Jason Garrett... maybe not a household name yet in America... but he's coming to the Linc to make a statement that he has changed the culture of the Dallas Cowboys...and is ready to relegate the Philadelphia Eagles to a team that has no answer for the new "Cowboys Way"... Garrett wants to win the NFC East title very badly, and he wants the Eagles' attempt to regroup and reestablish themselves as the class team in their division to vanish in the cold mist of a Philadelphia night come Sunday...
As interim coach for the Cowboys last year, Garrett led Dallas to a 5-3 record after taking over a team that was 1-7 under the more easy-going Wade Phillips. Garrett changed the Cowboys culture, paying closer attention to the daily details of practice and film study, and holding his players accountable to rules of discipline. He became an extension of Jerry Jones' ego... it is his key to future survival. It seems a natural fit, since Garrett played for the Cowboys for seven seasons as a backup QB and has known Jones personally for over 20 years...
Garrett wants nothing more than to put so much pressure on the Eagles' comeback effort in 2011 this Sunday night that the "dream" ends badly for Philadelphia in front of a national audience.Even the Eagles cheerleaders will be feeling the pressure and scrutiny of a national audience which expects them to live up to or exceed the "gold standard" of the Dallas Cowgirls... which is tough when dealing with selective camera angles of biased network TV crews.
Garrett has his guys ready for this game. They plan to walk out of this one at 4-3, leaving the Eagles reeling at 2-5. That's basically their game plan.
He will give the Cowboys direction and focus. He's real particular about details and he'll make sure the Cowboys take care of the little things. He's all about the process...the preparation...he's aggressive on offense and likes to attack and keep the pressure on the defense even if the Cowboys are ahead in the score. Yet he remains conservative in his overall approach because he tends to go with the percentages most of the time...don't look for Garrett to go for it at 4th-and-1 at the Eagles 40 with the score tied in the 3rd quarter...
Garrett still calls the offensive plays for the Cowboys. He likes to use formations with two tight ends to give balance to his running game. He also likes to call three-receiver sets against nickel personnel. He wants the Cowboys to be a physical, downhill running team... but his best players are his QB, his receivers and his tight ends...which is why Dallas will usually throw the ball so much more than run it.
That brings up Tony Romo. Garrett thinks he's a great quarterback. And let's face it, as much as we revile Romo in Philly, he can make every throw in the book, and he's competitive. Yes, he makes mistakes and throws untimely interceptions, but he's athletic and can make plays out of the pocket. The key to making Romo look bad is on the Eagles' defensive ability to hit him enough and put pressure on him enough at critical times of the game.
Romo is out to have a great game against Philly. He knows this is a potential breaking point for the Eagles. And it's on national TV. He also knows, at age 31, he has two years left on his current contract, and he needs to have some serious "big-game" success and post-season results this year, or Jerry Jones will have some serious doubts when the time comes to talk about extending Romo for a new deal.
The biggest question about Romo and how the Eagles attack him is how do you take his natural instinct to gamble and make something out of nothing---and use it against him? When Romo plays within his comfort zone and limits his turnovers, he is among the best QB's in the league. If the Eagles can get him outside that zone of predictability and comfort, Romo is capable of driving Jason Garett crazy.
WHEN THE COWBOYS HAVE THE BALL:
Romo (1,756 passing yards, 10 TD, 6 INT) threw for a season-low 166 yards in last week's win over the Rams, but tossed a pair of touchdown passes. He posted his third rating of 100 or better as well and owns a 17 touchdown passes- to- six interceptions ratio in his last 10 road games. Romo should feel a lot better knowing that his offensive line was back at practice with a clean bill of health, as he'll need plenty of protection against Philadelphia's new-look hybrid wide-9 defense that will have Trent Cole back at his RDE spot. Romo once said the Eagles were "blitzing when they came off the bus" in the past, but now they're sitting back waiting for the quarterback to make a mistake under Castillo's direction. The Eagles don't possess Hall-of-Fame linebackers, so this could be a great matchup for tight end Jason Witten (36 receptions, 449 yards, 3 TD), who leads the Cowboys in receiving yards and receptions and can be a vital piece to Dallas' game plan this Sunday. Wide receivers Dez Bryant (19 receptions, 339 yards) and Miles Austin (23 receptions, 323 yards) are tied for the team lead with four touchdown receptions apiece, but face a tough battle against the Eagles' secondary. Demarco Murray (324 rushing yards, 1 TD) hasn't been officially named Sunday's starter, but with Jones (253 yards, TD) still battling an ankle sprain, the rookie is expected to get the nod.
Cole (14 tackles, 3 sacks) had a few choice words for this week's opponent by saying that he doesn't like the Cowboys and wants to make sure Romo stays down when he's hit. The all-pro DE hasn't played since injuring his calf against San Francisco on Oct. 2, but is set to make his return alongside his hunting buddy Jason Babin (19 tackles, 7 sacks), who will be in hot pursuit of some Cowboys come Sunday. Babin hasn't recorded a sack since the loss to San Francisco, however, coming up empty in each of the previous two contests. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (17 tackles, 5 sacks) hopes to solidify Philadelphia's 23rd- rated run defense by making sure Murray doesn't go off for a second straight week. The Eagles tightened up their "wide-9" alignment in Washington, and it worked in a big way when the team allowed just 42 rushing yards to the Redskins. Linebacker Jamar Chaney (36 tackles) is a quick defender and must make sure his coverage is on to Witten, especially across the middle. Safety Kurt Coleman (16 tackles) had three interceptions in the Eagles' last game and is also improving to be a heavy hitter, while corners Nnamdi Asomugha (16 tackles, 1 INT) and Asante Samuel (18 tackles, 1 INT) are two of the more talented defensive backs in the game. Samuel raised some eyebrows by recently calling out Philadelphia's front office, but later reconciled after a talk with Reid.
WHEN THE EAGLES HAVE THE BALL
Vick (1573 passing yards, 9 TD, 8 INT) said during a radio interview over the summer he didn't like what Dallas DC Rob Ryan said about his team after all of the Eagles' stockpiling new of players and Ryan's reference to "buying a championship". The lefty will try to make the Cowboys' defensive boss eat his words, and has had a nice break to rest his banged-up body. Vick has thrown an interception in every game this season save a Week 1 victory at St. Louis, and is still searching for his first rushing touchdown of the year, but owns four such scores in his past six games at home. The Eagles have only played twice as the home team this season -- and both were losses. Vick also became the first quarterback with 5,000 career rushing yards in the team's win at Washington before the bye. Speaking of running, LeSean McCoy (569 rushing yards, 6 TD) has been a breath of fresh air to the offense and despite facing a hard challenge this week, should benefit with the return of Jason Peters at left tackle and Todd Herremans going back to the right side. McCoy leads the NFL with 36 rushing first downs and 45 total first downs, so expect the Eagles to go to him in close situations. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson (24 receptions, 456 yards, 2 TD) has burned the Cowboys on a few occasions in the past, as he had a career-best 210 receiving yards and a 91-yard score in the teams' last encounter. Fellow wideout Jeremy Maclin (37 receptions, 489 yards, 3 TD) is becoming more of a consistent receiver and posted his second 100-yard receiving game of the season against the Redskins, and he leads the Eagles in catches.
Dallas has the No. 1 rush defense in the league, holding opposing teams to only 69.7 yards per game on the ground, and arguably the fiercest linebacker in DeMarcus Ware (20 tackles, 8 sacks). The All-Pro pass rusher will be out to register a few more sacks this Sunday and is one of the toughest defenders in the league to block. He's had his fair share of past sacks on Vick, who said the Eagles must be aware of where No. 94 lines up at all times before the snap. Ware brings the type of attention the great Lawrence Taylor used to bring and owns 9 1/2 sacks in his career against the Eagles. He had three in the last meeting between the teams and has 80 sacks total since 2006, the most in the NFL. On the inside, linebacker Sean Lee (50 tackles) has turned it on in his second season and leads the team in tackles and interceptions. Dallas may be toughest against the run, but they're 14th in pass defense and seventh in both yards and points allowed. McCoy out of the backfield and the speedy Jackson pose as big receiving threats for the Eagles, and Dallas safeties Gerald Sensabaugh (27 tackles, 1 INT) and Abram Elam (26 tackles) must help their corners eliminate the big plays Philadelphia will attempt to make with McCoy and Jackson during the game. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff (19 tackles) is a stout run-stuffer up front and a key part of Ryan's defense.
Shawn Clarke's (of the Miami Herald Sports Network) keys to the game:
"The Eagles hope to establish the run against one of the toughest defenses in the league, and it will be up to the offensive line to make that happen. Peters is now back from a hamstring issue, and that should help both McCoy and Vick."
"Will Murray duplicate the type of showing he had against St. Louis? Probably not, but then again the Eagles are 23rd against opposing ground attacks, allowing 123.8 yards per game. The Dallas offense is extremely dangerous if it can run the ball effectively."
"Ware plays a major role in Dallas' defense and can change the momentum of a game with a sack or big play just at the right time. He'll be on Vick's tail most of the night, so it will interesting to see how the Eagles prepare for him and how effective they'll be in trying to stop him."
Shawn Clarke's OVERALL ANALYSIS:
"Vick has a chance to make Rob Ryan eat his words this weekend, but it will be the Dallas defensive coordinator who has the last laugh in a close battle between these NFC East foes."
So it is written, circa late October 2011, by Shawn Clarke of the Miami Herald...and as SonButts (aka Mr. Warmth himself, Sunny Rickles) would say: "Hmmmmmmm..."