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Defense To Rise To Occasion

The Eagles are looking for a win, no matter how they get it. Doesn't have to be artistic. Doesn't have to be convincing. Doesn't have to be the kind of game that you remember forever.'

Just has to be a victory.

It is uncomfortable being 3-8 and looking up at the rest of the NFC East. The Eagles come into this game with the youth brigade playing leading roles, gaining experience, growing up very quickly.

What's the game plan to get a win? We've talked about the offense a bunch all week, and the challenges of putting points on the board with so much of the team's talent sidelined with injuries. The offense needs some help, then, and this is the time for Todd Bowles to have his defense stand up and deliver.

Bowles has made no excuses for the troubles the defense has had since he replaced Juan Castillo as the coordinator. There have been numerous blown assignments, missed tackles and wide-open receivers. The lack of takeaways and of quarterback sacks and pressures has been alarming.

At some point the defense is going to mesh, right? Bowles reviews the missed assignments with his defense and makes corrections and then the defense goes out and practices for the next game. If there are more coverage gaffes against Dallas, well, it's certainly fair to wonder what in the heck is going on during the week.

I think the defense is going to play well tonight.  I think the defense is stung by the recent poor performances, is on alert after the release of Jason Babin and knows that the national light is on again. There has to be a sense of pride to go out and play great football.

Besides, the Eagles match up pretty well against a Dallas offense that has struggled all season with its consistency. Dallas isn't great up front, and the Eagles should have the opportunity to play in the Cowboys backfield tonight. Dallas is going to want to establish the running game, so maybe the Eagles can get quarterback Tony Romo into some third-and-long situations and force some turnovers.

That's the key,  isn't it? The turnover ratio for this team ranks 31st in the NFL, ahead of only the woeful Kansas City Chiefs. The Eagles have really not had much luck taking the football away since opening the season with wins at Cleveland (four interceptions) and against Baltimore (two interceptions). If you can't take the ball away, you can't help the offense with a short field. And as challenged as the Eagles are minus so many key players on offense, all help is appreciated and needed.

The Eagles want some of the young players to increase their playing time, so it's exciting to see Vinny Curry play more than the 21 snaps he had on Monday night, and it's going to be intriguing to see how Brandon Graham responds as a starting left end, and it's certainly time to get Phillip Hunt on the field more to see what he can produce.

Mychal Kendricks has his second opportunity to cover tight end Jason Witten, and this is a critical experience in the rookie linebacker's development. How much did he learn from the first game? Dallas has watched film from the game at Lincoln Financial Field and the Cowboys will attack Kendricks based on the weaknesses they saw as they reviewed the game. How does Kendricks  respond?

The secondary has its hands full with a rejuvenated Dez Bryant on the same page with Romo. Bryant is the complete physical package and in recent weeks he's been mentally on board with the rest of the offense. That's a scary proposition for a secondary that has been so prone to the big play in the last two months of the season.

Miles Austin has been nursing an injury, but he's on track to play in this game, a must-win affair for the 5-6 Cowboys if they truly want to make a playoff run.

I'm taking the optimistic approach for this game. It's the Cowboys and it means something to me, despite the 3-8 record. The Eagles have had some great moments in Texas over the years and Andy Reid has won more than his share of games on the road against Dallas.

This losing streak has to end at some point, doesn't it? Why not tonight against the biggest rivalry the fans have. We all dislike Dallas. How about putting a dagger in their playoff hopes, and at the same time showing that the Eagles' young foundation is learning to win in this league and is setting the stage for a bright future.

It's Eagles-Cowboys, man. It is a game made for the defense to win. And it is long overdue that the defense does its part with takeaways and big plays, and gives the Kiddie Corps offense some short-field opportunities for easy points.

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