Cowboys Huddle-Up: Keys For The Eagles
It's 8-3 vs. 8-3 when the Dallas Cowboys host the Eagles on Thanksgiving. Here are four Keys to Cowboys Victory ...
1. CONTROL THE CLOCK/RUN THE BALL
The Cowboys hold the ball for an average of 32:30 per game this season, which is good for fourth in the NFL. The best way to control the clock is to run the ball effectively and consistently, which makes sense considering the fact that the Cowboys boast the second-ranked rushing attack and the NFL's leading rusher in DeMarco Murray.
"I've been a big fan of DeMarco for a while,'' says LeSean McCoy, the Eagles' Pro Bowl runner. "I always felt like if he got the ball more he could do some special things."
On the flip-side, the Eagles hold the ball for an average of 27:31 per game (30th in the NFL). The only two teams with a lower time of possession are the Titans (2-9) and Raiders (1-10). It's rare that a winning team is ranked so low in this statistic category, so how is it that the Eagles are 8-3? Well, that leads me to my next "key"...
2. PROTECT THE FOOTBALL
The reason the Eagles have been able to survive with such a low time of possession is because of the fact that they consistently create turnovers.
In their three losses, the Eagles have forced a combined two turnovers. Comparatively, the Eagles have forced at least two turnovers in six of their eight wins and have 17 total turnovers in their wins this season.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys have done a much better job of protecting the football in recent weeks. Tony Romo has thrown just one interception in his last five games and has thrown just three in the last 10 games. DeMarco Murray also seems to have finally gotten over his fumbleitis over the last few games.
The Eagles live off of turnovers. Protect the football and you have a good chance of beating them.
3. KEEP MCCOY & SPROLES IN CHECK
The Eagles have one of the more dynamic RB duo's in the NFL in LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles. Both backs are capable of taking it the distance on any given play. However, Dallas has the 13th-ranked run defense and has done a much better job of stopping opposing rushers this season. If the Cowboys can take away the run, or at least limit their success on the ground, Sanchez will be forced to carry the team - something he is not capable of doing.
Put the game in Sanchez's hands and he is going to make mistakes. In fact, Sanchez has thrown multiple interceptions in three of the last four games and has thrown at least one interception in 10 of the last 13 games. Sanchez will give the Cowboys some opportunities, it's just up to the defense to take advantage, which they've been pretty good at this year. The Cowboys have a turnover in each of the last 10 games and have 11 different defenders with at least one takeaway.
4. LIMIT BIG PLAYS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
My main concern in this game is how the Cowboys special teams will hold up against a very productive Philly group.
Dallas has allowed two blocked FG's and has given up way too many long returns this season, including a few to New York on Sunday night. Now, they will now have to face one of the most dangerous returners in the NFL in Darren Sproles. Sproles has two punt return TD's this year, along with six returns of 20+ yards and three of 40+ yards. To make matters worse, the Cowboys will be without their leading special-teams tackler Jeff Heath, who broke his thumb vs the Giants. This could be the most important key to this game. Dallas must figure out a way to slow down the Eagles dangerous special teams unit. Nothing can kill momentum like a quick score on a kick or punt return.
Dallas' Dwayne Harris would, however, like it to be known that he holds his own in this areas, too.
'I do a lot of things on special teams that probably no guy in the NFL is better at (in terms of) doing all that,'' Harris tells Fish.
If you're still pessimistic about the Cowboys chances in this game, here are a few more quick stats that will hopefully bring you some optimism heading into this Turkey Day matchup.
- Tony Romo has a 6-1 record on Thanksgiving. And notes Jason Witten, "he's playing as good as I've ever seen him play.''
- Tony Romo has won three straight games vs the Eagles while throwing for six touchdowns, two interceptions, a 71.4 completion percentage and a 113.9 QB rating.
- Mark Sanchez has a 16-17 record on the road. His road QB rating is 75.2 and completion percentage is 56.1 while throwing for 34 touchdowns and 38 interceptions, as well as 14 lost fumbles.
- Mark Sanchez is 4-9 on the road vs. teams with a winning record.
- Worried about the Cowboys 16th-ranked defense vs the Eagles fourth-ranked offense? Keep in mind that last season the Cowboys 32nd-ranked defense was able to hold the Eagles' second-ranked offense to just three points ... IN Philadelphia.
Fish reports that we should look for Dez Bryant drag routes from the slot this week, running behind a tight end. A legal "pick,'' if you will. ... CowboysHQ was told by a source on Monday afternoon that Jack Crawford would join Jeff Heath in needing thumb surgery. The procedures were performed today ... Josh Brent says he's "getting close'' to where he needs to be. Of course the first place he needs to be is off of the Cowboys scout team, where he spent all last week. ... Need a one-stop-shopping review of all our Mavs news and views? Here you go! ... If the Cowboys can find a way to step in the four key areas that I mentioned above, they should have a very good chance of coming away with their ninth win of the season - which is something they haven't been able to do since the 2009 season.
“It’s not like we’re going to have a cornucopia and a turkey on the sideline. We’re just going to go play football.’’ - Eagles coach Chip Kelly on the Thanksgiving significance.
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