It's a special question for us this week!
Marshall Faulk (@marshallfaulk) December 10, 2014
Here is the transcript for those not able/willing to watch the video: "Being Professional Grade means paying attention to the details. Philly and Dallas, with the division on the line, what detail right from the start will show us either: That Dallas is a different team from two weeks ago? Or that Philly is going to dominate again?"
As a fan, I sometimes like to pick at Mr. Faulk if he says something negative about the Cowboys, but this is a very good question. There are actually two things I think that will tell the tale, one on offense and one on defense. Which one will come into play will depend on who has the ball first.
If Dallas opens the game on offense, it will be how the line plays. If they look like the line that has shown up in the majority of the games, opening holes for DeMarco Murray and giving Tony Romo time to work over a vulnerable Eagles secondary, then the chances go way up for Dallas, and Philadelphia will be very unlikely to control the rematch the way they did the first game. Based on statements made by several of the linemen, as mentioned in the Wednesday morning news post, they are more than ready to prove that what we all saw on Thanksgiving was not what they normally do on the field. All the statements made by Tyron Smith, Ronald Leary, and Travis Frederick were in full compliance with the Jason Garrett Rules Of Boring Mediaspeak, but hopefully that is masking more than a little anger at getting bullied on national television. I want those three, and Zack Martin and Doug Free, feeling especially mean. Not enough to make mistakes, but to want to put some hurt and humiliation on the Eagles defense. This is the game for them to reestablish their claim to be the best offensive line in the league.
If they fail, so that the running game is bottled up and Romo is taking dives to protect his back again, then this will be a very long game for fans of the Star. The Cowboys have to be able to score a lot of points to win this game, because the Eagles have too many offensive weapons. Dallas is not likely to have any real chance to keep this a low scoring affair.
Should the Eagles receive the opening kickoff, then the story for Dallas will be all about discipline on defense. Even if Philadelphia should move the ball, it will be important to watch how lane assignments are handled up front, and if the edge is being set. Being in the right place in coverage is also crucial. There were too many big plays in the first game because, at some point, almost everyone on the Cowboys defense was out of place or blew an assignment. A lot of discussion has gone on about how tired the Cowboys were after the late game and short week leading up to Thanksgiving. Physical tiredness may have played a role in what happened, but given how many times the Eagles were able to exploit blatant mistakes, mental fatigue might have been an even worse problem. Philadelphia is going to score unless Mark Sanchez has a complete meltdown (something we can hope for, but not plan on). Dallas has won several of its games by successfully carrying out a "bend, don't break" defense. In the first game, they broke too often. Against Chip Kelly's "keep up with this speed" offensive scheme, discipline is crucial. If Dallas can maintain their assignments, they will be competitive. If not, the Eagles will likely run them ragged.
Either way, the first series will likely give a very good indication of how this game will go. One or two big plays either way will not be the end of the game. Remember, the Cowboys gave up a blocked punt for a score early to the Seattle Seahawks, and still came back to win. If the version of the Cowboys that won that plus eight other games this season shows up, this will be a competitive contest. That does not mean that Dallas is assured a win, but they will have a very good chance to do so, especially if Romo is also fully ready to play. He is not necessarily a good indicator himself, because he has had several games where it took him a couple of series to really get going, and then he was very, very good. But the offensive line and discipline on defense are immediate tells. If they go badly, you will have a chance to catch up on the stuff in your DVR, because you won't want to watch.