On the third of the Eagles' four sacks in a Thanksgiving beating of Dallas, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo simply fell to the ground before Brandon Graham could take joy in putting him there.
Romo, who is one of the most mobile quarterbacks the Eagles will face this season, did not try to scramble or spin. He surrendered.
Both teams were playing with only three days between games. Romo has been dealing with a back injury this season and did not have the amount of time between games that he usually takes. Although there's no way to measure how the injury affected Romo in a dominant performance by the Eagles defense, Romo did not play to the standard that the Eagles saw on film.
When the teams meet again Sunday, nine days will have elapsed since the Cowboys' 41-28 win over the Chicago Bears. That could mean the Eagles see a more capable quarterback than they saw on Thanksgiving.
"He looked a lot healthier in Chicago, and now 10 more days of recovery, I think we are going to get more of the healthy Tony Romo," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said.
Romo said having the normal routine this week will be beneficial, but he did not want to revisit what hindered him during an 18-of-29, 199-yard, two-interception outing. Romo gave credit to the Eagles defense.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said that the condensed scheduled was "not a factor" and that the Cowboys must live with the reality that the Eagles beat them that day.
Some Eagles defensive players would be glad to hear those answers, because they disagreed with the notion that Romo was affected by the lack of rest between games. Defensive lineman Fletcher Cox called it an "excuse," and he viewed Romo's lack of movement in the pocket as the by-product of the Eagles' swarming defense.
"When you got the heat coming, you'd lay down, too," Cox said. "It kind of messes with them. When you hit a quarterback earlier in the game, later in the game, he's looking for a pass rush. Some might lay down. Some might try to scramble out."
Linebacker Mychal Kendricks said that he "might have done the same thing" when the Eagles pass rush came if he had a bad back, but he does not know how Romo felt that day. He admitted that Romo looked better last Thursday in a 41-28 win over the Bears, when Romo threw for three touchdowns. Kendricks added the caveat that the Bears are not the Eagles.
"With any player, when you have a couple extra days of rest, that helps you," coach Chip Kelly said. "We're preparing for Tony Romo at his best, and when Tony's at his best, we have to be at our best."
The big difference could be the mobility, which Romo appeared to lack on Thanksgiving. Safety Malcolm Jenkins said Romo will be "a little less ginger" and will be more apt to scramble. That was what Jenkins saw when he watched the Bears film and most of the other games this season. His opinion was more in line with Davis', suggesting that the Eagles don't expect to see the version of Romo they saw two weeks ago.
"We expect to see the one we expected to see, where he's moving around, extending plays, getting rid of the ball quick, and feeling real comfortable in the pocket," Jenkins said.
Romo has completed 69 percent of his passes this season for 2,923 yards, 25 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. His worst passer rating came against the Eagles.
Romo pointed out that the Eagles defense is even tougher at home, where 31 of their 44 sacks have come. Romo said he must be cognizant of his snap count to prepare for that defense in Lincoln Financial Field.
A healthy Romo would improve the Cowboys, but the Thanksgiving win was about more than the Eagles defense's stopping the Dallas passing game. Romo said the Eagles "won that game convincingly in all three phases," and it will require more than Romo's improving if they expect a different result from the first time.
"When you look at it, you have to understand we can't just be a little bit better," Romo said. "We have to improve a lot to win this game."
Romo vs. Romo
There's the Tony Romo who is second in the NFL in quarterback rating (behind leading MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers), and then there's the Tony Romo who played like a turkey on Thanksgiving against the Eagles. Here is a comparison of his statistics:
Comp. % Yards Avg.* TD-INT Rtg.
Season 69.1 2,923 8.4 25-8 108.8
vs. Eagles 62.1 199 6.9 0-2 53.7
*Average yards per pass attempt