Eagles-Cowboys: What you need to know
November 11, 2012, 8:00 am
Eagles (3-5) vs. Dallas Cowboys (3-5)
4:25 p.m. on FOX
The Eagles’ biggest rival comes to town at a time when the Birds never needed a win more badly. Monday night’s 28-13 loss to the Saints extended their losing streak to four — they haven’t won since their 19-17 win over the Giants on Sept. 30 — and everyone appears to be on the hot seat. The current skid of five losses in their last six games is their worst since 2006.
The Cowboys enter equally as dismal but equally as desperate. They’ve dropped four of five, including their last two. Both teams missed the postseason a year ago, and Sunday’s loser may be in dire danger of falling short again. The Eagles have not missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons since 1997-99.
Out: WR Mardy Gilyard (hamstring), RB Chris Polk (toe), G Danny Watkins (ankle)
Probable: S Nate Allen (hamstring), WR Jason Avant (back), CB Brandon Boykin (toe), OLB Akeem Jordan (groin), G Evan Mathis (knee), RB LeSean McCoy (illness), S David Sims (foot)
Out: C Phil Costa (ankle), S Matt Johnson (hamstring), DE Sean Lissemore (ankle), RB DeMarco Murray (foot)
Doubtful: LB Dan Connor (neck)
Questionable: CB Mike Jenkins (back)
Probable: WR Dez Bryant (hip), RB Felix Jones (knee), NT Jay Ratliff (ankle)
Total: 374 yards per game (10th, NFL)
Passing: 243 ypg (14th)
Rushing: 131 ypg (10th)
No team had been held to less than 24 points by the Saints all season until last week, when the Eagles’ offensive scoring woes continued. The team averages just 16.6 points per game, tied for 29th in the league, despite an offense which generates the 10th-most yards per game on average.
The song remains the same — turnovers kill this team. They’ve turned the ball over at least twice in six of eight games, and their 19 giveaways are eclipsed only by Kansas City (29). But they’re worst in the league in red zone turnovers, with six. The Lions (5) are the only other team with more than three in that area. Michael Vick has been responsible for 14 turnovers on his own — the third-most for an individual player behind only Matt Cassel (18) and Tony Romo (15).
But perhaps the biggest death blow to the Eagles’ O came when Todd Herremans went down in the first quarter of Monday night’s game. Wednesday, he was placed on Injured Reserve with a dislocated cuboid bone in his right foot. Herremans was the third offensive lineman to go down this year, after five-time Pro Bowl tackle Jason Peters and center Jason Kelce. Expectedly, pass protection has suffered. Despite his ability to escape pressure, Vick has been sacked 27 times — tied for third-most in the league among passers.
Total: 383 ypg (6th)
Passing: 299 ypg (3rd)
Rushing: 83 ypg (29th)
The Cowboys have floundered in many of the same ways the Eagles have this season. They have scored just 18.8 points per game (26th, NFL), turned the ball over 19 times (tied, 30th) and yet rack up the sixth-most yards per game in the league.
Tony Romo has passed for 2,394 yards, good for among quarterbacks, but he chucked away 13 interceptions, including five in an embarrassing Monday night loss to the Bears in Week 4 and four against the Giants two weeks ago. He’s only six picks away from tying his career high in the category. He’s also thrown just 10 touchdowns in comparison. Not counting last season’s Week 16 contest, in which he played just four snaps, Romo has thrown an interception in each of his eight other career regular season games against the Birds.
On the ground, Dallas has struggled. DeMarco Murray, who leads the teams with 330 yards on 75 carries, will not play Sunday. Thus, the bulk of the workload will likely go to Felix Jones, who averaged just 3.6 yards per attempt on 58 rushes for 207 yards.
Total: 344 ypg (15th)
Passing: 229 ypg (15th)
Rushing: 114 ypg (16th)
The 371 yards the Eagles gave up against New Orleans was actually their lowest yardage total for an opponent since Week 5 against Pittsburgh, which signals as to how bad the defense has been this season. They did manage two to force two turnovers to bring their season total up to 10, which still ranks tied for 22nd in the league.
If the Eagles have a strength on D, it’s been limiting success on third downs. Though the Saints converted 5 of 9 third downs, the Birds have held opposing teams to a 35-percent rate on the season. Continuing that trend will be key against the Cowboys, who are a remarkable 43 percent on third-down opportunities.
Don’t necessarily expect the Birds to get to quarterback Tony Romo very often. The Cowboys quarterback has been sacked just 14 times, and the Eagles have gotten to opposing passers just 11 times.
Total: 313 ypg (5th)
Passing: 206 ypg (5th)
Rushing: 107 ypg (15th)
This Rob Ryan-led unit is very likely to pose of problem for the end zone-anemic Eagles. It starts with DeMarcus Ware, the Cowboys’ 6-foot-4, 253-pound defensive end who’s been the six straight Pro Bowls. He’s tied for the NFL lead in sacks with nine, and he’s combined for 35 over the previous two seasons as well. He should easily find his way through a porous, broken Eagles’ O-line.
If the Eagles can find a way to hold off Ware — though as of late they haven’t, as he’s racked up nine sacks in his last three games against them — they stand a chance against a mediocre Dallas D that has allowed 22..6 points per game and has forced just eight turnovers, tied for second-fewest in the league.
Overall meeting: 107th (Cowboys lead series, 59-47)
Last meeting: Eagles 20, Cowboys 7 — Dec. 24, 2011 at Cowboys Stadium
The Birds blanked the Cowboys for 59 minutes, 53 seconds before Stephen McGee, who had replaced an injured Tony Romo early in the game, hooked up with Miles Austin for a four-yard score. The Eagles fell short of recording their first shutout since 1996, but the touchdown mattered little in the result — a 20-7 Eagles victory in the season’s penultimate game.
To open the game, the Eagles marched 80 yards in eight plays, culminating in a 13-yard strike from Michael Vick to Brent Celek. They scored again, on a Vick-to-Jeremy Maclin hookup, with less than a minute left in the first half to take a 14-0 lead into the locker room. A field goal each in the third and fourth quarters brought the Birds to their total for the day.
The win improved the Eagles, who were eliminated from postseason contention earlier in the day, to 7-8. Vick threw 293 yards on 18-for-32 passing. On the ground, McCoy carried 13 times for just 35 yards, while Ronnie Brown tallied 33 on eight rushes. DeSean Jackson led all receivers with 90 yards on five receptions. The Eagles swept their season series with Dallas for the first time since 2006.
Punter Mat McBriar, who took over punting duties for the Birds prior to Week 4, spent his first eight NFL seasons with the Cowboys, earning Pro Bowl honors in 2006 and 2010.
Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles coached the Cowboys’ secondary from 2005-07 under Bill Parcells and Wade Phillips.
Former Eagles linebacker Ernie Sims, who spent the 2010 season with the Birds, has played in Dallas’ last two contests and picked up 10 tackles.
Cowboys offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Bill Callahan served as the Eagles’ O-line coach from 1995-97 under Ray Rhodes.
Dallas head coach Jason Garrett was born in Abington, Pa.
In case you missed some of this week's stories …
Eagles' vers playing for careers, not just season
Depleted Eagles' O-line bracing for Ware
Didinger's Eagles-Cowboys scouting report
Which QB would you rather have: Vick or Rome?
DRC: League see Eagles' defense as 'pretty'
Eagles' D sees wrong kind of change under Bowles
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Posted 11 November 2012 - 08:39 AM