NFC East Roundup: A Giant Loss On Defense?

Plus: One NFC East rival wasn't a fan of Ezekiel Elliott's touchdown celebration.

Janoris Jenkins. USA TODAY Sports)

Janoris Jenkins. (USA TODAY Sports)

As the Eagles officially clinched last place in the NFC East, let’s take a spin around the division and find out what’s going on with the rest of the teams in the division.

We’ll begin with the Eagles’ opponent in two days, the New York Giants. They defeated the NFC North leading Detroit Lions at MetLife Stadium, 17-6, on Sunday afternoon. Eli Manning threw for 201 yards and two touchdowns, while rookie Paul Perkins ran for 56 yards on 11 carries. Odell Beckham Jr. had six catches for 64 yards and a touchdown, while rookie Sterling Shepard caught the other touchdown pass. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie picked off Matthew Stafford in the end zone with about two minutes left in the game.

The Giants may be without top cornerback Janoris Jenkins for Thursday night’s game against the Eagles after taking a hit to the back. But he avoided any serious injury, according to Seth Walder of the New York Daily News.

Ben McAdoo described Jenkins’ condition as a “painful bruised back,” which isn’t too bad, all things considered. Tests on Jenkins’ vital organs had all come back negative as of early Monday afternoon, a source said.

“It was a nasty collision,” McAdoo said. “We took every precaution we could afterwards. Everything checked out.”

The head coach said it was “too early to tell” whether Jenkins would be able to suit up against the Eagles. Jenkins was projected as a non-participant had the Giants run a regular practice on Monday.

Despite the poor running game, Paul Perkins has been a breakout star for the Giants this season. As Paul Schwartz of the New York Post writes, it starts with the rookie putting in some extra work after practice.

In the last seven games, Perkins has 66 rushing attempts and his workload is trending upwards. The rookie from UCLA has 26 carries the past two games and is coming off his most productive game: 11 attempts for a season-high 56 yards, an average of 5.1 yards in the 17-6 victory over the Lions. By contrast, starter Rashad Jennings got the ball 18 times against the Lions and produced only 38 yards.

It is growing increasingly clear the most dynamic player on the Giants to hand the ball to is Perkins. He was handled with kid gloves for the first two months of the season, as the Giants wanted to make sure they could trust him to know and fulfill his assignments when the ball was not in his hands, mainly the pass-protection schemes.

Perkins said extra sessions with Eli Manning, the other running backs and the offensive linemen after practice has helped.

“Definitely the game slowing down has been part of me just watching a lot of film and learning from the older guys,’’ Perkins said.

The Giants travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles on Thursday night.

Moving on to the division leading Dallas Cowboys, who defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night, 26-20. Dak Prescott threw for 279 yards and ran for a touchdown, while Ezekiel Elliott ran for 159 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. Dez Bryant led all receivers with 82 yards on eight receptions, and the Cowboys’ defense intercepted Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston three times.

Elliott’s rushing touchdown was followed by the rookie jumping into the big Salvation Army kettle, which garnered a lot of attention. Gil Lebreton of the Fort Worth Star Telegram says the celebration helped bring the youthful Cowboys to life.

In a touch of symbolic whimsy, therefore, Elliott ran for a touchdown in Sunday’s second quarter and provided a reminder. Zeke kept running through the end zone and leaped into one of the Salvation Army red kettles that symbolize the team’s primary charity.

Silly? Well, it did cost the Cowboys 15 yards for a celebrating “with props.”

But it also stoked the crowd of 93,101. This was the offense, these were the youthful Cowboys, that had bolted to the best record in the NFL.

“I will tell you, the Salvation Army should give him the highest award,” owner Jerry Jones joked. “My dream is that the NFL would fine the daylights out of me, and I’m going to take them to the Supreme Court and we’re going to get the Salvation Army a lot of notice.”

Elliott wasn’t fined for the celebration, which he said he would match any fine with a donation to the Salvation Army. But he still donated $21,000 to the charity.

Odell Beckham wasn’t happy about the lack of a fine.

Despite some questionable decisions from Jason Garrett, Bob Sturm of the Dallas Morning News writes the Cowboys’ youth took over, notably David Irving.

Thankfully, from there, David Irving decided to take over another game.  It had been a few weeks for the young man who is one of the best stories on the roster.   He had dominated the second half of the Green Bay game and had quite a impact on the Baltimore game, but he is one of a deep rotation of linemen who have their playing time rationed quite a bit based on the opinions of Rod Marinelli and his staff.  It certainly seems that if everyone is healthy, Irving seldom gets to eat first.  But, on this day, with DeMarcus Lawrence unavailable, Irving was given plenty of looks as the game went along, and just like Green Bay, Tampa Bay will not soon forget its dose of the kid from Iowa State who went completely undrafted in 2015.

His performance exposed the weak right flank of the Tampa offensive line by tossing around former first-round pick Gosder Cherilus on his way to Jameis Winston’s lap again and again.  He was credited with two sacks, five QB hits, and he batted down another pass, emerging as a guy who must not be on the sidelines when a team like this is looking to put its 4 best pass rushers on the field at the same time.  Quite a tremendous effort from an emerging monster.

All in all, it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t comfortable, but the Cowboys earned their 12th win against a nice squad.  They can now lock things up with another home performance the night after Christmas and receive the reward for their fine results, a top seed into the playoffs.

The Cowboys were challenged to put up a big night, and led by three guys who were in college the last time the Cowboys were playing meaningful games in January led by Tony Romo, they each answered the challenge emphatically.

The Cowboys will host the Detroit Lions on Monday night in their final home game of the regular season. They may have DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory back for that one.

And finally to the Washington Redskins, who fell to the Carolina Panthers last night, 26-15. The loss took the Redskins out of the playoffs for the time being with two weeks left in the season. Kirk Cousins passed for 315 yards and an interception, while the run game was atrocious. Cousins led all rushers with 11 yards, while Chris Thompson had 10 yards, and rookie Robert Kelley ran for eight yards on nine carries and a touchdown. The two recorded better stats in the passing game, as Thompson had 26 yards receiving, while Kelley had 47 yards. DeSean Jackson led all pass catchers with seven receptions for 111 yards, while tight end Jordan Reed was ejected in the third quarter for punching Panthers cornerback and former Eagle Kurt Coleman.

The team needed Cousins to have a big game. But he flopped when he was most needed against the league’s worst pass defense, opines Mike Jones of the Washington Post.

Cousins and the offense converted only 2 of 12 third downs. The Redskins went three and out five times in the game — alarming considering that entering the game, they had 15 three and outs all season. The Redskins ventured inside the 20-yard line three times but managed just one touchdown.

The 15 points mustered by the Redskins — a rushing touchdown and three field goals — marked a season low for the NFL’s second-ranked offense.

“I thought they did a really good job,” Cousins said of the Panthers. “I thought defensively they executed really well. Their defensive backs played very well, reacted to routes really well and their linebackers played well. . . . It’s a good defense.”

The Redskins knew that they would have a hard time running the ball against the Panthers. Carolina entered the game with the third-best run defense in the NFL. However, Redskins players and coaches expected to have opportunities for success in the passing game. Carolina’s defense ranked third-worst against the pass.

The loss showed the team’s true identity, writes Deron Snyder of the Washington Times.

Washington picked a terrible time for this dud, facing a Carolina team that had just a 0.0004 chance of making the playoffs, according to the ESPN football power index. The betting odds were roughly 250,000-1 that the Panthers would qualify for a shot to defend their NFC title.

They were the looser team, unencumbered with thoughts of postseason berths and playoff runs. Quarterback Cam Newton was flashing his big smile and passing for 300 yards plus a pair of touchdowns. On the other sideline, Kirk Cousins was being intercepted and losing a strip-sack fumble on his own 1-yard line. He threw for 315 yards but only a 77.9 passer rating compared to Newton’s 101.2.

The frustrating part is as poorly as the Skins played, they were still in the game as the fourth quarter began. Dustin Hopkins’ second of three field goals pulled Washington to within 23-12. It might’ve been closer if Jordan Reed hadn’t thrown a punch on the drive, drawing a 15-yard penalty and ejection. Nonetheless, it was an 11-point game with 14:08 remaining, more than enough time if Cousins & Co. were firing as normal.

They were there for the taking, which has been the case most of the season. We were growing accustomed to the Skins coming through, but it has happened only about half the time. The Skins came close or failed miserably the rest of the time.

The Redskins travel to cold Chicago to take on the Bears on Saturday afternoon.