Simply Playing The Odds

that.

Problem Area No. 2: Rookie right tackle. This is part of No. 1, but much more specific. Don't think Parcells wants to leave Rob Petitti out there by himself pass blocking too many times - yet. Now the kid is playing well, but keep an eye out. He usually has Dan Campbell or Jason Witten lined up next to him. And as Parcells says heading into this Philly game, "I got a rookie right tackle. You think I want to hang him out there against (defensive end Jevon) Kearse all day long?"

More bad odds.

Problem Area No. 3: Passing game in general. Now ask yourself this question, please: If the Cowboys' passing game potential is so lethal, then why are teams crowding the line of scrimmage with the intent of taking away Julius Jones? Why are they showing so little regard for the possibility of getting burned through the air? Because they are counting on Parcells stubbornly sticking to the run? Hardly.

They, too, are playing the percentages, and have concluded they have a better chance of getting beat by Jones than they are by the Cowboys passing game. That simple.

Problem Area No. 4, especially this Sunday: Trusting Your Defense. So here is the quandary you face when playing the league's top-ranked offense, as the Cowboys do with Philadelphia; with playing the top-ranked passing offense, as the Cowboys do with Philadelphia; and with playing an offense averaging 28 points a game, as the Cowboys do with Philadelphia: Do you come out trying to score with the Eagles, figuring you need to put up something like 24 points to even have a chance of winning, or do you come out trying to protect how much your defense is on the field with a time-consuming offensive approach to limit the Eagles' offensive opportunities?

"Well, that's a good question," Parcells said, buying himself some time to ponder. "We're going to try to play a certain way against them, if we can. You know, we've given it a lot of thought, and I think you have to try and play complementary against a team like this. To go in there and say we're going to outscore these guys, you know, the way they've been moving the ball, I don't know that would be the best approach."

Understand his thinking. If the Cowboys go out trying to score with one of the best offenses in the league, and in doing so, end up throwing the ball all over the field, there is a chance they could play themselves into a lot of three-and-outs, or even worse, turnovers. And the last thing Parcells wants to do is give the Eagles more opportunities with the football.

Now if you run against the Eagles, and throw out a controlled passing game, which would allow you to run some clock, then you keep McNabb off the field and reduce the Eagles' offensive opportunities. Saw Parcells do that with his 1990 Giants to beat San Francisco in the NFC title game.

See, this whole thing comes down to self-evaluation, which might be more important than evaluating your opponent. You must know what your team is capable of doing, and then you call plays to accentuate your strengths and hide your weaknesses. Just don't fool yourself. Be honest.

Why do you think the Cowboys protected Bledsoe so well against the blitz-happy Redskins? They did so with play calls more so than protections or individual skill. They worked hard to stay out of third-and-longs, and because they really didn't fear Washington scoring much, decided to play it close to the vest to almost insure not turning over the football. That worked for 56 minutes.

So against the Eagles, Parcells must decide what he thinks his offense can do against their pressure-style defense, and, just how well his defense will do against the hottest offense in football. If you were playing the percentages, then you'd think the Cowboys will be very conservative offensively - try to get the Eagles into another one of those 12-7 games the two teams played last December in Philly where the Eagles scored the winning touchdown with just less than two minutes to play after trailing 7-6.

This whole deal is a tad more complicated than just saying, throw the damn ball more. Parcells has to consider Petitti, maybe as much as Bledsoe's ability to throw the ball. He has to consider if his centers can handle a blitzing Jeremiah Trotter, maybe

MICK SHOTS

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