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Keys To The Game

Protection – Donovan McNabb is a good downfield passer. We have several guys who are good downfield receivers. The offensive line is the key to this situation. If they give McNabb a clean pocket there is no way Dallas can shut down DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Shutting down DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff is crucial. Dallas also likes to blitz their inside linebackers. We must keep them from getting a free run at McNabb.

History repeating itself – History says that Tony Romo will struggle in this game. His worst NFL games have come in late season meetings with our defense. His best showing against us in the rematches resulted in a quarterback rating of 55.8. Dallas has scored a total of 19 points in the three games. That's pretty amazing stuff. If we can get pressure on him early I'm sure the problems of the past will be in the forefront of his mind. Any time doubt creeps into the thoughts of a quarterback he is in for a long day. Two of the three games were in Dallas. This isn't about weather or the crowd. The Eagles make good adjustments, pressure Romo and Dallas tends to struggle. Trent Cole and the guys up front must get pressure.

Fast start – The Cowboys are tough to score on in the first quarter. The Eagles are the best team in the NFL at scoring in the first quarter and the first half. The Eagles are undefeated when they lead at the half. In the earlier loss to Dallas, we had six points at halftime. You can bet the coaches will be aggressive with trying to get points. Sometimes you want to play it safe and set up plays for the second half. That won't be us. We may come out running to set up some deep passes. We may come out going deep to stretch their defense. No matter what, the plan will be to get points on the board early.

Handle wideout screens – Dallas gave us fits with wide receiver screens in the first game. Luckily, we just played Denver last week. They ran a ton of receiver screens and we handled them well as the game went along. That experience should serve us well this week. Joselio Hanson was vital to stopping the screens. He learned to take a wide angle and force the receiver back to the inside, where the defensive pursuit was coming from.

Field position –In the earlier loss we constantly had to deal with a long field. Our best starting point was our own 36-yard line. We had five drives start inside our 20-yard line. Field position is something that all three parts of the game affect. The defense must get good, early stops. The special teams can help with returns, long punts and good coverage. The offense must flip the field when it is pinned deep so that the other team is then forced to start deep when they get the ball back.

Receivers must come up big – This applies to all of the receivers. Two years ago, Brent Celek made a huge catch to help seal a win over Dallas. Last year, Correll Buckhalter caught a short pass and turned it into a long gain. Buckhalter later lined up in the slot and caught a touchdown pass. Jackson made a big catch along the sideline in that game. The receivers must get open and then make catches. It also helps if the receivers can then get yards after the catch. The receivers didn't have a strong showing in the first Dallas game, but they have generally done a great job over the course of the season. The receivers must make plays if the Eagles are going to put up points on a good defense.

If you want more pre-game analysis, check outmy Fan-Demonium column.

-- Posted by Tommy Lawlor, 10:03 a.m., January 3

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