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Cowboys And Eagles Share Poor Records For Same Reasons
IRVING, Texas – The similarities between the Cowboys and Eagles go much deeper than both teams sitting halfway through the season with the same 3-5 record and in dire need of a victory.
Both teams have both lost four of five games, with the latter losing four straight. Entering the second half of the campaign, quarterback Tony Romo put the importance of this weekend's game succinctly.
“Both teams need to play their best football,” Romo said. “This is the time of year that people are going to separate themselves. Obviously, it’s time for us to go out and play our best game.”
Both squads can point to similar reasons why that “best game” hasn’t occurred yet for either team:
Neither team can create them. Both teams are committing them.
The Cowboys and Eagles lead the NFC in giveaways and own the worst turnover differentials in the conference at minus-11 and minus-nine, respectively.
Both teams have turned the ball over 19 times. The only difference is how most of those turnovers have occurred for both teams. The Cowboys lead the NFC in interceptions thrown with 13, while the Eagles lead the NFC in fumbles with 10. If not for Kansas City’s stupefying 29 turnovers this season, the Eagles and Cowboys would have turned the ball over more than any team in the league.
Neither is particularly adept at creating turnovers, either. The Cowboys are last in the NFC with eight takeaways, while the Eagles are one of four teams with 10.
Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher said turnovers mask the talent of a 3-5 Cowboys squad.
“We’re a whole lot better,” Hatcher said. “We’ve just got to do the small things. We’ve got to finish games, take care of the ball, create more turnovers on defense. Just finish overall. We’ve got to just do those things. I’m not giving up.”
The former category ties in to the red zone problems, which might be the most significant issue for both teams this season.
The Cowboys boast the No. 6 total offense in the league, holding the NFL’s third-best passing offense. The Eagles own the No. 10 total offense in the league, sitting toward the top half in both passing and rushing offense in the NFL.
However, a knack for eating up yardage hasn’t translated into points for either team. The Cowboys average the 26th most points in the league per game (18.8), while the Eagles are tied for 29th in scoring offense per game (16.6).
An inconsistent rushing attack and penalties led to a lot of the problems for the Cowboys. Turnovers and sacks led to many of them for the Eagles. Both teams’ inefficient red zone offenses were on full display in their most recent games.
Quarterback Michael Vick threw an interception from the Saints’ 6-yard line that was returned for a touchdown. Tight end Brent Celek later fumbled at the Saints’ 8-yard line as the Eagles tried to mount a late comeback.
“In the red zone, you’ve just got to execute,” Vick said. “You’ve got to play faster. You just can’t have negative plays. Last week we went 0-for-5 in the red zone, and just had a ton of negative plays, and that just can’t happen.”
The Cowboys had no luck reaching the end zone either, going 0-for-2 in the red zone against the Falcons. Had they had an effective rushing attack they trusted, that may not have been the case. Both of those trips occurred in the first quarter and ended on a set of downs where the Cowboys elected to run once and pass twice.
The Eagles are last in the NFC with a 37 percent touchdown rate inside the red zone, while Dallas is at 44 percent efficiency. The Cowboys have scored 88 percent of the time they’ve reached the red zone. Untimely turnovers are enough of a problem for the Eagles that they’ve only scored 74.1 percent of the time they’ve gotten inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
The Cowboys are tied for the fourth-most penalties in the league at 61 with St. Louis. The Eagles have five fewer penalties, yet 59 more penalty yards than Dallas.
Both teams committed seven penalties last week in their respective losses.
Philadelphia actually had 15 more penalties this season that were declined, while the Cowboys have had 11 penalties declined, bringing their penalty totals much closer.
The vast majority of Cowboys penalties were committed by offensive linemen, and many of them in situations that would set the offense back as it crept toward an opponents’ goal line. Tackles Tyron Smith and Doug Free each have three more penalties, with nine apiece, than any other Cowboys player, not including one declined penalty on Free. Six of those penalties directly stalled drives.
Including declined penalties, 29 of the 73 total Cowboys penalties came via false starts or offensive holding calls. Only 20 of the Eagles’ 71 total penalties were because of offensive holding or false starts.
But that doesn’t take the Eagles’ offensive line off the hook. They’ve allowed 27 sacks this season. The constant pressure has directly led to many of Michael Vick’s fumbles and interceptions. The Cowboys offensive line has held up in pass protection much better for quarterback Tony Romo, but the lack of lanes created has contributed to Dallas’ 29th ranked rushing offense.
The team that can address its similar mistakes sooner might be able to get back on track in the second half of the season.
“I’m sure we both would want to have had more wins at this point in the season, but that’s just not the way it is,” said head coach Jason Garrett. “This is the situation we find ourselves in, and it’s a big game for both of us.”