Eagles Keys To Beating Dallas: Winning The Turnover Battle by Matt Lombardo

On Sunday night the Eagles host the Dallas Cowboys in an NFC East game that is immensely important to both teams in the division race. As this heated rivalry is renewed, Taking It To The House will highlight one key to the Eagles winning the game each day until Sunday. Today the importance of the Eagles creating turnovers on defense and protecting the ball offensively is front and center. 

Prior to Sunday night’s showdown with the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles will induct two pillars of their rich defensive history into their honor roll; Eric Allen and Jim Johnson. One stalwart of both legends eras of dominating defenses was the Eagles winning the turnover battle. That simply hasn’t been the case this season, and against the Cowboys Philadelphia must protect the football.

In the season’s first six games the Eagles have treated the football like the proverbial hot potato. Philadelphia has already committed 17 turnovers this year and entering this week carry a -6 turnover ratio into their NFC East showdown with the Cowboys. To put it bluntly, it makes it very difficult to win in the national football league with such a vast turnover differential.

The problem is one plaguing both sides of the ball. Not only are the Eagles turning the ball over at an alarming rate on offense, but they are not taking it away on defense.

Despite assembling an all-world secondary in the offseason, the Eagles have only seven interceptions this year. Four of those picks came against the Rex Grossman-John Beck turnover machine in Washington in week six. Take away the Redskins game and the aforementioned secondary has only picked off three passes.

There’s no question that Tony Romo will put the ball up for grabs. The Cowboys starter is off to a solid start, completing nearly 65% of his passes for 1,756 yards and 10 touchdowns already this season but he has also thrown six interceptions. They key to rattling Romo is pressure, but one of the byproducts for the Eagles to be successful on Sunday night is to force him into mistakes and turning the ball over.

Dallas enters with a turnover ratio of -1.

From an offensive perspective, the Eagles simply need to maintain possession of the football and eliminate turnovers. Interceptions and fumbles change the scope of the game from field position to swinging momentum. Michael Vick needs to shake the turnover bug after a slow start that has seen him throw seven interceptions and lose two fumbles. The argument can be made that several of Vick’s interceptions are not his fault, but the fact remains that he turns the ball over on 4% of his passes.

Whether it be by sticking with the formula of continuing the pound the run game with LeSean McCoy as was the case against the Redskins, or put Vick in a position to throw more intermediate, high percentage passes, something must be done to cut down on the giveaways. The Cowboys are an opportunistic defense that likes to get pressure on the quarterback with their front four, just as the Cowboys am to protect Romo, the Eagles must keep Vick upright and in the pocket so he can properly go through his progressions rather than scrambling to avoid the rush.

Against the Bills in week five the Eagles turned the ball over five times. If that type of performance is repeated on Sunday night against the Cowboys, then the Birds may very well dig themselves a hole in the NFC East and NFC Wild Card race that they simply cannot dig themselves out of.

 

Matt Lombardo is the Philadelphia Eagles beat  reporter and host for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, NJ. Matt can be reached on Twitter @MattLombardoPHL or by Email at MDLombardo@yahoo.com

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