Paul Domowitch's Eagles-Cowboys scouting report:
WHEN THE EAGLES RUN THE BALL
The Eagles’ ground game fuels their offense. Mark Sanchez is not a quarterback who can carry a team on his back. Stop LeSean McCoy and the Eagles’ rushing attack and you effectively stop the offense. The Eagles have been held under 110 rushing yards five times this season. They’ve won just one of those games (Washington in Week 3). The Eagles’ offensive line dominated the Cowboys’ front seven in the first meeting, enabling McCoy to rush for a season-high 159 yards on 25 carries. But he was shut down last week by the Seahawks (50 yards on 17 carries). The Eagles’ athletic offensive line effectively handled the Cowboys’ front seven in the first meeting. McCoy, who ran away with the league rushing title last season, has 1,068 rushing yards through 13 games and has rushed for at least 80 yards in seven of the Eagles’ last nine games. His backup, Darren Sproles, is averaging 6.1 yards per carry and has 15 rushing first downs and 11 double-digit-yard runs in 49 carries.
WHEN THE EAGLES THROW THE BALL
Mark Sanchez had his best game of the season in the Thanksgiving win over the Cowboys, completing 69 percent of his passes and not throwing an interception. It was one of just 2games since he replaced injured Nick Foles in Week 9 in which Sanchez has been turnover-free. He has 7 interceptions in 195 attempts. The deep ball is not Sanchez’ strength. Sixty-eight percent of his attempts have been in the 0-to-19-yard area, most between the hash marks. He has completed 64.1 percent of his passes at that distance, but also has thrown 5 of his 7 interceptions. He’s only attempted 25 throws of 20 yards or more in 23 quarters, completing 9. RB Darren Sproles, who caught 232 passes the last three seasons with New Orleans, has just 29 catches with the Eagles and only 18 in his last 10 games. The Cowboys’ have struggled to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. They have just 19 sacks and have the fifth highest opponent completion percentage in the league (66.7).
WHEN THE COWBOYS RUN THE BALL
The Cowboys have made a major commitment to the run. They are third in the league in run-play percentage (49.0) behind only Houston and Seattle. They’re averaging 30.8 rush attempts per game this season compared to 21 last season. DeMarco Murray leads the league in rushing with 1,606 yards. He also leads the league in rushing attempts with 320 (24.6 per game). He’s on pace for 394 carries, which would be the seventh most in league history. Murray has rushed for 100-plus yards in 11 of 13 games, but one of those two game in which he didn’t was against the Eagles two weeks ago, when he was held to 73 yards on 20 carries. The Eagles held the Cowboys to 2.0 yards per carry on second down and 1.5 yards per carry on third down. Murray regained his mojo last week, putting up 179 yards on 32 carries against a bad Bears defense. But the Eagles have done a good job all year against the run, holding opponents to 3.9 yards per carry. Just one RB has rushed for more than 90 yards against them this season.
WHEN THE COWBOYS THROW THE BALL
Tony Romo is second in the NFL in passing with 25 TD passes, just eight interceptions, a 69.1 completion percentage and a 108.8 rating. But he had a season-low 53.7 rating in the Thanksgiving loss to the Eagles. He threw for just 199 yards and had 2 interceptions and no TDs. He also was sacked four times by an Eagles’ pass rush that is second in the league in sacks (44). Romo has been playing with two transverse process fractures in his back and torn rib cartilage, and those injuries clearly affected his mobility and throwing motion in a short-week game on Thanksgiving. This time, he’ll be playing on 10 days rest and should be better able to extend plays if/when he is flushed from the pocket by the Eagles’ pass rush. The Eagles have been susceptible to the big pass play this season. They’ve given up 24 touchdown passes and have allowed a league-high 24 pass plays of 30 yards or more. They gave up just one 30-plus-yard pass play in the first meeting with the Cowboys.
Eagles PK Cody Parkey has been a godsend for an Eagles offense that has too often stalled in the red zone. He’s missed just 2 of 29 field goal attempts this season and is 4-for-4 from 50-plus yards. He has been nursing a groin injury that has impacted the depth of his kickoffs a bit. He has just 7 touchbacks on his last 27 kickoffs. The Eagles’ kickoff coverage unit has given up 4 returns of 30-plus yards on Parkey’s other 20 KOs. Just 16 of Donnie Jones’ last 44 punts have been returned. One was a 75-yard TD return v. Green Bay. On the other 15, the Eagles have held opponents to 4.4 yards per return. Darren Sproles leads the league in punt returns with a 14.1-yard average. He had three double-digit-yard returns in the first game against the Cowboys. Cowboys PK Dan Bailey is 21-for-24 on FGAs. But the Cowboys have had a FGA and punt blocked this season. The Eagles have blocked three punts and a FGA. Dwayne Harris is averaging 9.8 yards on PRs and 25.8 on KRs.
Tony Romo has been playing with an injured back and ribs, and the short recovery week before the Eagles-Cowboys Thanksgiving game didn’t help him. This time, he’s had 10 days to heal and get ready. Over the last nine years, the Eagles have managed to sweep the season series against the Cowboys just twice – in 2011 and 2006.
Domo’s prediction: Eagles 34, Cowboys 24
Eagles DE Fletcher Cox v. Cowboys C Travis Frederick. Cox, who often lines up over center, was a dominant force last week v. Seattle. Advantage: Eagles
Eagles RB LeSean McCoy v. Cowboys MLB Rolando McClain. McCoy rushed for a season-high 159 yards in the first game against the Cowboys. Advantage: Eagles
Eagles CBs Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher v. Cowboys WRs Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams. Bryant and Williams have combined for 16 TD catches. Eagles have given up 24 TD passes, the fourth most in the league. Advantage: Cowboys
Eagles: DE Fletcher Cox. Had 11 tackles and three hurries in loss to Seattle.
Cowboys: RB DeMarco Murray. Rushed for a season-high 179 yards in Cowboys win over Chicago.
Eagles: QB Mark Sanchez. Had just 96 passing yards v. Seattle and threw his seventh interception in 23 quarters.
Cowboys: TE Jason Witten. On pace to finish with just 57 catches and 609 yards, which would be his lowest numbers since his rookie year.