Eagles Visit Cowboys With Postseason Hopes On the Line Again
Will the Eagles still use Nnamdi Asomugha to cover Jason Witten with Asante Samuel out?
The Eagles don’t know yet whether they’ll be playing for their lives when they get started, but they know they can’t afford a loss. If the Birds fall, their season ends. They also need a Jets win over the Giants in a game still up for grabs, with the Giants on top 10-7 in the third quarter at the time of this writing.
The good news is the Eagles know they can beat the Cowboys after taking them apart in a 34-7 blowout earlier this year. Tony Romo was mediocre in that game, with a touchdown and an interception for Dallas. Since, he’s been anything but, with 18 touchdown passes and just two interceptions.
“We’ve always thought he was a good player, he’s one of the top quarterbacks and he gets into those moments where he’s really streaky and it’s tough to stop him and you’ve seen that,” said Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. “He’s done it, I think more often than not, in the last month, maybe month and a half.”
Part of slowing down the Cowboys offense is covering all of Romo’s targets: Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Laurent Robinson. The Eagles will have to do that without Asante Samuel, who is sidelined with a hamstring injury. His absence limits the Eagles options, and may prevent them from putting Asomugha on Witten to shut down the Cowboys’ tight end.
“When not everyone’s available, we can’t do as much as far as matching up on guys,” said Asomugha. “We do have obviously packages where I’ll go to him and there’s some where a linebacker will take him.”
On offense, it’ll be the Eagles presenting matchup problems to the Cowboys. All of the Eagles top weapons have dealt with injuries or absences this year. Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin have all either played through injuries, been benched, or missed time with injuries. Even Brent Celek had a bout with pink eye. Now, they’re all nearing 100 percent.
“It’s always a good thing when you’ve got everybody healthy and playing their best football and just being accountable on the field each and every week,” said Vick. “It’s hard to be in that position throughout a 16-game season, but it feels good going down the stretch to have everybody ready to go and in good spirits.”
In a sense, the Eagles are embracing their uphill battle. Sure, they would prefer to be in the driver’s seat as expected, but there’s a certain entertainment factor in trying to prove everyone wrong.
“I need to watch how I say this, like we’re not happy how this thing’s gone, but it’s like fun and entertaining how we’re all together battling back,” said McCoy. “Before it was like ‘Eagles are super done, there’s nothing they can do.’ And now we’re kind of together, battling back to win this.”
With McCoy in the mix for the league rushing title, the Cowboys will have to pay him some respect. The third-year back also ran for 185 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries in the first meeting. If Dallas does key in on the Eagles running game, that may open things up downfield.
“I think it’ll put us in a lot of single high, leaving us one-on-one with the corners and I think that definitely plays to our advantage,” said Maclin. ”Shady’s done a tremendous job running the ball this year so we are starting to get a lot more single high and it definitely leaves us out there one-on-one.”
If that’s what the Cowboys opt to do, expect lots of deep balls towards Jackson and Maclin. It’s hard to see the Cowboys finding favorable matchups when their defense is on the field against the Eagles offense, but then again, Philadelphia may already be eliminated from the playoffs when things get going. Maclin insists they’ll still play hard.
“We’re all out there playing for pride and whatever the outcome is, whatever the scenario is at the end of the year, then that’s what it is but all we can do is control what we can control,” said Maclin.
Asante Samuel, Trevor Laws, Brandon Graham, Winston Justice, Cedric Thornton, Julian Vanderveld and Greg Lloyd are inactive.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will start for Samuel at left cornerback.
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