5 Reasons to Fear Sunday’s Eagles-Cowboys Game

Photos | USA Today Sports. Tim Heitman (left), Dennis Wierzbicki (right)

Photos | USA Today Sports. Tim Heitman (left), Dennis Wierzbicki (right)

The Eagles playoff chances dangle at the mercy of the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night, and this mantra keeps echoing in my head: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Why should I feel this way? The Eagles dominated the Cowboys on one of the best Thanksgiving Days any Philadelphia fan could have. They proved they were the better team, even though the mercurial Mark Sanchez was the quarterback. The Cowboys’ vaunted offensive line crumbled like feta cheese that day — and that is supposedly the best element of their team. In addition to that, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is a notorious December choker, and he’s taking the field with cracked rib cartilage and a double fracture in his backbone.

I’m not a sky-is-falling guy. I consistently urge folks to move past that Philadelphia fan mentality of impending doom. And yet I have this nagging feeling that we could lose Sunday’s Eagles-Cowboys game, finish with an 11-5 record, and perhaps lose the final wildcard playoff spot via an NFL tiebreaker. (For the Birds to survive after this, the Cowboys would have to lose one more game this season).

To sort this out in my brain, I yield to a bullet point presentation:

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Wake-Up Call: Will Eagles See a Different Romo?

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Tony Romo did not play a clean game on Thanksgiving as the Eagles handed the Cowboys a 33-10 loss.

He went 18-for-29 for 199 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. But most notably, he went down on a couple occasions when pressure was near, something that has been rare for him throughout his career.

“Oh, we’ll see a different offense,” said Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis. “We’ll see a healthier Tony Romo. We’ll see a healthier team, a team that’s got plenty of time to prepare for us, including a game with us under our belt. But we also have that time. It will be a little different. Tony Romo will look completely different against us than he did against Chicago. He looked a lot healthier in Chicago, and now 10 more days of recovery, I think we are going to get more of the healthy Tony Romo.”

Maybe Davis just wanted to make it clear to his players that taking the Cowboys lightly would be a mistake. Maybe he wanted to drive home the message that the performance in the first game will have no impact on this one.

Or  perhaps he was saying how he really felt. Read more »

All-22: Why the Eagles’ Offense Got Shut Down

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A single response from Pat Shurmur Tuesday explained a lot about the Eagles’ ugly offensive performance against the Seahawks.

“They played exactly… they did less on defense than we expected,” Shurmur said. “They played single-safety middle like we expected. They played a combination of man and zone, and on third down it was very similar until we got in third-and-long and you saw split safeties. They did less on defense than what we had planned for.”

In some ways, what Pete Carroll does on defense is similar to what Chip Kelly does on offense. It’s not about volume. It’s about finding an identity, having answers for every situation, getting a lot of reps and allowing players to make plays in a scheme that they know inside and out. Read more »

Notes: Dallas Prep, Foles And A New Safety

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

It is not all that common to be playing a division opponent twice within the span of three weeks, so many of the questions posed to Chip Kelly Wednesday were about the potential obstacles or unique challenges that such a situation presents.

The head coach didn’t hold anything back the first time around in anticipation of this matchup, he said, and doesn’t intend on drastically changing his approach the second time around.

“Just go play. I think you can paralyze yourself by trying to overanalyze it,” said Kelly. “I would imagine DeMarco Murray is probably going to carry the ball a lot against us in our game. I think they’ll probably try to throw the ball to Dez Bryant in our game. They’ll probably try to find the tight end a lot in probably third-down situations in our game. We’re going to give the ball to LeSean McCoy in our game. It’s kind of similar to what happened the last time. It’s really about going out and executing and which team can execute better and which team can block better and which team can tackle better.” Read more »

Wake-Up Call: Sanchez And the Deep Ball

NFL: Preseason-Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots

The long ball has fallen off some since Mark Sanchez has taken over.

When Nick Foles was at the helm, he threw passes of 20-plus yards 19 percent of the time, resulting in nine touchdowns and six interceptions. Sanchez, meanwhile, has gone deep at a 13 percent clip and has one TD and a pair of picks. He started out with a bang, hitting Jeremy Maclin for a 52-yard pick-up down the middle on his first regular-season snap as an Eagle, but hasn’t connected many haymakers since.

There appears to be two key reasons for the shift in approach. Read more »

Cooper On Criticism: ‘Negativity Sells’

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Riley Cooper has been backed by the coaching staff at every turn this season. Whenever his level of play or production is questioned by the media, he receives a strong defense. On Monday it was Chip Kelly. On Tuesday, Pat Shurmur followed suit.

“The last time I checked he only has two drops, right?” asked Shurmur. “Other than that when we throw him the ball he catches it. We don’t have a problem with him. Somebody does, but we don’t.

“We certainly see it different than you do. We’re comfortable with him out there playing and we don’t have a problem like I think some people questioning me do.”

Cooper spent a good 15 minutes or so at his locker with reporters today talking about the public criticism versus the in-house praise. Is the coaching staff as complimentary in the meeting room as they are at the podium?

“Absolutely,” he said. “I have a very, very close relationship with Chip. We talk very frequently. I’m one of the captains of our room, me and Jeremy [Maclin], so we’re always going up to Chip with ideas and things and talking – sometimes not even about football. I’m real close with Chip.” Read more »

All-22: The Good And Bad Of the Eagles’ Defense

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Eagles defensive players – well, most of them anyway – know by now not to make excuses.

The offense wants to play fast every week, regardless of opponent, situation or anything else. The defense’s job is always to get off the field and give the offense another chance to score. Since Chip Kelly took over, that formula has worked pretty well. But there are games, like Sunday’s, when the offense is stagnant. And that puts the defensive players in a bind.

For example, to start the game, the defense gave up a 10-play, 43-yard drive that took 6:35 off the clock. The offense went three-and-out in 25 seconds. And Billy Davis’ guys were right back out there.

That is just how it is. It’s why the Eagles train the way they do. And it’s why in a perfect world, they’d like to rotate players on defense even more.

“I think they are fine,” Kelly said Monday. “I don’t think it had anything to do with the fourth quarter. I just think that they are built for it. They are in great condition. They train at a really high level. They practice against us. They understand what it takes. We didn’t come out of it with any injuries or anything like that. I would imagine they will all be ready to go.” Read more »

Some Thoughts On Where The Eagles Stand

Photo courtesy of USA Today.

Photo courtesy of USA Today.

Football is a sport and ours is a world where conclusions are drawn between heartbeats.

That’s why we pull out the measuring sticks and set up our tier systems and sift through our data to try and form something concrete — never mind that the concrete is weeks away from hardening. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: ‘We Knew What Plays Were Coming’

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

During his day-after press conference, Chip Kelly was asked whether he would have changed anything about the Eagles’ offensive game plan Sunday after having watched the film.

“No, we just need to execute,” Kelly said. “When you go back through it, they do a good job. They don’t fool you with anything they do. They line up and play football and they are really, really good at doing that. You don’t go back and look at it and say, ‘Hey, we should have run trap or we should have run this scheme.’ It’s they executed and we didn’t execute.”

It’s fair to say that the Eagles left some plays on the field against the Seahawks. But that’s going to be the case pretty much every week. Even if the offense had been awarded 10 more possessions, it might not have been able to get to 24 points.

The Seahawks run the same coverages over and over again. There is not a lot of mystery. It’s going to be Cover 3 and Cover 1 – both defenses with a single high safety. They’ll blitz on occasion, but not often. And they’ll win more one-on-one matchups than they lose because they have a lot of talented players who are coached well.

But once again, the issue of predictability has surfaced as it pertains to the Eagles’ offense. Read more »

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