We will see later today if the Eagles learned anything from their first two games against the Dallas Cowboys. Here is what the Eagles need to do in order to advance in the playoffs ...
Big-Play Touchdowns – We have had potential touchdown passes go awry in each Dallas game. This week, we need to connect. They have a good defense. It is hard to sustain a long drive and score a touchdown on them. We must make big plays pay off in points.
Get Off Blocks – Defensive linemen and linebackers need to shed blocks. On pass plays, they need to get free so we can pressure Tony Romo. On run plays, they need to get to the ball and tackle. Dallas did an excellent job of sustaining blocks last week. Our guys have to win individual battles. Jeremiah Trotter did a terrific job of this last Sunday. We need more of the same from him.
Ground Game – We only had a handful of carries last time out. This problem is on the coaches and the players. Marty Mornhinweg must dial up more run plays. The offensive line needs to do a better job of opening holes. Finally, the runners must make something happen. Coaches don't draw up a run play for every defender to get blocked. They know at some point the running back will need make a defender miss or run through an arm tackle.
Field Position – In the two losses to Dallas most of the drives have started at our 20-yard line or worse. Quintin Demps and DeSean Jackson need to help us in the return game. As little as five extra yards can make a difference. David Akers' errant field goal last week would probably have been good if he was just a bit closer. A long return could have tremendous impact. Jackson did that last year in the wild card win over Minnesota.
Get There – There is an old saying that goes, ""Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades."" How many times last week was a defender about to make a play, but he just missed? We were oh so close. Asante Samuel barely missed two passes. One turned into a touchdown. The other went for a 40-yard gain. Quintin Mikell just missed breaking up a throw to Jason Witten. There were multiple run plays where a tackler just missed getting the Dallas runner down for a minimal gain. This time out we need to finish plays. Knock down the ball. Make the tackle. Hit the quarterback. Being close isn't good enough.
Stars Must Shine – DeSean Jackson has been quiet in the Dallas losses. Same for Jeremy Maclin. Same for Donovan McNabb. Same for all the running backs. In the postseason, you need your stars to play up to their talent. Does Arizona go to the Super Bowl last year without Larry Fitzgerald having a record-setting performance in the playoffs? No way. We need good games from the skill guys as well as Trent Cole and Samuel. The best players are supposed to make big plays in these types of situations.
Land Some Shots – I don't think we have any chance to win unless we pressure Tony Romo and get some good hits on him. If he sits in the pocket smiling and comfortable, we are going to have a miserable weekend. Sean McDermott should come up with an aggressive game plan. That gives the Eagles their best chance to succeed. It is then up to the players to hit Romo, early and often. Let's make his day miserable, one hit after the next.
For my complete game preview, check out my Fan-Demonium column ...
-- Posted by Tommy Lawlor, 1:14 p.m., January 9