- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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That's a far cry from Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's preseason jab at the Eagles, when he made a thinly veiled reference to the "all-hype team" and vowed that the Cowboys would "beat their a-- when we play them."
Ryan had to eat his words after the Eagles racked up 495 total yards during a 34-7 rout on Oct. 30, prompting the brash defensive coordinator to take all of the blame for the embarrassing loss.
That was one of the only times this season the Eagles (6-8) looked worthy of hype generated by their several high-profile offseason additions. However, they'll come to Cowboys Stadium on Christmas Eve still in contention for the NFC East title, although the Cowboys are in the driver's seat of the division.
For the Eagles to repeat as NFC East champions, they must beat the Cowboys on the road and defeat Washington at home on Jan. 1. They need the New York Giants to lose to the New York Jets, then beat Dallas in their last game.
If all four scenarios work out Philadelphia's way, the Eagles would win the division in a three-way tie at 8-8 because they would have the best record in the East at 5-1.
"Because it is the Eagles and after the butt-kicking they gave us up in Philadelphia, I'm scared," Jones said Tuesday on KRLD-FM. "It's that kind of feeling. The respect turns into being afraid of what they can do to you if you have some breakdowns out there, so you can put that scared there if you want to. I think sometimes I know I do my best when I'm scared."
Those comments came just a few breaths after Jones strongly hinted he believes the Cowboys (8-6) have the potential to make a Super Bowl run.
The primary reason for Jones' optimism is the performance of quarterback Tony Romo, who is in the midst of arguably the best year of his career. Romo has thrown for 3,895 yards and 29 touchdowns with only nine interceptions this season and has 21 touchdowns and only four picks in the past 10 games.
With Romo healthy and playing this well, Jones has said it would be a "career disappointment" not to qualify for the playoffs, something the Cowboys could do Saturday if they beat the Eagles and the Giants lose to the Jets.
"The stage is set for us to do something special," Jones said. "We're a team that could get on a roll. We have a talent level that could have some fun here during the next two games and the playoffs if we can get there."
The biggest concern is a defense that has been inconsistent and was awful in losses to the Eagles and Giants, who combined for 71 points and 1,005 yards against Dallas.
The Eagles marched 89, 90 and 67 yards for touchdowns on their first three drives against the Cowboys in a game that was essentially over by midway through the second quarter. Eagles tailback LeSean McCoy rushed for 185 yards -- the most allowed by Dallas in more than a decade -- and two touchdowns on 30 carries. Quarterback Michael Vick completed 21 of 28 passes for 279 yards and two scores.
Ryan said after the game that he regretted giving the Eagles extra motivation with his preseason comments and certainly didn't back up his bold talk, getting outcoached by Andy Reid. He's eager for the chance to make up for that miserable night.
"We're looking for that challenge," Ryan said after Saturday night's win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "We're ready to get it right. I don't know how many chances you get to do a mulligan, so here we go."
Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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