Ea­gles try to stay afloat at Cow­boys, who did same in Philadel­phia

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - SPORTS - BY SCHUYLER DIXON

Dak Prescott and the Dal­las Cow­boys saved their sea­son with a win in Philadel­phia a month ago.

Car­son Wentz and the Ea­gles will try to do the same in Texas - ac­tu­ally for the third straight week since the de­fend­ing champs found their sea­son on the brink fol­low­ing a blowout loss to New Or­leans a week af­ter fall­ing to their NFC East ri­vals.

While Ea­gles coach Doug Ped­er­son isn’t big on the word “des­per­a­tion” com­ing off his team’s first back-to-back wins this sea­son, he isn’t dodg­ing the sig­nif­i­cance of Sun­day at AT&T Sta­dium, where the divi­sion lead will be on the line for the sec­ond time in three games.

On Thanks­giv­ing Day, Dal­las beat Wash­ing­ton to pull even with the Red­skins . Now the Cow­boys (7-5) have a chance for a fifth straight win that would all but elim­i­nate the Ea­gles (6-6) and make things dif­fi­cult for the Red­skins as well.

“Ev­ery game for us is def­i­nitely a must win,” Ped­er­son said. “I think ev­ery game for them is a must win. Both of us are try­ing to ac­com­plish the same goal. We’ve just got to get our­selves ready to go.”

The Cow­boys were in dan­ger of los­ing touch with the play­off race when they vis­ited the Ea­gles in early Novem­ber.

The de­but of new No. 1 re­ceiver Amari Cooper, ac­quired in a trade, had been ru­ined in a loss to Ten­nessee. The of­fence had been strug­gling for the equiv­a­lent of a full sea­son go­ing back to 2017.

In­clud­ing that 27-20 win to start a four-game surge , the of­fen­sive av­er­age is up al­most 50 yards per game, Prescott’s ef­fi­ciency at quar­ter­back is sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved and there’s lit­tle doubt that Cooper’s im­pact has in­flu­enced both of those de­vel­op­ments.

While the scor­ing hasn’t spiked as much be­cause of the sur­pris­ing de­fen­sive strug­gle against the high-scor­ing Saints, the 13-10 win that ended New Or­leans’ 10-game win­ning streak was the sig­na­ture mo­ment for a de­fence that’s been car­ry­ing the Cow­boys all sea­son.

“Hon­estly we have been the same team,” Prescott said. “We knew the team that we had in some of the games that we lost. And it was just about mak­ing those few plays here and there. I just think sit­ting here at 7-5 now four games later, we have been able to make those plays.”

Things to con­sider with the Cow­boys go­ing for a sea­son sweep of the Ea­gles for the first time since 2012:

BAL­ANCED AT­TACK

The Ea­gles are run­ning more ef­fec­tively and more fre­quently than they have all sea­son. Run­ning backs have 56 car­ries for 263 yards the past two games. Un­drafted rookie Josh Adams has emerged as the lead back and has 169 yards on 42 rushes. Corey Cle­ment has been pro­duc­tive and Darren Spro­les scored on a 14-yard run in his first game since the sea­son opener.

“We’ve been per­sis­tent with the run game,” of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor Mike Groh said. “Guys are do­ing a heck of a job of cre­at­ing lanes, and if there is not a lane there, there have been enough times where the backs have done a good job cre­at­ing on their own.”

RESTED, RECHARGED

Run­ning back Ezekiel El­liott had 90 touches (72 car­ries, 18 catches) for 479 yards in the an­nual busy stretch of the sea­son for the Cow­boys - three games in 12 days around Thanks­giv­ing. The 2016 NFL rush­ing cham­pion wel­comed four days off. “It’s def­i­nitely helped me get­ting my feet back un­der me,” said El­liott, who lost his league rush­ing lead to Todd Gur­ley last week. “It’s the best I’ve felt on a Wed­nes­day in a while.”

GOLDEN’S THREE­P­EAT

Re­ceiver Golden Tate will face the Cow­boys for the third time this sea­son. He had eight catches for 132 yards and two TDS while with Detroit in Week 4. He caught just two passes for 17 yards in his de­but for the Ea­gles in the Cow­boys’ 27-20 win. But now he’s com­ing off his best per­for­mance for his new team: seven catches for 85 yards and a score in a 28-13 win over the Red­skins.

CHECK THE BUL­LETIN BOARD

Ea­gles line­backer Kamu Grugier-hill was the trash talker of the week , telling a Philadel­phia TV out­let, “Look at Dal­las’ his­tory. They al­ways choke. So we’ll go down there and make them choke.”

Prescott was aware of it but didn’t bite. “When you play a team like this, a game like this that means what it means, what some­body says doesn’t add any mo­ti­va­tion,” he said.

DAK SACKS

While the num­bers for Prescott and his of­fence are im­prov­ing, his sack rate isn’t.

The 2016 NFL Of­fen­sive Rookie of the Year has been dropped an Nfl-high 45 times and has been sack-free just once this sea­son. The Saints sacked him a sea­son-high seven times.

“It starts with me, but it’s a col­lec­tive ef­fort, from re­ceivers get­ting open, get­ting sep­a­ra­tion, to the of­fen­sive line maybe hold­ing up just a lit­tle bit longer for me, or me just get­ting the ball out and throw­ing it away, or get­ting it to the back or what­ever we got to do,” Prescott said.

AP PHOTO

Dak Prescott’s ef­fi­ciency at quar­ter­back is sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved this sea­son.

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