Jerry’s World been good to Eagles
Ridiculous as it sounds, there’s no place like AT&T Stadium for the Eagles.
Historicially, Jerry’s World is exactly where the Eagles want to be for their Sunday night showdown for the NFC East lead with the Dallas Cowboys (8:30 p.m., NBC10, WIP 94.1-FM).
The Eagles have won three straight games there. They’re 5-2 (.714) at the Eighth Wonder of the World, the best winning percentage of any opponent that’s played at least three games at the venue.
Sure, this is a business trip. But it’s also a fun trip. Jerry’s World is like a Disney World getaway for the Eagles, who beat the Cowboys there in overtime last year.
“Dallas is a cool place to play,” Eagles’ leading receiver Jordan Matthews said. “I mean, it’s like you’re at a concert. It’s crazy. Every time I go, it doesn’t really feel like an away game. It feels like just this big hoopla. It’s crazy because of the Eagles fans. They travel like crazy to that game. The Cowboys fans, they’re going to be there, and they’re fighting each other. And then you’ve got tourists there. And then there’s a TV that’s big as like three cities.
“So it’s a whole bunch of stuff going on. Half the time, I think the defensive backs don’t even notice me running around. So I guess that’s why I had a couple of big games there.”
None were bigger than last year, when Matthews caught a 41-yard touchdown pass from Sam Bradford in overtime to lift the Eagles to a 33-27 victory.
Matthews caught a gamehigh nine passes for 133 yards that day as the Eagles basically put the Matt Cassel-led Cowboys to rest.
Much has changed since. The Eagles are quarterbacked by rookie Carson Wentz, the second overall pick in the draft who has guided them to a surprising 4-2 record. The Cowboys are rolling with Dak Prescott, the fourth-round pick who has performed well enough that Dallas has a budding quarterback controversy on the horizon. Jones is the one who said Dallas is Tony Romo’s team.
While that’s another issue for another week, this will be the first game Prescott starts after Romo has thrown the ball around at practice in the week leading up to kickoff. If Prescott blows up, you know who, and what, was in his head. Then again, it could be the Philly pass rush.
Prescott has taken incredibly good care of the football, having thrown just one interception, and has operated extremely efficiently in the Cowboys’ offense fueled by the run. He has seven touchdown passes.
The job is to get the ball to Ezekiel Elliott, the league’s leading rusher, and let the star-studded offensive line make some creases. That’s where the game likely will be won or lost, up front.
“They like to push, they like to grab hold of you and just move you and bleed you for five, 10 yards,” Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks said. “So it’s going to be on us to come down hill and stay stout at the point of attack.”
If the Eagles stop the run, it minimizes the play-action passes to slot receiver Cole Beasley, whose quickness always kills the Eagles, and Dez Bryant, who is returning after missing three games with a knee issue. Then there’s tight end Jason Witten, who at 6-6, 250-pounds is a match-up nightmare for every team.
“They’re playing at a really high level,” defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “They have a week of rest from the bye and they’ll be ready for this game. It’s a big week for us. Another rivalry and we’re excited to go out and play.”
Prescott isn’t invincible. He’s lost two fumbles. The Giants beat him in the opener at AT&T.
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles haven’t made a big deal out of it but it’s pretty apparent their opponent doesn’t play Doomsday Defense.
If the Philly defense gets some stops, Wentz and the offense should be able to make plays against an outfit that lacks a pass rush and quality veteran players, the major exception being linebacker Sean Lee.
Wentz, who got to know Jones at the Senior Bowl, has made mostly solid decisions for the Eagles. That history and the fact that this is Cowboys week should pump him up.
“I know how much this means to the city,” Wentz said. “I know how much it means to the fans. There’s a lot of excitement going on with Eagles football. But definitely this week, I recognize that.”
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, on the othe hand, hasn’t made a big deal about moving into first in the NFC East via head to head tiebreaker with a win. That should be part of the pre-game speech. The same with the heated Eagles-Cowboys rivalry.
“It’s a division game,” Pederson said. “We slipped up earlier in the division. You remind the team that if you want to be one of the teams at the end of the year you’ve got to handle your division opponents and all that. You can also visit a little bit of the history of this game and the times that I played here and coached here before and just talk about it. It is a little bit different. But our guys have just got to come ready to play. Obviously we lost to Washington on the road there, and we’ve got to make sure we handle that.”
While it is a road game, it’s a place the Eagles love visiting.
“We enjoy playing everywhere,” Cox said. “Our last two games on the road, we took an ‘L.’ We have to go down there and come out with a lot of energy as a team and suck the air out of that stadium real quick.”
Philadelphia Eagles’ Jordan Matthews (81) fights off a tackle attempt by Dallas Cowboys’ J.J. Wilcox to score in overtime last season. The Eagles have proven they can at AT&T Stadium.