Friday, November 6, 2009

Strategy and Matchups - Dallas

***

I have to tell you that I'm nervous about this game. I just don't have a comfortable feeling. Romo is Mr. November, having only lost one start in during that month in his career (the good news, it was a road game against a division rival - WAS). Dallas is playing well and looks like a confident, pretty cohesive team.

We're riding a 2-game win streak and things are looking up. What has me nervous is that this game isn't likely to be a blowout and the Eagles have yet to prove they can win a back and forth contest. We've scored points in bunches and played mostly in games with a big lead. Oakland was close throughout, but we had an off day all around. We did a good job of trading points with the Saints for a half. Things got out of hand with some 3rd quarter turnovers. We have yet to show that we can be methodical on offense. When is the last time we had a long, sustained drive that ended in a short TD (10 yards or less)? Dallas also lives by the big play, but I don't think they are quite as feast or famine on offense. I expect us to score points. I just hope we don't live and die with big plays.

I think this game will largely be decided on one critical factor...pressure on Romo. If Tony is allowed to sit back and play QB we're in for a long game. We need Fast Tony...you know, the guy who is throwing off his back foot and moving around nervously. That guy will kill you on a couple of plays, but will also make mistakes. He'll throw some errant passes and force the ball into coverage as he tries to make something happen.

We lost the first meeting to Dallas each of the last 2 years. Romo had a ton of time in 2007 and shredded the defense. Last year he led the team to 34 points on offense (scored 41 overall) and they won. We've won all 3 late season meetings with Dallas. Tony has been under a lot of pressure in each game. Jim Johnson was more aggressive in the rematches, but it also helped that the players executed better.

Sean McDermott has been very aggressive with blitzing since taking over the defense. We're attacking more than any time since Buddy Ryan left. This is probably the best way to handle Dallas. I don't fear their WRs in the sense of them being playmakers like Santana Moss or Steve Smith. Don't get me wrong...I certainly respect the Cowboys wideouts. They are solid players who are hot right now. Miles Austin is playing at a very high level. Is this a hot streak or is he emerging as a star player? Only time will tell. I'm willing to take my chances.

I think our CBs match up well with their WRs. I do have a few concerns. Play-action passes could be a problem. We have aggressive DBs and LBs. They will fly up in run support, leaving open some big passing lanes. Double moves and pump fakes are also potentially dangerous. Owens burned us for a long TD on a double-move early in the first meeting. Lito and Considine bought the fake and came up. Owens got behind them and was off to the races.

My other concern is Asante trying to tackle Miles Austin out in space. Austin is a big, strong guy that runs through tackle attempts. Asante isn't exactly a rugged tackler. He cannot let Austin get free down the sidelines for huge gains. Asante has got to make the stop or slow him enough for Sean Jones or Q to come over and finish the play. Asante knows what he's up against. Check out this from PE.com:

"He's a heck of an athlete," Samuel said of Austin. "The biggest challenge that Miles, in my opinion, brings is that he has a big lower body. And that's how he breaks through those arm tackles and goes the distance. So you just have to make sure you wrap him up when he catches the ball."


The one matchup none of us likes is Jason Witten vs our defense. He always comes up big against us. I think that is okay as long as he doesn't get big plays. Let him have his catches, but limit the yards. I'm sure we'll use all kinds of players to cover him. SLB Chris Gocong normally would be one of the guys, but he's hurt and will likely miss the game. Rookie Moise Fokou will be starting in his spot. Fokou will be a target for Tony and Jason to attack, I'm sure.

Dealing with their running game will be tough. We can't commit 8 to the box on a regular basis because of guys like Witten and Austin. That means the front seven has to penetrate, play tough on the edges, and tackle well. I'm pretty confident that the DL will handle the run. The LBs must tackle well. Fokou will have his hands full with the speed of Jones and power of Barber.

Trent Cole must get pressure off the edge. We can't rely on the blitz for everything. Cole has had good and bad days vs Flozell Adams. Trent has got to pressure Romo. Sacks are great, but at least get some hits. Chris Clemons had a couple of sacks last year in the late game. He owes us a big game this year. Darren Howard has played some of his best games vs the Boys. Let's hope that trend continues.

One guy who could make a difference for us is MLB Will Witherspoon. We now have a MLB that has the speed to handle Dallas' RBs on the edge. He also can help on Witten. And we know he can be a playmaker around the LOS. Spoon could be an important player in this game.

Our offense will have some success. Remember, we put up 30 on them in the early game last year with Greg Lewis starting, Tony Hunt playing FB, and LJ Smith as our TE. Getting Westy back this week is huge. He plays well vs Dallas. He knows how to find holes in their defense and get upfield, if only for a couple of yards.

We hurt them in both games last year with catches by the RBs. Westy will do his part, but LeSean has to help as well. He must catch the ball cleanly and get upfield. And don't swing the ball. That's an order.

I do expect us to go downfield with our passing game. DeSean burned them for a long play in each game (60, 34). Maclin has the speed to also burn them downfield. The presence of Celek and Avant in the middle of the field will be tough on them.

Jason Peters must control DeMarcus Ware. I don't expect Jason to shut him down, but just keep Ware under control. We'll use Celek to help there. We'll also have Avant chip on him. And the RBs will help as well. Blocking Ware is built into the gameplan.

I hope Andy/Marty mix in some plays with Weaver in the Ace Formation. We had success with that last week and Weaver is the kind of N-S runner that could break a good run vs Dallas (10-15 yards).

While this game does make me nervous, there are some things to be excited about. Dallas hasn't had to face us with Brent Celek playing this well. They haven't had to face this good a pair of Eagles receivers in a while. Spoon is the kind of playmaking MLB that could be big against a team like Dallas. We're playing very aggressively on defense. That's something they haven't seen a lot this year. Finally, our back seven is doing a great job this year of picking off passes. If Romo does get careless at all, we'll make him pay.

Let's go win this thing and wipe that smile of Jerry Jones face.
_

7 comments:

Boyboy said...

I had myself convinced that the Eagles would lose this game, simply because they never do anything the easy way. They backed into the playoffs in '06 & '08. They'd already be in 1st place in the division if they didn't blow a game to the Raiders. However, I may be changing my mind.

Profootballtalk.com predicts the Eagles to win this one. I'm not sure if it's Florio's or Rosenthal's prediction, but whomever it was, the summed it up nicely:

"Though the Eagles are always capable of laying an egg, they realize the importance of handling the Cowboys."

McNabb should make less mistakes than Romo and the Eagles should win. My one big worry is DeMarcus Ware. Almost weekly, McNabb's shot clock stops working and he takes an avoidable sack from behind. Can't let it happen this week.

HÃ¥kan said...

"Almost weekly, McNabb's shot clock stops working and he takes an avoidable sack from behind"

That's one way of looking at it.
At times I tend to think it's McNabb showing trust in his big pro-bowl FA left tackle and that trust is not being answered properly.

Who knows? Tommy?

Edward said...

Neeerrrrrvoouus. If the eagles can pull this one out of the bag i may start to have faith that this eagles team can actually play consistent football. We shall see. Ideally we make Jerry Jones cry like a little girl.

Cliff said...

It should be cold tomorrow night, too. I hope the precious Cowboys can adjust to life outside of their plush, McStadium.

Prem Prakash said...

Usually I approach a game like this as a Negadelphian, convinced the Eagles will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Not this time. I think our O is starting to click on all cylinders and the Cowboys D is weak. I'll bet they are just as nervous about Celek and Jackson as we might be about Witten and Austin. They do have weapons on their O and Romo can make plays if the rush doesn't get to him, but when he can't scramble out of the pocket he regularly throws off his back foot. We took care of business against the Giants and we can do it again this week on national tv for 1st place in the East. Eagles win 27-17.

Cliff said...

I am so tired of the "woe is us" attitude in Philadelphia sports. Fortunately, I live outside of PA and don't get force-fed this crap about being a terrible team until we win a Super Bowl.

I say this, of course, because I just read Phil Sheridan's Inquirer column. It starts out really well and has a great quotation from Harbaugh about how Andy Reid has ruined the decade for the Cowboys. But then Sheridan follows with some crap about how the Cowboys will always be a better team until the Eagles win the S.B.

His editor even tagged the headline as "Eagles' road to playoffs goes through Dallas." Huh? Really?

Let's go win this one so I don't have to read a "fire Reid/cut McNabb" column tomorrow.

Cliff said...

Oh, and Bloghead over at PE.com has a great quotation from Cornelius Ingram about Stewart Bradley's rehab:

"Honestly, (Bradley) looks like he could play right now. There are times where, if we're doing a certain drill, he might want to go full speed and Rick (Burkholder) has to tell us to calm down. But, he's just a great guy to be around, a big time competitor in everything that we're doing, so it helps out a lot with me."

Sounds like things are going well. On a side note, I can't wait until Ingram is playing so I can just refer to him as "Cornelius." I love that name.