Cowboys punt returner Patrick Crayton has returned a punt for a touchdown in each of the last two games, and he will try to make history tonight. Standing in his way is Philadelphia's special teams coverage units.
"I give him a lot of credit," special teams coordinator Ted Daisher said. "[He is an] excellent slasher returner, big strong guy. He gets north-south in a hurry, has done a real nice job. No matter where he catches the ball, he's a threat.
"Whenever he gets the ball in his hands, and they've done an excellent job the last two weeks, we'll have our hands full."
It's one more subplot in a game that features plenty.
Crayton gave Dallas a boost with a 73-yard return against the Falcons and followed it up with an 82-yard return last week against Seattle. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no professional player has ever returned a punt for a touchdown in three consecutive games.
"Nobody ever did it three weeks in a row, so we made that a little something we could aim for," said linebacker Tracy White, a key component of Philadelphia's specialty teams. "Our coverage team is pretty good. We look forward to that challenge."
Philadelphia has allowed only 5.3 yards per punt return, fourth-best average in the league, and has not given up a scoring punt return since Miami's Ted Ginn Jr. on Nov. 18, 2007.
The punting of Sav Rocca will be key in neutralizing Crayton's impact on the game.
"He's pretty fast. He reads the play well. He gets up the field," Rocca said. "We just have to make sure that we don't give him a lot of space, we get guys in his face. I kick the ball high enough to give guys time to get down there and don't give him the space to get north.
"It's going to be a huge team effort to make sure that we don't give him the time and space to get up the field."
White agreed and added that the key will be guys getting off blocks, spreading the field and staying in their lanes.
That is something Daisher believes his units have done well lately.
"We're becoming more consistent in our coverage phases on punt and kickoff, as far as guys being in their right lanes, being more disciplined. That's beginning to come together," Daisher said. "One mistake obviously can cost you, but right now that group has been playing better and making improvements."
Daisher knows how much a good return - let alone one for a touchdown - can mean in terms of momentum. Last week against the Giants, Ellis Hobbs returned the opening kickoff 35 yards to the Eagles' 40. Three plays later, Leonard Weaver gave the Eagles the early lead with a 41-yard touchdown run.
"Special teams can really do that, especially when you start the game out and you get the ball out to about the 40-yard line, your offense just has a little juice when they take the field," Daisher said. "It just gives you life."
Hopefully, Daisher's unit will not allow Crayton to give Dallas added life Sunday night.
-- Posted by Bob Kent, 10:34 a.m., November 8