By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA—With the very distinct possibility that the Dallas Cowboys will be without starting quarterback Tony Romo because of a back injury, it is easy for Eagles fans to think their squad will be a shoe-in to win Sunday night’s game for the NFC East crown.
That’s not how the Eagles players and coaches are looking at it. For starters, they lost to the Cowboys 17-3 at home on Oct. 20.
If anything else, the Birds 48-30 road loss to a Minnesota Vikings squad playing without its starting quarterback and running back is a reminder to the Birds that Romo’s possible absence is no guarantee they will walk out of Cowboys Stadium with a win.
With a division title on the line, the Eagles players are saying than ill afford to take anybody lightly at this juncture of the season.
“This is the National Football League, man, you can’t overlook any team,” said Eagles cornerback Cary Williams. “Any given Sunday, I have been saying that week in and week out. As far as I’m concerned, it’s nameless, faceless individuals, we just have to go out there and get the job done. We have to play with intensity from the start. If we do that, we’re a force to be reckoned with.”
If Romo is not playing on Sunday, veteran backup quarterback Kyle Orton, who has 69 starts under his belt, will be the starting signal caller for the Cowboys. While Dallas will miss Romo’s ability to run and extend plays in the pass pocket, they still have running back DeMarco Murray, wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten.
“If anything, we’re more heightened, more aware of what’s going on,” said Eagles inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans. “They’re going to run the ball more if that’s their plan. Kyle Orton is a capable guy. It’s not like it’s some practice squad guy they called up to run the show. He’s a starter in this league, he’s made plays and won games in this league. We’re not taking anything lightly by any means.”
Meanwhile in Dallas, ESPN.com reported that Romo received an epidural injection in his back to relieve the pain and reduce the inflammation on the herniated disc in his back. Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has been saying that Romo is day-to-day.
With Romo possibly on the shelf, the Eagles will no doubt being seeing heavy doses of Murray, who scored the winning touchdown last Sunday against Washington. So far this season, Murray has gained 1,073 yards with nine touchdowns and is averaging over five yards per carry. If he gets it going in the running game, Orton will have some opportunities on play-action to get the ball to Bryant and Witten.
“We’re not going to underestimate him, we’re going prepare for him like he’s a Pro Bowl running back,” said defensive end Cedric Thornton. “From watching the last game, we know that they want to run it a little bit more than the previous game. Our offensive line is one of the best in the NFL and they’re going prepare us and have us ready to go on Sunday night.”
Defensive coordinator Billy Davis said he figured the Cowboys were going to run the football more in this game whether it’s Romo or Orton behind the center.
“One of the things we emphasize is the offensive scheme, we don’t think it will change that greatly,” Davis said. “No matter which quarterback we get, we’re prepared for both.”
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles said he is praying for Romo’s health and expects to see a fired-up Cowboys squad who will rally behind Romo and Orton.
“I know that Dallas is going to rally for (Romo),” Foles said. “In situations like that, teams are resilient and they’re going to be ready to go. It’s important for me to have a great week of preparation to put my team in a position where I can execute the plays.”