Eagles Defense vs. Cowboys Offense

Can the Eagles find a way to stop the playmakers on Dallas' offense? Or will the Cowboys emerge from Thanksgiving as the division leader?


Perhaps it's no small concidence that the Cowboys are 8-0 when scoring 20 or more points, and 0-3 when scoring 19 or less. With the playmakers on offense, if Dallas is held in check through turnovers or just general difficulty moving the ball, they can be beaten. The Giants probably thought they had the Giants buried until incompetence of their own ended up as their undoing.

Barring a five-game slide to end the year (which you can't rule out in this LOLDALLAS world), the Cowboys will finish better than their 8-8 default, amongst a crowded NFC that will include one awful team from the South. 9-7 or 10-6 could miss the postseason among this bunch, and the Cowboys must keep riding strong offensive play. If they're stymied, they're screwed; their defense has been bailed out plenty this year by that offense.

Tony Romo

It may surprise people to know that Romo has just one multi-pick game this season, and it's all the way back in Week 1. Since throwing three to the 49ers in a tormented performance, Romo's thrown just three more picks up until this point. Going back to the Monday night disaster against the Redskins, Romo's thrown eight touchdowns and no picks over this stretch. His key, of course, is avoiding further damage to the fractured portion of his back.

KEY STAT: Since returning from the back injury that caused him to miss a game, Romo has been sacked three times in two games.

DeMarco Murray

Ten games of 100 or more rushing yards have Murray way ahead of the pack in the running for the yardage crown. Since breaking for 141 against the Redskins, Murray's dipped to a 'mere' 100 yards per game: 79 vs. the Cardinals, 100 in London against the Jaguars, and 121 at the Giants. In only one game did Murray average less than four yards a carry: 3.97 against the Seahawks, which still rounds up to the benchmark. The Eagles are rock-solid against the run, though this will be their truest test.

KEY STAT: Murray has not scored a touchdown since October 19; all seven of his scores came at that point and earlier.

Dez Bryant

Six of Bryant's ten touchdowns have come over the last four games, as if the physical receiver didn't pack enough menace. It's going to take only the most bold of press coverage to keep him in check, which hopefully for the Eagles sake means that Bradley Fletcher will stick to Terrance Williams (not that that's any bit more promising). Already targeted 103 times in 11 games, Bryant's the clear first-look on most plays, and keeping him blanketed is unquestionably paramount.

KEY STAT: Bryant only has three 100-yard performances this season, against sub-.500 teams: the Titans, Giants, and Jaguars.

Travis Frederick

The surprising first-round pick last year has served well at center, opening middle lanes for Murray, Joseph Randle, and others to squirt through and pick up big gainers. Although the overachieving Frederick has graded well in the run game, his pass protection been less than stellar. So many images of Romo swerving left and right to avoid oncoming pressure, and that begins with a decay in middle presence. Connor Barwin running loops could be a regular sight Thursday.

KEY STAT: Per PFF, the two games since Romo returned from injury are the first two Frederick's graded well in pass protection since October 12.


Other than letting Delanie Walker make the dreams of some fantasy football players true on Sunday, the Eagles did a mostly-swell job on defense against the Titans. The winning effort included five sacks, two third-quarter fumble recoveries, and a garbage-time interception for Brandon Boykin. It took Zach Mettenberger quite some time to settle into a groove, by which time the Eagles offense (and Josh Huff) established the lead.

If this Eagles team is championship caliber, which contradicts the thought of Ron Jaworski, then this is a game they not only have to win, but prove they can shut down a top-flight offense. If Philadelphia can hold Romo and company under 20 points, it will be a far more impressive statement game than a 27-0 shutout over the incompetent Giants.

Fletcher Cox

Greg Gumbel and Trent Green may have been the first national correspondents to give Cox his due, noting how the big man's teammates hail him as the MVP of the defense. Not hard to see why; his run-stuffing is tops on the defense, and his strong pass rush creates opportunities for others to finish with a negative pass play. Cox may be the most well-rounded Eagles lineman since the late Jerome Brown, and that's something you have to say in hushed tones around these parts.

KEY STAT: Cox is showing tremendous discipline for a third-year player; he has not been penalized since September 21.

Mychal Kendricks

The onus will likely be on speedy Kendricks to cover Jason Witten, an assignment he drew in last season's finale, which resulted in a key early interception. Out of all the linebackers, Kendricks is the leader in pass coverage by a wide margin (one need only see Connor Barwin try to chase Arian Foster to see why). With DeMeco Ryans done, Kendricks' return from the calf strain couldn't have come at a better time; his versatility and maturity are fueling a defense that's shown considerable improvement.

KEY STAT: Opponents have completed 14 of 17 passes in Kendricks' vicinity, but for a mere 75 yards.

Cary Williams

At this point, the scrappy Williams would be better served to cover Bryant rather than the muddled Fletcher. The past three games, Williams' pass coverage has been some of the best football he's ever played. You wouldn't notice in most instances without coaches cam, since most focus goes onto Fletcher's poor play on the other side of the field. If Williams can shut down Bryant to some serious degree (namely forcing three-and-outs), the defense will find it easier to avoid getting gassed as a whole.

KEY STAT: In the past two games, Williams has only been targeted eight times for five catches and 39 yards, compared to Fletcher's 20 targets.

Statistics from Pro Football Focus were used to write this story.

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