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Eagles plan to turn up pressure on Romo

In eight games this season, the blitz-happy Eagles have sacked an opposing quarterback three or more times. Seven of those times, the Eagles won.

Eagles Trent Cole takes down Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo during a game at the Linc last season. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Eagles Trent Cole takes down Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo during a game at the Linc last season. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)Read more

In eight games this season, the blitz-happy Eagles have sacked an opposing quarterback three or more times. Seven of those times, the Eagles won.

Tony Romo is the only one to survive the sacks. In Dallas' 20-16 victory Nov. 8 at Lincoln Financial Field, Romo was sacked four times. But he withstood the pressure when he needed to, once again proving his elusiveness in the pocket.

That, the Eagles say, simply means more pressure is necessary.

"If a guy is getting pressured and making plays, all you can do is line up again and try to get more pressure," defensive end Victor Abiamiri said. "That's our defense. We're a pressure defense. The more we can get, the better we are on the back end."

The Eagles enter the final week of the regular season tied for third in the NFL with 42 sacks. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott has adopted the late Jim Johnson's penchant for blitzing and expanded it.

And that won't change tomorrow against the Cowboys, even though Romo found a way to beat it before.

"I was fairly pleased with the amount of pressure we had last time," McDermott said. "But as I've said before, you always want more pressure on the quarterback."

The knock on Romo used to be that if a team could get a few hits on him, he'd develop happy feet and ultimately commit turnovers. But Romo has proved this season he can take some hits and still make plays. His 32 sacks are tied for eighth most in the NFL.

In early November against the Eagles, Romo didn't make the big play until the fourth quarter, when he hit Miles Austin for the eventual game-winning score, a 49-yard touchdown on third and 14.

Romo cited his maturation as a reason for why he has reduced his turnovers this season. He also said the more times he goes up against the pressure of the Eagles' defense, the more acclimated he has become to it.

This time around, Romo expects much of the same - with some twists.

"The thing about it is, what we did last time we'll have to change up and be ready to do things differently," Romo said earlier in the week on a conference call. "I'm pretty sure they'll do a similar type of fashion. For us, it's about the ability to handle all the extra pressure."

McDermott will follow that strategy, too.

"When you play a team twice, or multiple times in any year, you look at what worked the first time and you try to go back to it," McDermott said. "Then change some things that didn't work, isolate those situations, and try to improve on them."

The type of pressure could change a little, but not much, Eagles defensive end Juqua Parker said. The pass rushers just need to be more cognizant of keeping Romo from getting outside the pocket, Parker said. That's where Romo can make his plays.

Trent Cole, who ranks fifth in the NFL with 121/2 sacks, had one against Romo in the first meeting. Romo singled out Cole as the player the Cowboys must account for the most in preparation. Cole said his strategy doesn't change.

But this time, Romo knows he can take the hits and overcome the Eagles' pass rush based on the success in November. That, Cole said, can change in the span of a few early hits to knock some of that confidence away.

"We have to go in there and just do it again," Cole said. "Get as much pressure as we can. If he's going to evade it, he's going to evade it. You can't do anything about it. He's very good at doing that."