Until Thursday afternoon when Michael Vick announced that he would not be able to play, the Eagles starting quarterback for Sunday's game against Dallas remained up in the air. The Cowboys, on the other hand, had no such mystery surrounding the position. Tony Romo will lead the Cowboys offense into his 14th career regular-season game against Philadelphia, which will also be his 100th career NFL start.
Romo, the 11th year pro out of Eastern Illinois, has had mixed results against the Eagles in his career. The Cowboys quarterback has a 7-6 career record against the Eagles in the regular season, which includes a 1-2 record in his first three career matchups. In those first two loses, the Cowboys managed to score just 13 combined points. On his Wednesday conference call, Romo cited former Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson as the biggest reason for his early struggles, and also said that dealing with pressure has always been the key to beating the Eagles defense.
"When I first started, Jim Johnson was the defensive coordinator there, and he had done a great job and he was very tough to go against," Romo said. "I think that was initially a tough scheme for me when I was younger, and I think that they just got after us a few years ago with the front four a little bit, and we had a little bit of trouble handing that. More than anything, I think you grow up and keep getting better and better and you find ways to try score more points against them."
When Romo surveys the Eagles defense on Sunday, it will be the first time that he will see them in Bill Davis' 3-4 scheme. According to Romo, the defense will look different than it did in years past, but the Eagles will still try to do the same things that they have done in previous meetings to try to slow him down.
"I think you see that scheme-wise they're teaching them to do a lot of different things. It might be as diverse as any team that we've gone against in the amount of stuff that they do," Romo said. "Now that can be a really tough thing to go against, but at the same time it could also allow people to be in positions that they may not have prepared for. It could be a big challenge and I think it will be a good challenge for us. Their front is playing well, they're getting after the quarterbacks, and they push the pocket well. They've got some good pass-rushers, and we'll have to be prepared for that.
"They're playing out of a little bit of a 3-4 front, so they're really having almost five pass-rushers on the field for a lot of the game. They'll get in their nickel packages and different things, but they like to dog and blitz. That's what they're going to hang their hat on. They're going to come after the quarterback, and you've got to have a plan to be able to counter that. You have to protect it up and then you have to throw screens and get the things that are going to give them trouble, and we have to have a plan like that because they're going to try to come after us. We know that, and I think that is will be an enjoyable game to be a part of for everybody if you can come out with a win."
2012 must have been a very enjoyable season for Romo, as he led the Cowboys to two victories over the Eagles, putting up 38 points in each of the two contests against a struggling Eagles secondary. This season, the faces in the Eagles secondary have changed, and Romo is looking forward to the new challenge.
"They're playing (well)," Romo said of the Eagles starting cornerbacks. "I think that Cary (Williams) and (Bradley) Fletcher are just guys that put themselves in good positions. They have good ball skills and they're out there sometimes and they do a good job in their man coverage."
Sunday's presumed quarterback matchup of Romo and Nick Foles will pit two quarterbacks against one another who are both familiar with playing the role of backup. Romo entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2004, but didn't throw a pass in the NFL until 2006. Now a three-time Pro Bowl selection, Romo can recall what it what it feels like to have to wait for your turn.
"As a young guy, you always want to play," noted Romo. "You never know if you're ready until you actually have to go out there and play. Even if you think you have some ability, you really don't know until you go out and prove it to yourself and obviously to your teammates and coaches. I was lucky enough to come up under Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe, and these guys were the truest professionals in every way of the word. I think they exemplified what you want in someone to teach a young guy. To me, no starter ever wants to not be playing. Once you realize that, and it's never easy, but at the same time you understand that if someone comes in and plays well, it's about the team and it always will be."
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