The Eagles have their first test of the season Monday night when they head to Texas Stadium to take on the Cowboys. The Eagles have beaten the Cowboys many times during the Andy Reid era, even when Dallas was favored to win. Reid boasts a 13-5 record over Big D since he took over the coaching job in 1999.
So what does it take for the Eagles to pull off the upset in Dallas? Here are the things the Eagles have to do to get it done.
1. Pressure, Pressure, Pressure. The Eagles have to do even better at the line of scrimmage than they did against the Rams. In the Eagles upset of Dallas last December, the Eagles sacked Dallas quarterback Tony Romo four times, and forced three turnovers. They need to be even better. Trent Cole needs to come on this week. He had a good game against the Rams, but never hit home with the sacks. He needs to get there this time. Darren Howard needs to continue to improve on what he did against the Rams (two tackles, one for a loss, and half a sack). The defensive tackles played great, and need to have another strong outing. If the Eagles can get in Romo’s face, they will force him to throw the ball early, and the secondary can get those much needed turnovers.
2. Take out Marion Barber. This goes along with the needed pressure. The Eagles need to get up in the line of scrimmage and never let this guy get going. He is a beast, and he will wear a defense down if you let him get started. Stewart Bradley needs to have another great game. If we can take Barber out of the game early, and force Dallas to have to throw the ball, then it’s game over.
3. Take out T.O.! The Eagles have done a great job of knocking big time receivers out of games. They did it last year against the Patriots with Randy Moss, and they’ve done it a lot against T.O. In the Eagles’ three wins over Dallas, since Terrell Owens has played their, they have held him to a combined seven catches for 105 yards and one touchdown. Wow! On the other hand, in their one loss, T.O. had 10 catches for 174 yards and one touchdown. As you can see, he must be stopped.
4. Special Teams needs to step up once again. The Eagles special teams were excellent against the Rams. Rookie Quintin Demps downed two consecutive punts at the two yard line. Kickoff and Punt coverage was excellent. Desean Jackson had 97 yards off punt returns, including a 60-some yarder that he almost broke for a touchdown. We are going to need that same effort on Monday night.
5. Lastly, the offense. I have no doubts that the Eagles will have a good game on offense. The offensive line, through preseason and last week’s game, has looked solid. They allowed little to no pressure against the Patriots in the preseason, (I know preseason doesn’t count, but it was still good to see them hold the line), and the Rams last Sunday. The receivers need to step up again, and have a big day. Dallas’ defense is over-rated, and I think our offense can handle them. I doubt they will have a day like they did on Sunday, but they will perform at a high level. Westbrook needs to get more involved in the passing game.
The screen plays, something the Eagles do better than anyone, did not look good on Sunday. If Dallas blitzes, than the Eagles have to be able to counter that with quick screens to the backs and receivers. L.J. Smith will be a big help as well with that. Not only blocking, but also being able to use his huge frame to grab the ball and pick up chunks of yardage, forcing the Cowboys to back off on the blitz. McNabb is the key though. He is happy, healthy, and in mid-season form. The Dallas pass rush is definitely better than the Rams, and DeMarcus Ware is one of the better pass rushers in the game. I expect to see more scrambling by McNabb because of that.
These are the things the Eagles need to do to beat a tough Dallas Cowboys team. They are more than capable, and they will get it done. My prediction, Eagles win a nail biter, 24-17. Go Eagles!
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