It's officially playoff time, as the Cowboys are must-win for the duration of the season. Just ask Orlando Scandrick.
Orlando Scandrick says playoffs have arrived - Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPN Dallas
Jason Garrett likes to spend a lot of time talking about how he wants his players focused only only today, but the players know what's at stake Sunday against the Eagles, and they're preparing this week as though this is a must-win. Just ask Orlando Scandrick:
"The playoffs are here now. They've started," he said. "If we want to go somewhere and do something, it starts now."
That said, as Jeremy Mincey told reporters earlier this week, the Cowboys will do their talking with their pads...
Cowboys: no big speeches needed this week - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Jason Garrett doesn't need to come up with a motivational speech this week:
"If he has to say something to you to get you pumped up, you don’t need to be out there," safety J.J. Wilcox said. "This is one of these games here where you should be fired up automatic because it’s a rival game. It kind of dictates our future. So if he has to talk to you, I might tell them myself to get out of the game and I ain’t but in my second year. It’s pumped me up. I’m ready to go."
Jason Garrett avoids hoopla swirling around Eagles game - Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPN Dallas
In a shocking development, Garrett has no interest in getting caught up in the hoopla swirling around the game. He wants the Cowboys to do the same thing he wants them to do every week: prepare each day to play their best football on Sunday. As per usual, he cites a legendary coach:
"John Wooden said years and years and years ago that it's not about rising to the occasion, it's about being who you are...The idea that we're going to rise to the occasion is not something we focus on a whole lot. Just be your best and be the best version of yourself in everything you do."
Philadelphia got the best of Dallas in round one. The Cowboys players expect a different outcome, in large part due to a return to normality.
Cowboys hope quick turnaround will help vs. Eagles - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
By quick turnaround, Archer means that the two teams face each other twice in three weeks. And by help, he means allow them to win. We hope so, too, Archer. We hope so, too.
Short span between meetings should help Cowboys preparations for Eagles - David Helman, The Mothership
Helman - whose nickname could be "short span" - argues that the brief interlude between the Cowboys - Eagles game is an advantage. As Travis Frederick notes:
"The tendencies and things that you learn from all those previous games are already there, so you’re just building on top of that," Frederick said. "It might even give you an advantage, because they can’t have changed that much in two weeks. There are going to be adjustments, but the team is the team at this point."
At this point, the only thing to do is go out there and execute.
Tony Romo will follow normal schedule - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
One obvious difference in the rematch is the return to a normal practice week. Frankly, this is more important for Romo than it is for any other player who will take the field Sunday Night. Since that's the gent we're hanging out hats on to match scores with the Philadelphia Kellys, it's kind of a big deal...
Extra time should help Tony Romo - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
After the first Eagles game, Archer points out, Romo said things weren’t "firing," which is the same term he used earlier in the season, just before he switched up his practice schedule. Now, after playing last Thursday against the Chicago Bears, Romo took part in the morning walk-through but did not practice on Wednesday. He will take the snaps on Thursday. Here's some good news:
The last time Romo had such a long break between games came after the Cowboys’ bye week. He returned Nov. 23 against the New York Giants and threw a season-high four touchdown passes in a 31-28 win.
Cue up Shirley Bassey and Propellerheads...
Can the Cowboys beat the Eagles in Philly? Here are a couple of scouting reports that seek to answer that question...
Scout's eye: the two Eagles defenders who can take down Dallas' rushing attack - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership
The Broad One's weekly look at three of the opposition's players. This time around, we get paragraphs on Darren Sproles (weapon); Fletcher Cox (nemesis); and Mychal Kendricks (under-the-radar). Here's his blurb on my fellow Cal Bear, Kendricks:
If you asked me, other than Fletcher Cox, what Eagles defensive player could give this Cowboys offense the most problems on Sunday night, my answer would be Mychal Kendricks from his inside linebacker spot.
Along with Larry Foote of the Cardinals, Kendricks has been one of the most active linebackers that the Cowboys have faced all season. From the eyeball test, he is not the most physically appealing or gifted for the position, but he plays with unbelievable awareness and reactions.
Three keys: how Seattle beat down the Eagles - Joey Ickes, Cowboys HQ
Former BTB great Ickes sets up his tent over at Cowboys HQ with a flourish: three lessons the Cowboys can take from Seattle's performance last weekend. I'll quote from the second of these, "Play Aggressive Man Coverage":
While the Eagles are difficult to defend from a talent, and tempo standpoint, they are not all that complex from a scheme perspective. One thing Chip Kelly does very well is use simple route concepts and combinations that will manipulate the integrity of zone coverages, especially when combined with the tempo they play with. However, if you play man coverage, you know you’re going to see lots of crossing routes and low percentage go routes from this team.
Again, the Cowboys don’t have the personnel in the back 7 that the Seahawks do, but they have been the type of team that tends to play better when they are asked to man up and play their guy...
Terrance Williams has been playing an elaborate game of hide-and-seek of late...
Terrance Williams has disappeared from the Cowboys offense - Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPN Dallas
As JJT points out, Williams had five touchdowns and six catches of 20 yards or more in the Cowboys’ first six games. In the last six games, however, he has one catch of 20 yards or more and no touchdowns. and, against Jacksonville, he didn’t catch a pass for the first time this season. Against Chicago, Williams didn’t even have a pass directed his way for the first time in his career.
Seems like this might be a good week to get off the schneid...
WR Terrance Williams says he hasn't "disappeared," is doing other things to help offense - Rainer Sabin, DMN
Take that JJT:
"I just hate when people say stuff and they don’t know what’s going on," he said. "They try to make it seem like I disappeared and I have done nothing. But that’s my chance to get better at blocking for DeMarco [Murray] or doing backside stuff that people don’t pay attention to."
A fun look back at last week's demolition of the Bears...
Xs and Os: how the Cowboys made a key play to beat the Bears look easy - Bob Sturm, DMN
Sturm's weekly Wednesday film study focuses on three plays: The 3rd and 15 conversion to Jason Witten; the 3rd and three Romo rollout and wobbler to Cole Beasley for a touchdown; and the blown coverage on a second quarter Jay Cutler-to-Martellus Bennett scoring pass. As a bonus, The Sturminator gives us the lowdown on DeMarco Murrays 40-yard fourth quarter scamper. Looking at the All-22 on the Witten conversion, Sturm writes:
...here is the angle to watch. It just shows the 4 rushers versus 5 protectors and how confident and calm Romo can stand in the pocket and survey the field. Nobody is close to him, he has 3.2 seconds and might have had more if he needed it to bounce on his feet about 5 times and wait for Witten to get outside leverage on 57-Bostic and complete a very easy 19-yarder, which we know is anything but easy.
Wait, what and how: an abbreviated encyclopedia of the NFL's junk pass masters - Robert Mays, Grantland.com
Mays coins a new phrase: junk pass, which refers to plays that shouldn’t happen, that get pulled out of proverbial backsides, or that no one in the stands or on the opposing defense believes. "Depending on where you’re sitting," Mays opines, "the junk pass is either the most fun or most backbreaking play in football, and 2014 has been a golden year for the form."
His first entry? One Antonio Ramiro Romo, who he labels as the "Crafty Alchemist,"citing as Exhibit A the third-and-20 conversion in Seattle:
Romo’s throw to Terrance Williams had all the elements of his junk-pass Hall of Fame résumé. There’s the spin, a flailing defender, a point at a receiver. But the best part: I’m almost positive Williams isn’t the guy he was throwing to. This ball really looks like it’s meant for Jason Witten; for historically good junk throwers, the magic knows no limits.
The magic knows no limits. That's something we need to hear more than once in these next three games.
Get your picks in for the BTB Pick 256 Challenge!
If you haven't yet submitted your picks, now would be a good time. Here's the link to the entry form.
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Alternative Pick 256 Entry Form
By 4:00 am ET this morning, we had 230 votes logged, which means there's still lots of room for more participants. Right now, the Cowboys are favored over the Eagles, with 83% of the picks coming in for the Cowboys. A full summary of the provisional Pick 256 vote will be up later today when we look at the BTB Week 15 Picks.