Philadelphia Eagles News

Collinsworth Ready For Rivalry's Round 2

Production meeting finished, Cris Collinsworth headed for the front door at the NovaCare Complex on Saturday and paused to talk about Cowboys-Eagles, Part 2. "You know it's tempo vs. ball control, Ali-Frazier," he said. "It's really what makes this game fun, because it's such contrasting styles and you know what Dallas is going to try to do and you know that the Eagles are going to try to do.

"Let's go play and see who wins."

Collinsworth is in the broadcast booth for the game, of course, alongside Al Michaels for the second time this season at Lincoln Financial Field. They were in town when the Eagles beat New York 27-0 on October 12. A lot has changed since that time. The Eagles have gotten healthier along the offensive line, with guard Evan Mathis and center Jason Kelce on the field, and they've also had a kind of massive change at quarterback with Mark Sanchez replacing Nick Foles.

At that time, in October, Collinsworth felt the Eagles would be a force in the NFC when they became healthy down the stretch. You remember that Collinsworth mentioned the Eagles in the preseason as a Super Bowl contender.

"It's kind of worked out as I thought," Collinsworth said. "I don't think Mathis and Kelce are quite all the way back yet, but good news is that the Eagles still have a chance to have an uptick as those guys get healthier. The running game has emerged quite a bit since the last time I was here. Some options are developing for the offense.

"The quarterback picture has a lot of questions. Does Nick Foles come back at all this season? It's always evolving. It's a war of attrition. The teams with the last men standing are the ones that win in December, and if Chip Kelly's sports science is right, the Eagles may have that little advantage that makes a difference to win games.

"The playoff picture in the NFC is a lot of fun. The Eagles are right there in the mix with a lot of teams."

What happens when the broadcast team, including sideline reporter Michele Tafoya, producer Fred Gaudelli and director Drew Esocoff, visits for a game? They watch practice, interview coaches and then spend time with players asking questions and getting a feel for how the team is approaching Sunday night's game.

Sanchez obviously will be a big story for this one as he continues as the starter with Foles sidelined.

"I think he's excited to have learned this new style. I don't think anybody would have thought that, 'Oh boy, Mark Sanchez gives us an uptick athletically, but compared to Nick he can run it a little better, he's got a little more quickness to him," Collinsworth said. "Is he ultimately the answer for an offense like this? Who knows? I think this is a one-year audition for him, too.

"And I think people watch Chip Kelly and this offense and what he was able to do at Oregon where he had mobile quarterbacks and he had runners at that position and now he uses Nick and the option is maybe a little more run/pass and he uses Mark and the option is maybe a little more run/run and it's an interesting, evolving question for this team. You've got (Oregon quarterback Marcus) Mariota out there and you wonder, 'Is Chip going to trade the house in the draft to get up and get him?' It's what keeps us intrigued, to see what's next here with this football team."

As for the game, one that determines who leads the NFC East with two games remaining in the regular season, the questions are the same for everyone. The Eagles won 33-10 in Texas on Thanksgiving Day. The Cowboys were a drained team physically and emotionally having played a tough Sunday night game to beat the Giants at MetLife Stadium.

The Eagles have said it all week, and Collinsworth echos the thought: This Dallas team will be vastly different than the one the Eagles played 17 days ago.

"I think we'll see a better effort out of Dallas. The short week impacts some teams more than others, and obviously with (quarterback) Tony Romo, who usually doesn't practice until Thursday, to expect him to have bounced back, it was not going to happen," Collinsworth said. "Medically, he didn't do some of the things he usually does on a Sunday. I think he'll have a better game.

"But it comes down to this: The Cowboys can't get avalanched in the first quarter like they did on Thanksgiving. For Dallas, it was a bad game. They lost containment. They got beat around the edge. You can't give Shady (LeSean) McCoy the edge and expect to stay in the game. They let the Eagles turn it into a running/bootleg game for Sanchez and you have to make Sanchez throw it from the pocket and beat you from there. It's all those kinds of things and it's going to be a battle in a great rivalry."

How much of an impact will the quick meet-again time play in this one? Collinsworth says he doesn't think much at all. Says players have a recollection of the game plan and the preparation.

"Nobody is surprising anyone in this game," he said. "They know each other very, very well."

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