IRVING, Texas --So now it comes down to tonight. The Eagles have spent all week stewing over Sunday's loss to Dallas and in that time have worked on all the things they need to do to reverse their fortunes. There are so many things to consider here, so many questions after two Cowboys wins over the Eagles this season.
How much changes in terms of the scheme, we don't know. The Eagles' intensity has to be much higher, their attention to detail so much greater and the top-to-bottom execution has to be 180 degrees from where it was last week.
With that said, there are some particular matchups that bear watching. The Eagles have to improve in every phase, of course, but here are some things to watch and other random thoughts as the playoffs near ...
Dallas is starting Marc Colombo at right tackle and could use a Colombo and Doug Free combination there. Whoever plays for Dallas, the Eagles have to match up and win the battle. Dallas had too much success running behind Free and right guard Leonard Davis last Sunday. Juqua Parker, Victor Abiamiri, Moise Fokou, Chris Gocong, etc. have to win battles in the run game. I'm not sure this is a scheme change. I think it's more of a man-on-man change the Eagles have to make. Do you overload that side? No, because as Dallas demonstrated on that quick pitch to Felix Jones, the Cowboys have speed to get outside and make big plays. It really comes down to man-to-man improvement.
* How do the Eagles corral Miles Austin? The guy is the real deal. He is big and strong and has excellent hands and runs well. The Eagles may try to get up on Austin more than they did last week, but that would be risking some big plays down the field. Austin is tough to jam at the line of scrimmage. Whatever Sean McDermott comes up with, the goal is to limit Austin. Shutting him down is very difficult -- the Eagles did hold him to one catch in the first meeting, but it was good for 49 yards and a touchdown -- so the Eagles may employ some of those tactics here. * To win, the Eagles need to get the offense untracked, something they haven't done in two games against Dallas. Donovan McNabb has to get the ball out of his hands quickly and accurately. What could the strategy be offensively? The Eagles are going to throw the ball. You know they will do that. They've got to feature DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek and try to get Jeremy Maclin open as they did last week. * Jason Peters had a terrific game against DeMarcus Ware. The Eagles will continue to use the silent count and Peters has to be quick and strong on the edge and not allow Ware to dominate the game. Watch early to see what kind of balance Peters has, how effective he is punching Ware and what the Eagles are doing to keep Ware out of the backfield. * Good first start for Nick Cole, and now he needs to be better. The Eagles gave up some pressure inside as Dallas ran some stunts and worked some space for the linebackers. The onus is on the inside linemen -- Todd Herremans, Cole and Max Jean-Gilles to contain Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff and the rest of Dallas' outstanding front seven. Big game for those three men inside in the run game, too. * We'll all count the run/pass ratio early, but I think it is also important to watch the way the Eagles attack the Dallas defense. Can they afford to call five- and seven-step drops against this pass rush, or will McNabb go after the underneath areas and throw to the crossing routes that were open on Sunday? * If there's a way, the Eagles need to get Brent Celek matched up against linebacker Keith Brooking. Brooking is a good leader and an aggressive player, but Celek should have the advantage here in the open field. The Eagles went to Celek early on Sunday and kept some drives alive, and they need to feature him more. It is huge that Celek is a big part of things. * That said, Jason Avant has to be a factor in the middle of the field. He wasn't involved much at all last week, and that has to change. Dallas' secondary is very good, but the Eagles have to create some spacing and count on McNabb to deliver timely, accurate passes. * Every time you play Dallas, a defense has to be aware of tight end Jason Witten. The Eagles have to ride him and take him out of his routes and try to limit his presence. Quarterback Tony Romo loves Witten and with good reason, so the Eagles must get Romo out of his comfort zone right away. * How do the Eagles free Trent Cole? He was doubled last week and the Cowboys took him out of the game and the Eagles were unable to pressure Romo enough. This comes from a bit of creative design, because Cole will never give less than 100 percent effort. Either the Eagles need to work some blitzes off of Cole's side, or they need to move him around a bit. One on one, Cole has a chance for a big game against Flozell Adams. The Cowboys won't allow that matchup to happen very often, if at all. So how do the Eagles counter? * Nobody talks much about special teams, but it is clearly a phase of the game that can make such a huge difference here. Dallas stymied Jackson in the punt return game, so the Eagles have to be much better against the Cowboys' gunners. Give Jackson a chance to make a big return that could change the game.
Hey, everything has to go right for the Eagles. We all know about the records and the history and all that has happened this week. Nothing matters once the game begins. Win or go home. Win or the Eagles face an off-season of many, many questions.
The Eagles were embarrassed on Sunday, and they have the rare chance to turn the tables now. Rarely does that happen. Let's see how the Eagles take advantage of the situation, how they rise to the occasion and how they make the necessary adjustments during 60 minutes of football tonight to win a playoff game.