It was December 28th the last time these two teams met at Lincoln Field, and as cold as the Philadelphia weather three days after Christmas, so are the fans. There isn’t a Cowboys fan on the planet that doesn’t know the outcome of that game, the Cowboys were a no show for that game and the Eagles trounced them 44-6. Not only do Cowboys fan remember that game vividly, but there isn’t a Cowboys veteran in the locker room who could even begin to try to allow that game to slip past the outer gaps of his memory. This week the Cowboys are playing for two things, first in the NFC East, and maybe even more importantly, their redemption.
That sounds great, and builds the game up to an almost unreal level, but I think the biggest key for the Cowboys to win not only this week but the games immediately following is remembering there are 16 games in a season. What you don’t want is the players to put all of their emotion into this one game, and be drained emotionally next week and the week following.
Instead I believe this Cowboys team needs to further separate its self from last season’s team and come into the game with an air of confidence, that what they have built on the last three weeks can and will continue their success through the rest of the season. This Cowboys team needs to come in with the look of Professional Stoicism, backed up by the confidence that they can and will shut down each phase of the Eagles’ game plan systematically.
OFFENSE: The Cowboys haven’t scored all season on their first drive yet, against the Eagles they need to. The Eagles have been outstanding in the first quarter in nearly all of their games this season, and with their quick strike capability the Cowboys are going to have to be able to either keep up the pace or dictate a new pace this starts on the first drive and will continue through out the game. Establishing the run early is going to be a major key in this game.
The Eagles like to blitz and will do so often, an effective running attack can keep the blitz at bay as the Eagles will need to adjust as to not allow too much ground to be lost on long run plays. The Eagles have one of the top pass defenses in the league, and are third for most interceptions with 14. The Cowboys will need to continue to take what the Defense gives them and that will require Romo to continue to spread the ball around and be mindful of his chuck-down guys underneath. Eventually continuous success underneath will open passing lanes deep, where Miles Austin big play ability might continue to be an asset for this Cowboys Teams.
DEFENSE: This is going to be an area the Cowboys are going to have to be systematic. The Eagles are 13th passing and 14th on the run. This is a team that likes to pass and run the ball, and they do so evenly. It’s always sound logic to stop the run first. Forcing the Eagles to pass puts the game in McNabb’s hands, and that can be just as effective.
However, on average good QBs complete roughly 60% of all of their passes, while elite running backs can go for positive gains 90% of the time. If you can stop the run, then you force the team into a more favorable percentage game. The Cowboys are 13th in the league at stopping the run, and this is where the Cowboys front line will need to earn their money this week. Once the run game is put to a stop the task will not become easier, LB Bobby Carpenter will likely have to continue doing a good job against a quality tight end in Brent Celek, while S Gerald Sensabaugh and Ken Hamlin will be providing help over the top to help cover WR DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin who have provided Donovan McNabb with lots of deep threat targets.
SPECIAL TEAMS: This is an area that doesn’t need much to write about. The Cowboys Special Teams unit just needs to continue to do what they have done so far all season. If Patrick Crayton can run another one back for a Touchdown great, but those kinds of things don’t happen in every game.