches for 34 yards on the Giants’ lone first-half scoring drive, highlighted by a 25-yard completion on which Cruz deked the Rams’ E.J. Gaines.

The Giants are on the bye this week.

Moving on to the Redskins, who fell late in Detroit to the Lions, 20-17. Kirk Cousins threw for 301 yards and a touchdown, but fumbled twice, losing one to the Detroit. Cornerback Josh Norman left the game with a concussion.

Running back Matt Jones also fumbled in the game, his eighth fumble in 20 career games. Head coach Jay Gruden says Jones has to fix this problem, pens Tommy Chalk of the Washington Times.

Jones’ most costly fumble came on the Lions’ seven yard line — almost certainly taking points off the board for Washington on the Redskins‘ second drive of the game.

Several Redskins players didn’t directly blame Jones’ fumble on the loss of the game, but did admit that it certainly had a role in the result.

“It played its part in the game,” Redskins’ running back Robert Kelley said. “But we came back in the second half and had a chance to win. I think we’ve just got to pull it out.”

Redskins defensive end Chris Baker didn’t believe the fumble completely changed the momentum of the game.

“This is a game full of ups and downs, you know, you’ve just got to go out there and make it happen,” Baker said. “If the offense turns the ball over, it’s our job to hold their offense to three points or less, and I think we did a pretty good job of holding their offense in check.”

With the offense struggling, the defense kept the Redskins in the game, until late in the fourth quarter, opines Jerry Brewer of the Washington Post.

It’s a mentality that Washington knew it had to account for in the final 65 seconds. And the defense failed. After keeping the game close despite two lost Washington fumbles, it failed. After allowing Cousins, who finished with 301 passing yards and a touchdown, to direct a comeback that would’ve been his defining moment of the season’s first half, the defense stumbled.

No, it didn’t have cornerback Josh Norman, who suffered a concussion. Yes, his absence limited how aggressive [Joe] Barry could be. Still, what Barry chose to do was too vanilla and too easy for Stafford to dissect.

“I think, in hindsight, we should’ve blitzed seven or eight, but we played coverage that we’ve been playing for a long time,” Coach Jay Gruden said. “The guys are comfortable with it. Do I regret not rushing more than three or four on that drive? Maybe, but we’ll have to look at the film and critique it later.”

When they look and critique, they’ll have a nuanced perspective. The defense played well, again, despite injuries and limitations. But for a team that prefers the final score above all other evaluations, the ending stings.

The Redskins make the trip to London next week to take on the Bengals.

And finally in Dallas, where the Cowboys had a bye this week and prepare to host the Eagles next week on Sunday Night Football.

Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott leads the league with 703 rushing yards after six games. But he doesn’t want to talk about potentially breaking Eric Dickerson‘s rookie rushing record, as Charean Williams from the Fort Worth Star Telegram reports.

Elliott would rather talk about Doug Free, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, Ron Leary and Tyron Smith than he would Dickerson.

“Because it’s not important,” Elliott said of the rookie record. “You guys want to write stories about the rookie rushing record, and it’s about this team, honestly. It’s not about a record. That’s not what we’re focused on. We’re a team, and honestly I don’t want any attention being put towards that. It should be about this team, and it should be about these guys. It should be about our relationship. It shouldn’t be about records.”

But, he was asked, isn’t a rushing record about the whole team and for the whole team? Doesn’t it speak volumes about what the offense as a whole has accomplished?

“It would be, because it takes 11 guy. It would be our record,” Elliott said.

Cornerback Byron Jones talked about the defense and who should start at quarterback against the Eagles in an interview on a Dallas sports radio show.

On the improvement on defese: We’re getting turnovers every single game and usually it’s during critical situations. … [Rod] Marinelli‘s always on our back about taking the ball away. He doesn’t stop. Even walking past him in the hallway, he’s telling me: “Take the ball away.” Every single time he always brings it to your attention.

He’s actually very friendly but when he’s on the field, he’s a demon – especially when you’re not playing right. He’s got a low voice, doesn’t yell per say but when he does get mad, he has a slow, quiet tone and brings stuff to your attention. “It’s my job to bring stuff to a man’s attention…” Whatever it’s going to be, he’ll let you know.

The guy’s serious. Don’t mess with him.

On who should start at QB: To be honest, just put me in. I was a great – OK, a decent – high school quarterback. I’m pretty accurate within 30 yards. Why not give me the shot? [On the emergency list], I’d say I’m top 10. [Mark Sanchez] is slightly better than me, but I’ve got some athleticism on him.

The Cowboys hope to stay atop the NFC East with a win on Sunday against the Eagles.