The year was 2004 and the Eagles faced a serious shortage along their offensive line. The Green Bay Packers were coming to town and the Eagles used an offensive line starting Steve Sciullo and Alonzo Ephraim at the guard positions against an outstanding Green Bay defensive front and a lot of people worried about the Eagles offense.
Steve Sciullo? Alonzo Ephraim?
It didn't matter on that day as the Eagles scored 35 points in the first half and Donovan McNabb tossed 5 touchdown passes, completed 14 in a row to start the game and ended up with 464 yards in the air in a stunning 47-17 victory.
I bring up that game for obvious reasons this week. Jamaal Jackson's injury forces the Eagles to again shift around their offensive line. Nick Cole steps in, with Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff staring him in the face and with 80,000 Cowboys fans making all kinds of noise in the Cowboys' new, sparkling stadium. Juan Castillo has a great, great challenge this week and can draw on the experience in 2004 -- and many others that he has had -- to help with the changes.
The fact is, Castillo believes in each and every one of his linemen. You do it Castillo's way or you don't do it. So this week will be a very important time of teaching, of having great practices and of being prepared for every situation the Cowboys will present in that aggressive 3-4 scheme they play.
If history tells you anything, it is that Castillo and the Eagles have been down this road before and they have made the very best of the situation.
- The Pro Bowl voting comes out at 7 p.m. tonight and here are the Eagles who should be there: WR DeSean Jackson, FB Leonard Weaver, LT Jason Peters, K David Akers, DE Trent Cole, CB Asante Samuel and CB Sheldon Brown. I could certainly make a case for Brent Celek, who has been wonderful. Too many other bigger-reputation tight ends have also had good years. McNabb has had a fine, fine Pro Bowl-worthy season, but Drew Brees, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers will get the call, I'm sure. Defensive tackles Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley deserve a lot of love, but they don't have the sack numbers. Jackson had a worthy Pro Bowl season at center. This roster is deep, talented and outstanding and I think having an 11-4 record with all of these injuries validates the team's optimism from the preseason.
- Brian Westbrook didn't play the first time around against Dallas, so it will be great having him in the lineup in this game. Westbrook comes up big in huge games, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him get the larger share of reps and touches at the halfback position at Dallas.
- Would the Eagles consider bringing in a kickoff return man for this game? Any good ones on the streets? They could put Jackson on Injured Reserve and go from there.
- The more I looked at the penalty against Macho Harris, the more I didn't like the call from last Sunday's game against Denver.
- I hate to do it because he is a Cowboy, but don't you have to respect the world of what Miles Austin has done? Kid has come from the roster fringe to become a force in the Dallas passing game. The Eagles must be aware of Austin on Sunday. He had that double move for a touchdown in the first meeting.
- Do you have your playoff angst yet? This game is absolutely a playoff game, in so many ways. I will argue that last year's game, once it started, had more on the line because the losing team's season ended, but in terms of pure hype and the scope of the week leading up to the game, I can't remember a regular-season finale any bigger that this one.
- Best free-agent signing of the year in the NFL? Hmmm ... I am going to take the very narrow view and say that Weaver has to rank very close to the top. Do you agree? He has meant so much to this team.
- Trent Cole has tied a career high in quarterback sacks and he has a great matchup on Sunday against Flozell Adams. They know each other so well. The Cowboys will do what they can to keep Cole out of Tony Romo's hip pocket. To me, that is maybe the biggest key in the game. Can Cole disrupt Romo from the blind side?