Philadelphia Eagles News

The Preview: Cowboys Vs. Eagles

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This is the one that Eagles fans circled on the calendar when the schedule was first released on April 21.

Dallas week is always special, regardless of the standings. But for the first time, these two teams will square off at Lincoln Financial Field in the first month of the season.

The Eagles will look to erase the bad taste from Monday night's season opener in Atlanta, where the team lost 26-24 after falling behind 20-3 in the first half. Philadelphia will also look to avoid a two-game deficit this early in the season to the arch-rival Cowboys, who trailed 16-6 before rallying to beat the New York Giants, 27-26.

The Cowboys are the defending NFC East champs, but it should be noted that no one has won the title in back-to-back years since the Eagles owned the division in the early 2000s culminating with a fourth straight first-place finish in the 2004 season.

Dallas' offense was carried by DeMarco Murray, the AP Offensive Player of the Year and league rushing champion, last season. Murray gained 1,845 yards on the ground and 2,261 yards from scrimmage setting franchise records in both categories. Murray was not only allowed to leave the Cowboys in free agency, but he signed with the division-rival Eagles.

The Cowboys don't have their best skill-position player in wide receiver Dez Bryant, who broke his right foot against the Giants. However, quarterback Tony Romo is playing as good as he's ever played in his career and there are enough weapons to test the Eagles' defense.

It's a nationally televised affair on FOX. The fans are ready to explode. It's the Cowboys and the Eagles in the home opener at Lincoln Financial Field. Here's the preview.

- Chris McPherson

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Last Time They Met

Cowboys 38, Eagles 27
December 14, 2014 - Lincoln Financial Field

An inauspicious start was an omen that this was not going to be the Eagles' night.

After miscommunication led to a short opening kickoff not being fielded by the Eagles and recovered by Dallas, the Cowboys raced out to a 21-0 lead before holding on for a 38-27 victory in the game that ultimately decided the NFC East.

Both teams were 9-4 entering the contest, but the Eagles already had a game at hand after carving up the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. The Eagles jumped out to the early lead in that Bird Day feast, but it was Dallas that flipped the script in the rematch.

DeMarco Murray rushed for 81 yards and scored two touchdowns while Dez Bryant hauled in six reception for 114 yards and celebrated three times in the end zone. The Eagles rallied to cut Dallas' lead to 24-21 in the third quarter before Murray's second score, a 2-yard run up the middle, which was followed by a Mark Sanchez interception put the game away.

- Chris McPherson

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When The Eagles Have The Ball

In the Monday night opener in Atlanta, the Eagles never quite got the running game going the way they would have hoped. DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews both found the end zone, but from a yardage standpoint, the duo never really got into a rhythm. The Eagles fell behind and were moving the ball well through the air in the second half, so the run game wasn't much of a factor in the final two quarters.

That script could be flipped on Sunday. The Cowboys allowed 99 rushing yards to the Giants in Week 1 on 24 carries. The Giants aren't necessarily known as a running team, but they were able to find some gaps in the Dallas defensive line.  In 2014, the Cowboys allowed an average of 103.1 yards per game on the ground, so the Eagles could look to literally hit the ground running on Sunday afternoon. Though he may say otherwise, it's safe to assume that DeMarco Murray will be playing with a chip on his shoulder against his former team. After winning the rushing title with the Cowboys, Murray joined the Eagles this past offseason, and after being held to just 9 rushing yards in the season opener, you can bet that he'll be determined to turn things around in game No. 2.

When the Eagles do look to attack using Sam Bradford and the passing game, they'll be doing so against a Dallas defense missing a couple of critical pieces. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick tore his ACL in late August, dealing a devastating blow to the Cowboys' secondary before the regular season even began. Without Scandrick, the Cowboys top three corners are now Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Tyler Patmon. The Eagles could have a favorable matchup inside if Patmon lines up against Jordan Matthews in the slot. The Cowboys also used rookie first-round pick Byron Jones to cover tight ends whenever they went to the dime look against the Giants. If Jones has to cover Zach Ertz on Sunday, the advantage lies with the Eagles.

The Cowboys will also be without second-round pick Randy Gregory, who suffered a high ankle sprain against the Giants, taking away a solid rotational player from their defensive line. More time in the pocket is always a plus for Bradford, who carved the Falcons' defense in the second half of the opener by completing 21-of-25 passes in the second half.

Defensively, the Cowboys are led by linebacker Sean Lee, a standout, always-around-the-ball-type player who flies sideline to sideline. Lee missed all of the 2014 season after tearing his ACL (the third time he suffered that injury, twice in his left knee) during Training Camp. After a full year of recovery, Lee is once again a playmaker to watch in the Dallas front seven.

- Alex Smith

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When The Cowboys Have The Ball

Headed into the second game of the season, the Dallas Cowboys have more questions than ever before as the injuries have begun piling up. The team already had to worry about its run game, but now it will also be missing its top receiver, Dez Bryant, and possibly its starting left guard, Ronald Leary.

Bryant's injury will cause problems for the Cowboys, as they'll need to replace his offensive production during the recovery period. Losing the receiver who accounted for 1,320 yards in 2014 will be detrimental, especially when working to replace the DeMarco Murray's league-leading 1,845 rushing yards as well. In place of Bryant, the team will look to tight end Jason Witten. Last week against the Giants, Witten caught eight passes for 60 yards.

Regardless of missing Bryant, Tony Romo will need to be a priority for the Eagles' defense this Sunday. He threw for 356 yards in Week 1, the second most among quarterbacks, for three touchdowns and a 103.3 rating. However, the Cowboys' vet also threw two interceptions, showing that those turnovers will be key for Philadelphia. The Eagles picked off the Falcons twice on Monday Night Football, with one by Kiko Alonso the other from Walter Thurmond. The Eagles also had seven interceptions during the preseason.

Furthermore, after a bold prediction during Training Camp, linebacker Brandon Graham is eager to notch his first sack of the season. He accumulated 5.5 last year, with his last registered coming on the Thanksgiving game in Dallas. In total, Romo was sacked 29 times in 2014 for a loss of 215 yards. In the last meeting between Dallas and the Birds, the quarterback was brought down on four separate occasions by Fletcher Cox, Connor Barwin, Cedric Thornton and Vinny Curry. Pressuring Romo could be the difference-maker in this showdown.

Running backs Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden will be ones to watch as well, especially with Murray on the opposite sideline. The Eagles' defense surprisingly allowed 105 yards in the first game, while the Cowboys' offense saw little production in that category. The team is clearly still working to define its running back rotation, but it was clear that Randle was favored when playing the Giants. He had 16 touches for 65 yards, while McFadden carried six times for only 16 yards. In all, the team was held to just 80 rushing yards in its opener.

- Julie Bacanskas

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Key Matchups

1. WR Jordan Matthews vs. CB Tyler Patmon

In the slot, Jordan Matthews against Tyler Patmon will be the players to watch when the Eagles have the ball. Patmon has taken over at cornerback for the injured Scandrick, who suffered a torn ACL and MCL during Training Camp. Of their defensive losses, this one will hurt the Cowboys most as Scandrick is the team's best defensive back.

Despite a closing play he probably wishes he could take back, Matthews had a successful first game of the season with 102 yards on 10 catches. He was targeted 13 by quarterback Sam Bradford in the game as the two have already begun developing chemistry, something that was also evident during the preseason.

Matthews' biggest advantage in this specific matchup is his height, as usual. He has an extra five inches on Patmon, who measures in a 5-10. The cornerback does have the speed and skill to keep up with the receiver though, and in his rookie season, Matthews was quiet playing Dallas at home.

2. LB Kiko Alonso vs. TE Jason Witten

Last season, tight end Jason Witten had a phenomenal year, catching 64 passes for 703 yards and five touchdowns. When the Eagles took on the Cowboys in Dallas, they were able to shut him down, limiting the tight end to only 8 yards. That story changed in Philadelphia a few weeks later as Witten was the team's leading receiver with 69 yards on seven catches. Now with Bryant out, his production could even increase in the coming games.

However, this is a new season, and the Eagles will be sure to utilize Kiko Alonso. The inside linebacker's 6-3 stature will match up well against Witten, who stands at 6-6, and his speed will also fare well. After Monday's one-handed interception, it's clear the linebacker has the ball-handling skills to be successful if Witten is targeted as often as is expected.

3. S Malcolm Jenkins vs. WR Cole Beasley

If the Eagles continue to use Malcolm Jenkins at nickel as they did on Monday, he will be paired with Cole Beasley for the majority of Sunday afternoon. Jenkins had two near-interceptions in Atlanta and three pass breakups, highlighting a solid first performance.

The shifty 5-8 Cole Beasley on the other hand, had his ups and downs in Week 1. A fumble led to a Giants touchdown, but a key 16-yard grab in the fourth quarter helped the Cowboys squeeze out a victory. In the past, Beasley has played well against the Eagles, and he is another that may be targeted more during the game as a result of missing Bryant.

- Julie Bacanskas

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Trends To Watch

1. Eight Straight Games With A Touchdown For DeMarco Murray

With an 8-yard scoring scamper on Monday in Atlanta, DeMarco Murray has now rushed for a touchdown in eight straight games, including last year's playoffs. He holds the longest active streak in the NFL, and will look to add on to it against his former team on Sunday.

2. Chip Kelly Has Never Started 0-2, Even In College

Dating back to his time with the Oregon Ducks, Chip Kelly has never started a season 0-2 as a head coach. He's lost the opener twice with Oregon, once in his first game as the team's head coach in 2009 against Boise State and then again in 2011 versus LSU at Cowboys Stadium. Both times, the Ducks came back and won their second game.

3. Since 2013, The Road Team Has Always Come Out On Top

Since Kelly was hired by the Eagles before the 2013 season, the road team has won every matchup when it comes to Eagles vs. Cowboys. In fact, the Eagles haven't beaten the Cowboys at home since the 2011 season. The Eagles' wins at Dallas have been very dramatic during this timeframe to say the least. The Eagles won the NFC East title in the 2013 season finale at Dallas and ran wild against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving in 2014.

- Alex Smith

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