Last and most certainly least in my look backward and forward at the Dallas Cowboys and how they match up with their NFC East rivals is the Philadelphia Eagles. While casual NFL observers might say that the Dallas Cowboys vs Washington Redskins is the most fierce division rivalry, a case can be made that in recent years the Philadelphia Eagles have overtaken the ‘Skins in the most hated category.
Things between Philly and Big D started heating up when Buddy Ryan allegedly put out a bounty on Cowboys kicker Luis Zendajas and quarterback Troy Aikmanin the 1989 Thanksgiving Day blowout at Texas Stadium. Ryan’s sarcastic attitude and obvious distaste for Dallas quickly made him public enemy number one deep in the hearts of Cowboys fans. The rivalry intensified in October 1990 when, rowdy Eagles fans behaved with anything but “brotherly love” when they began to cheer as Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin lay on the concrete-like turf at Veteran’s Stadium with a neck injury. The despicable display drew the ire of even the Eagles own QB Donovan McNabb.
Because of the less than friendly history between the Eagles and Cowboys, it was horrifying to yours truly when Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones chose to hire the son of Buddy, Rob Ryan, as defensive coordinator. We all know how that experiment turned out…
Both teams have fallen on hard times of late and Dallas swept the division series with Philly in 2012. First came a 38-35 win at Cowboys Stadium that was highlighted by QB Tony Romo’s three touchdown performance that broke Troy Aikman’s franchise record of 165 TDs. The Cowboys also snapped an 8-game Sunday Night Football losing streak. As has been their custom, Dallas kept fans on the edge of their seats as the Eagles returned a punt 98 yards for a touchdown with 10 seconds remaining. Luckily for the ‘Boys, a two-point conversion and ensuing on-side kick attempt failed and Dallas ran out the clock and secured the win.
The Cowboys also defeated the Eagles on their home turf in 2012. A 78 punt return by wideout Dwayne Harris and a 47 yard interception return for a touchdown sealed the deal for Dallas as they left Lincoln Financial Field with a 38-23 victory.
After what has been described as the most disappointing season in the team’s history, Philly replaced head coach Andy Reid with Oregon Ducks’ offensive guru Chip Kelly. The fast-paced, high scoring offensive he is known for could spell trouble for the rest of NFC East if the team gels under his system quickly.
Unlike the Cowboys, the Eagles were busy in free-agency. They added several players to their roster, including tight end/fullback James Casey from the Houston Texans. They also sought to improve their secondary with Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips. Cowboys fans will be interested in seeing how running back Felix Jones performs in Kelly’s system after his injury plagued career in Big D came to a close.
The Eagles also added depth to their offensive line in the draft with Oklahoma standout Lane Johnson and picked up USC QB Matt Barkley.
As we all know, nothing but crickets were heard coming out of The Ranch in free-agency. The Cowboys also had what many have accessed as a less than stellar draft. Dallas’ main objectives have to be to improve their sagging run game and stay healthy on both sides of the ball. Whether they can accomplish that feat will depend largely how their offensive line performs. An improved running game not only keeps the ball out of the oppositions hands, it keeps Tony Romo from having to make something out of nothing, which can often end badly.
The Eagles and the Cowboys square off in Philly on October 20 and at Cowboys Stadium in the season finale on December 29.