Both the Cowboys and the Eagles will battling for their playoff lives on Sunday. A classic meeting between two rivals in the NFC East Championship Game. To get some perspective on the team from Philly, we asked five questions of the Bleeding Green Nation blog.
Blogging The Boys: The Philly defense was pretty bad to start the year but has played much better lately. What do you attribute that to?
Bleeding Green Nation: The first thing that jumps out is the transition factor. The Eagles ran a 4-3 defensive scheme with a wide-nine front in 2012. In the off-season, the defense made the jump to a 3-4 two-gapping scheme. It seemed to take time for players to get comfortable in the new system. Things like gap control and fundamental execution have improved over time thanks to coaching.
BTB: The Eagles have won 6 of their last 7 games, but bottomed out two weeks ago against the Vikings. What do you think went wrong in that game?
BGN: Pretty much everything went wrong as the Eagles struggled in all three phases: offense, defense, and special teams. Nick Foles didn't look as sharp as he could have. He missed some easy throws and he also wiped out a DeSean Jackson TD run with a costly illegal blocking penalty. The Eagles' defense couldn't make a stop to save their lives. Unable to generate any kind of signficant pass rush, the Vikings were able to pick apart a struggling Eagles secondary.
There's also the fact it had the makings of a letdown game. Philadelphia was coming off a five game winning streak and maybe got too confident. Minnesota gets credit for playing a great game.
BGN: Some Eagles fans were disappointed to see Romo ruled out. After considering what Matt Cassel and the Vikings did to the Eagles defense a few weeks ago, it's fair to say these fans have an irrational fear of backup quarterbacks: backupquarterbackphobia. Other fans may have wanted to see the Cowboys' best go up against the Eagles' best, but that won't be the case.
Kyle Orton doesn't strike fear but he clearly belongs in the league. He can put a good game together coming in as a backup but there's also a good reason he's not a full time starter. I expect him to be able to give the Cowboys a shot at victory.
BTB: Self-scout the Eagles offense. If you were a defensive coordinator how would attack the Eagles?
BGN: Stopping the Eagles offense is no easy task, and scheming can only go so far. The Cowboys played a lot of man defense against the Eagles in their meeting earlier this season, but the key thing I saw from the Dallas defense was simple: execution. Dallas seemed to do the fundamental things well in that game such as tackling and fighting through blocks.
BTB: Your take on each statement: "The Cowboys will win if...." and "The Eagles will win if..."
BGN: The Cowboys will win if the Eagles get careless with the ball and commit turnovers. Forcing changes in possession will disrupt the Eagles' blistering offense and put more pressure on the Philly defense to make stops.
The Eagles will win if the defense shows up. I'm fairly confident the Eagles will "get theirs" on the offensive end. It's up to the defense to keep the Dallas offense in check. They don't have to be a shutdown unit; they just need to keep the game within reason.
Thanks to Bleeding Green Nation.