Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Dallas Cowboys [Print without images]

Thursday, December 22, 2011
Five-star: Big plays will decrease

By Todd Archer

Five-star question: Will the Eagles hit their average of six plays of 20 yards or more Saturday against the Cowboys?

When Philadelphia tore apart the Cowboys’ defense on Oct. 30 at Lincoln Financial Field 34-7, it recorded seven plays of at least 20 yards: four passes and three runs.

For as good as the Eagles were and as bad as the Cowboys were that night, the Eagles eclipsed that average by one. For that reason, I’ll take the under.

That doesn’t mean the Cowboys' defense will shut down the Philadelphia offense. I don’t see that happening. But I do see them limiting the 20-yard plays. This is not a good matchup for the Cowboys. The Eagles have speed at wide receiver in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. They have speed at running back in LeSean McCoy. They have speed at quarterback in Michael Vick.

The Cowboys cannot match that speed. In fact, hardly any team can, so that’s not exactly a dig against the defenders. It’s just the truth.

The Cowboys were unsound in the first meeting.

The defensive line did not maintain proper gap control and McCoy was able to cut back for a lot of his big runs. I think the Cowboys will be better in that area on Saturday. The Cowboys’ safeties played in a different county in the first meeting. I think they will challenge a little more. The key will be the play of the corners. They need to press Jackson and Maclin at the line and make it difficult for them to get off the line of scrimmage. If they don’t, then I take back my prediction.

This is a show-me game for Rob Ryan. He was admittedly embarrassed in the first meeting. He gets a do-over Saturday.