Just Run Right Past Blitzing Birds

Cowboys rushed for 53 yards.

Hmmmm.

How 'bout this for Exhibit B? In the first half of the 21-17 playoff loss to the Giants last season, the Cowboys rushed for 113 yards, heading into the locker room tied at 14, and only because of that deplorable 46-second defensive collapse before halftime.

But in the second half, the Cowboys, who would only kick a field goal during their final 30 minutes of work, would rush for a whole 41 yards. While Romo completed 57 percent of his passes against the on-rushing Giants in the first half, he could only complete 45 percent the second half.

Starting to detect a trend?

While it's only Thursday, twice already this week Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips has stressed the importance of the Cowboys being able to run the ball against Philadelphia, and this coming from a defensive guy who knows how that aspect of offensive football can quickly neutralize a defense.

"They forced us into situations where we weren't running the ball, and they could come after us," Phillips would say of the Blitzing Birds. "They've always been good when they get teams in that situation."

Phillips didn't drop it with just that.

"You want (the offensive linemen) to finish their blocks all the time," Phillips would say. "And against them, it's going to be a very physical game. We've got to be very physical and be able to run better than we did last year in the game here. Our first test is to be able to run the ball."

Catching his drift?

That first game last year against the Eagles, the Cowboys ran the ball just enough, finishing with 110 yards, but also compiling seven first downs rushing. In the second game, when they ran for the measly 53 yards, they totaled one first down rushing.

You just got to keep the Eagles honest, and you can do so by shortening third downs or heck, not even getting to third down.

"Just do it on first and second" is fullback Deon Anderson's offensive philosophy, which would prevent the Eagles from loading up with brash blitzes on third down when they know you most likely are throwing the ball, leaving Romo mostly a sitting Cowboy.

There has been so much talk about the Cowboys offensive line, what with the three Pro Bowlers. Well, if they ever are going to be sound up front, it's got to be this Monday night. And again, not just sound when trying to pass block, but especially run blocking.

That is something overlooked. The Eagles don't just blitz the pass, they also are noted to run blitz, sending linebackers into the gaps and playing eight guys in the box. That is when the Cowboys must make them pay, because if they are able to block it and if the running backs are able to break through the line of scrimmage, there should be clear sailing back there with the corners and safeties preoccupied in coverage.

Keep an eye out for Felix Jones in this game, too, and more so than just a replacement for the rib-injured Marion Barber as he was in the opener. My guess is Jones becomes a bigger part of the Cowboys' game plan this Monday, maybe even on third down when they can pair Barber and Jones in the backfield together.

You want to blitz?

Fine, which one of my backs is staying in and which is drifting into the flat? I'm sure the Cowboys would love for the Eagles to take their chances covering Jones with one guy out in space. Bring that on, although it appears Eagles head coach Andy Reid knows a thing or three about Jones.

"Felix, one of my favorite guys coming out of the draft," Reid said about the Cowboys' first-round pick during Thursday's conference call. "He can do so many things - good receiver, good returner, good receiver out of the backfield."

And when asked if Felix reminds him of his own guy, the do-it-all Brian Westbrook, Reid said, "Yeah, very similar."

Just that thought right there might become a blitz-deterrent. See, speed has a way of backing people off the line of scrimmage.

So Monday night will be the 36th meeting since the Blitz Birds 'bout sent Aikman to la-la-land, precipitating this bi-annual notion

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