The pressure on Romo -- to win in Week 17, to avoid a fourth-quarter interception, to save coach Jason Garrett’s job -- does not shift to his backup, Kyle Orton.
It shifts to Nick Foles. Not all of it, of course. Foles doesn’t have Chip Kelly’s job security on his shoulders, and there isn’t an ongoing national debate about whether he rises or shrinks in clutch moments.
But Foles is now the clearly superior quarterback in a must-win game, and that comes with pressure to deliver.
“It’s very important to be a good quarterback on a big stage,” Foles said. “Obviously, this game is a little bit bigger because we want to keep playing. In these games, you really have to execute. You have to block out all the other distractions and other feelings.”
If Romo led the Cowboys to a victory and the NFC East title, that would be viewed as another step in Foles' learning process. Getting outdueled by Orton would be a little tougher for Eagles fans to digest.
“Tony Romo is a great player,” Foles said. “He’s a great quarterback. You never want to see anybody injured. I hope he has a speedy recovery and he heals. But I’m playing against that team. Tony doesn’t play defense and I don’t play defense. I don't really worry about that. I just know this is what it is and I’m going to be ready for it.”
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Romo has played 16 career games against the Eagles, including a playoff game after the 2010 season. All but one of those were against Andy Reid-coached teams and their 4-3 defensive scheme.
In October, against Bill Davis’ 3-4 defense, Romo played well enough to win, but he was far from great. The Cowboys scored just three points in the first half. In the second half, Romo directed a third-quarter touchdown drive. After Foles went down with a concussion, the Cowboys spent the fourth quarter intercepting Matt Barkley and giving Romo the ball back.
Romo's final numbers: 28 for 47, 317 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. So you can see why Eagles defenders weren’t high-fiving in the meeting rooms when they heard Romo was injured. This is a group that just held Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears to 11 points.
It’s also a group that allowed 48 points the week before to Matt Cassel and the Minnesota Vikings. So the sense is that the Eagles’ performance, rather than the identity of the opponent, will go a long way toward determining the outcome Sunday night.
“I don’t know who that team was (in Minnesota),” linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “That wasn’t us. There can’t be any letdown. Our playoffs start this week. There’s no overlooking anybody.”
Other than Minnesota, the Eagles have held 10 of 11 opponents to 21 or fewer points. That includes Romo and the Cowboys in Week 7. If they can do that Sunday night, it should be enough to win.