The Matchup: Eagles Vs. Cowboys


NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Here’s a look at how the Eagles match up with the Cowboys.

WHEN THE EAGLES RUN…

The Birds’ ground game was on point in the first matchup as LeSean McCoy piled up 159 yards on 24 carries. Others got involved as well. Chris Polk took over down the stretch and gained 49 yards on 11 carries. Mark Sanchez was willing to keep the ball on zone read plays, gaining 28 yards on seven rushes.

The Eagles’ offensive line dominated. Lane Johnson had probably his best game of the season, and Evan Mathis came up big in the second half. Brent Celek was key, specifically on sweeps, which the Eagles ran often.

Against Seattle, the Eagles failed to show they could pound the ball against a top-level defense. They had opportunities, but too many offensive line miscues led to a 17-carry, 50-yard performance for McCoy.

Luckily for the Birds, Dallas does not have Seattle’s personnel. The Cowboys rank 25th against the run, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA. They use a rotation on the defensive line, and Rolando McClain leads the linebacking group. In the first game, the Cowboys did not seem ready for the Eagles’ tempo. They showed poor gap discipline and were often caught out of position.

WHEN THE EAGLES PASS…

In the first meeting, Mark Sanchez was efficient, completing 20 of 29 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown. He fumbled once, but did not turn the ball over. The Eagles had a lot of success rolling Sanchez out on boot action. He’s been good throwing on the run all season long.

Sanchez only attempted two passes of 20+ yards in that game. According to Pro Football Focus, 13.3 percent of his attempts have gone 20+ yards downfield; that ranks 14th. Nick Foles threw it downfield 18.9 percent of the time; that ranked first. But in terms of accuracy, both quarterbacks have similar numbers. Per PFF, 34.6 percent of Sanchez’s downfield throws have been on target; for Foles, the number is 35.6 percent.

Overall, Sanchez is completing 62.1 percent of his passes (20th) and averaging 7.69 YPA (ninth). His 3.6 percent interception rate ranks seventh-worst among quarterbacks who have attempted at least 100 passes.

Jeremy Maclin had a great game on Thanksgiving, catching eight balls for 108 yards. He hasn’t had as many downfield opportunities with Sanchez, but still has totaled 1,109 yards on the season (eighth).

PFF tracks a stat called yards per route run. Riley Cooper ranks dead-last among qualifying receivers. He has been a non-factor.

Jordan Matthews continues to be productive with 56 catches for 709 yards and seven touchdowns. He had a tough matchup last week against Byron Maxwell, but had 51 yards and a TD in the first matchup against Dallas.

The Cowboys will line up with corners Brandon Carr and Orlando Scrandrick. Safety J.J. Wilcox had a rough outing in the first game.

Dallas doesn’t have much of a pass-rush, and it doesn’t have the talent in the back end to blitz. Per PFF, the Cowboys sent extra pressure just twice in the first game. The Eagles’ offensive line played poorly against Seattle, but should be able to give Sanchez a clean pocket in this one.

The Cowboys’ pass defense ranks 27th in DVOA, while the Eagles’ pass offense ranks 20th.

WHEN THE COWBOYS RUN…

The Eagles’ defensive line answered the call in the first game, limiting DeMarco Murray to 73 yards and 3.7 YPC. Both were season lows. Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and Cedric Thornton were dominant against the run. The Eagles’ run defense has been consistent all year long and ranks eighth in DVOA.

Mychal Kendricks is playing at a high level, and Connor Barwin shows up every week, setting the edge and funneling runs inside.

Murray has had a monster season with a league-high 1,606 yards. He’s averaging 5.0 YPC on a league-high 320 carries. The Cowboys have a talented offensive line with Tyron Smith at left tackle and first-round picks Travis Frederick and Zack Martin at center and right guard, respectively.

The Cowboys’ rushing attack ranks third in DVOA. Murray may post better numbers than he did in the first game, but the guess here is that he won’t go off on Sunday night.

WHEN THE COWBOYS PASS…

Will the Eagles see a different Tony Romo this time around? That was the question being asked at the NovaCare Complex all week long. Romo went 18-for-29 for 199 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in the first meeting. He has basically said it was tough for him to get his back ready on short rest.

On the season, Romo has been great, completing 69.1 percent of his passes (second) and averaging 8.35 YPA (third). He’s thrown 25 touchdowns against eight interceptions and has a 108.8 passer rating, second to only Aaron Rodgers.

Dez Bryant had four catches for 73 yards in the first meeting. Other than a 38-yard grab against Bradley Fletcher in the first half, though, he wasn’t much of a factor. The Eagles held Jason Witten to one catch for 8 yards.

Terrance Williams has been a non-factor with four catches for 56 yards in his past four games. Cole Beasley will get some looks against Brandon Boykin in the slot. Beasley had a costly fumble in the first game.

Cary Williams has played better as of late, and Fletcher held up well against Seattle, except for one tough pass interference call. The Eagles will play a good amount of dime with Nolan Carroll II.

The Eagles did a good job of pressuring Romo in the first game. Overall, they rank seventh in adjusted sack rate. Barwin leads the team with 13.5 sacks. Cox has been difficult to block every week. Trent Cole and Brandon Graham have combined for 12 sacks. Vinny Curry has eight. Kendricks has been excellent as a blitzer.

The Cowboys’ offense ranks eighth in passing DVOA. The Eagles’ defense ranks 11th against the pass.

SPECIAL TEAMS, ETC.

The Eagles have the top special teams unit in the league; the Cowboys are 13th.

The Eagles are averaging 4.4 points per red zone trip, which ranks 27th. They went 1-for-5 in the red zone in the first meeting. The Cowboys are at 5.3 (fifth).