Dallas Cowboys: The Four Quarters (Week 17 Edition)

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Oct 20, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) passes the ball as Dallas Cowboys defensive end Kyle Wilber (51) and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (97) go for the sack during the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

First line of defense…

George Selvie, Jason Hatcher, Nick Hayden and DeMarcus Ware.  This game belongs to you.  There is no hiding the deficiencies that beset the Dallas Cowboys defense.  Pick a stat, then look towards the bottom and you’ll probably find Dallas.  Last in total yards allowed.  Second to last in passing yards allowed.  Bottom five in rushing yards allowed, red zone touchdowns allowed and opponent’s third down conversion percentage.  It’s ugly.  If the Cowboys have any hope at all to slow down the Eagles, it’s going to come from the defensive line.  The Cowboys must slow LeSean McCoy and keep the NFL’s leading rusher in check or else the flood gates will open.  Since the last time these two teams met, including that game, the Eagles are 6-3.  Here is the difference that McCoy makes to his team:

THREE LOSSES – 41 carries, 141 yards, 0 touchdowns, 15 receptions, 111 yards, 0 touchdowns
SIX WINS – 123 carries, 705 yards, 6 touchdowns, 21 receptions, 184 yards, 1 touchdown

Basically, if you can hold McCoy under 100 yards rushing and keep him out of the end zone, you have a really good chance at beating the Eagles.  The front four need to accomplish this task in order for Dallas to win.

Under Pressure…

The Eagles are not a team that turns the ball over very often.  In fact, the main reason for their success offensively has been the mistakes that Nick Foles will not make.  In 291 pass attempts, he has just two interceptions.  One of them was a tipped ball, the other was an overthrow.    For a defense that relies so heavily on getting turnovers, this does not bode well for the Cowboys.  If the turnovers are not there, all hope is not lost however.  The front four must get to Nick Foles and make him uncomfortable.  In the previous matchup, Foles had his worst game of the season.  This was largely due to the heat Dallas brought his way.  The Cowboys got to Foles three times, knocked him out of the game and forced three turnovers to hold Philadelphia to a season worst three points.  In fact, the evidence supports that Dallas is most successful when the defense is harassing opposing quarterbacks.  In the Cowboys’ eight wins, they have compiled 25 sacks and forced 19 turnovers.  In their seven losses, they have only registered 10 sacks and 9 turnovers.  For Dallas to win this do or die game, they need to get to Foles again and force him out of his comfort zone.

D & D…

Whenever a team loses a key player, especially for a big game, the tendency may be to overcompensate or do things you do not normally do.  That is exactly what the Cowboys cannot do offensively.  You do not need me to tell you that Kyle Orton is not Tony Romo.  Orton has his strengths but the improvisation that Romo brings to the table is not one of them.  The best way for the Cowboys to attack the Eagles will be with the players who have been producing well lately, namely Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray.  Aside from the blow out loss to Chicago, Dez has been amazing, posting 31 catches for 373 yards and 3 touchdowns in the last four games.  DeMarco has been even better.  With 75 carries and 439 yards to go along with six total touchdowns, Murray has become the force of nature that Dallas has so desperately craved at the running back position.  The offense must feature these two guys prominently if they are to have any chance at keeping up with the Eagles offensively.

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