Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Eagles-Cowboys: What We'll Be Watching

Brother, Can You Spare A Turnover? The Cowboys’ 23 giveaways are the third most in the NFL. Tony Romo is 30th in interception percentage. But the Eagles are having more trouble forcing turnovers than Lindsay Lohan is staying out of the police blotter. They have just 10 takeaways, the second fewest in the league. None in the last three games and only four in the last nine. Five games without an interception. One in the last seven.

Eagles-Cowboys: What We'll Be Watching

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Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo escapes from Eagles defensive end Tent Cole during the third quarter. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo escapes from Eagles defensive end Tent Cole during the third quarter. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Brother, Can You Spare A Turnover? The Cowboys’ 23 giveaways are the third most in the NFL. Tony Romo is 30th in interception percentage. But the Eagles are having more trouble forcing turnovers than Lindsay Lohan is staying out of the police blotter. They have just 10 takeaways, the second fewest in the league. None in the last three games and only four in the last nine. Five games without an interception. One in the last seven.

Point of No Returns. The Eagles are 20th in punt return average (7.9) and 28th in kick return average (20.6), which actually is better than last week when they were 24th and 29th respectively. Before Brandon Boykin’s 44-yard KR Monday night (punctuated by a costly fumble), their longest return was 31 yards. Damaris Johnson’s 18-yard PR against the Panthers was the Eagles’ second longest of the season (they had a 20-yard return v. Saints). They need better production from their return game Sunday to shorten the field for the offense.

Secondary Concerns. Few times in Eagles history has the pass defense been as inept as it’s been in the five games since Todd Bowles replaced Juan Castillo as defensive coordinator. In the last five games, opposing quarterbacks have a combined 139.9 passer rating. They’ve completed 75.2 percent of their passes, averaged 9.7 yards per attempt and thrown 13 touchdown passes and no interceptions. The opponent passer rating on third down in those five games is even higher – 146.8. On Sunday, they’re going up against a quarterback – Tony Romo -- who threw just seven incompletions against them three weeks ago.

Foles Gold. The Eagles have five more games to get a read on rookie Nick Foles’ growth potential. He’s done some good things and some bad things in the 11 quarters he’s played so far. Completed 16 of 21 passes against the Panthers. Threw two interceptions against the Redskins and had three passes that should’ve been picked off last week. Most of his problems have been on passes in the middle of the field, which is natural for a rookie. He needs to get in a groove early Sunday night and build off of that.

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Bryce Is Right. After letting Foles drop back a ridiculous 50 times against the Redskins, Andy/Marty dialed down the pass against the Panthers and dialed up the run game. Rookie Bryce Brown rushed for 178 yards and two touchdowns (and fumbled twice) and Dion Lewis came out of witness protection to chip in 24 yards on five carries. The much-maligned offensive line did a nice job of opening holes for the pair and the ground success helped keep the Panthers’ pass rush on its heels. Against a Dallas defense that was gashed for 113 yards by the Redskins’ Alfred Morris on Thanksgiving, it would be a good strategy to repeat. – Paul Domowitch

Daily News Columnist
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