There were enough things to like from the Eagles’ offensive performance on Monday night in the 28-13 win over Washington – the point total (second highest this season), the total net yards (436, a season high), a 7-of-12 conversion rate on third down (not including the end-of-game kneeldown) – that offensive coordinator Mike Groh said his group has “gotten into a little bit of a groove.”
That’s good news with a top-five defense, in both points and yards, in the form of the Dallas Cowboys waiting on Sunday afternoon in Arlington, Texas.
“I think there is a level of comfort that we've gotten into a little bit of a groove,” Groh said Wednesday at his weekly press conference at the NovaCare Complex. “Obviously, the offensive line is playing really well and been able to run the ball efficiently the last couple weeks, which has opened a lot of other things up.”
The offense has been leaning on the running game and rookie running back Josh Adams in particular of late and he’s responded with 169 yards on 42 carries in wins over New York and Washington. As Groh said, the offense opens up with the running game operating well. The key, he said, is an offensive line that has hit its stride just in time for the stretch run.
“I don't know if there is just one thing to attribute it to,” Groh said. “They played together a long time and I think they just kind of found their groove a little bit. We've been persistent with the run game. Josh has done a really good job of understanding who to read on each one of these runs. Guys are doing a heck of a job of creating lanes, and if there is not a lane there, there have been enough times where the backs have done a good job creating on their own and getting more out of it than you might have thought initially.
“I think it's a combination of things. Nelson (Agholor) did a really good job at the point of attack in a lot of those runs the other night, so collectively as a group, I think we understand the run game plan well and are blocking it efficiently.”
To score against Dallas, the Eagles are going to have to play at an even higher level. The Cowboys frustrated the Eagles' offense in the November 11 meeting at Lincoln Financial Field, particularly in a first half when the Eagles were blanked on four third-down conversion attempts, gained only 132 total net yards, and scored just three points.
Even though the Eagles came to life in the second half with 17 points, it wasn’t enough. And when Dallas needed stops late in the game, the defense came through with a pair to clinch the victory.
“Obviously, their front four is putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback,” Groh said. “They have a really good pass rush unit. This unit flies around. They all run to the ball. They’re a really good tackling unit and they're covering well. Playing a lot of man coverage and covering well. So, I think they're playing very confidently right now. They have good players. They have a lot of team speed. They were a top-five defense the last time we played them, so we have a lot of respect for them on defense.”
The Cowboys have had a few extra days to prepare for the Eagles' offense after playing New Orleans last Thursday night and shutting down the high-flying Saints in a 13-10 Cowboys victory. That the teams are so familiar with one another probably negates some of that advantage, but the fact is that Dallas has had more time to get ready for what the Eagles do on offense.
Will it make a difference? There are no excuses in the NFL.
“Usually when you have those Thursday games, you get a little extra time off,” Groh said. “So from a preparation standpoint the coaches have had more time to prepare for us, but the players will probably have about the same amount as they would on a normal week. We have had a little bit less time, so we have to try to cram a little bit more in less time. We've had these short weeks before and performed really well. So that's just the nature of the NFL schedule. Everybody has these weeks. Obviously, we know this is an important game, and I think our guys will be ready and do whatever it takes to prepare to play well.”