PHILADELPHIA – In his perfect world, Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis would plan a scheme to stop both Dallas' running game and get pressure on quarterback Tony Romo.
Realistically, Davis is hoping his unit can stop one or the other during the NFC East showdown on Thursday.
The Eagles battle the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, with first place in the NFC East on the line. How Davis' defense performs against the multifaceted Dallas' offense will be a key to the outcome.
"Any offense's balance is always harder," Davis said Tuesday. "Those teams that commit to the run on first and second down almost always put themselves in that third and four or less, and then you have to deal with the third and four or less, which makes it difficult. So the balance, the tact that they have now is a big part of why they're winning."
Dallas comes into the game with the NFL's leading rusher in DeMarco Murray, who has rushed for 1,354 yards through 11 games, and has gone over 100 yards rushing in 10 of those 11 games.
Tony Romo's passer rating of 111.4 is topped only by Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers. Romo has completed 68.8 percent of his passes and has thrown 22 touchdown passes to just six interceptions.
"He's really hot. You don't see any signs of the (back) injury. He's moving around well," Davis said. "He's still got that knack for escaping when you do get there and then looking downfield and making plays. So I think he's at the top of his game right now."
So what are Davis' options? Stack the box and stop Murray, or play coverage to take away Romo and his receivers Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten.
Bryant leads the Cowboys with 63 receptions for 879 yards and 10 touchdowns. Witten, an Eagles killer for years, has 43 receptions for 461 yards.
"It's just that cat-and-mouse game and where they are on the field," Davis said. "There's a lot of things that go into when they'll try to run on third down and when they won't."
One of the teams that had success against the Cowboys was Washington, which upset them and briefly knocked Romo out of the game.
"Washington brought more than they could protect a couple of times," Davis said of the Redskins' blitzes. "They were bringing a lot of blitzes where other teams haven't, and it got to him at times, and at times it hurt him. So it's a give and take with those blitzes, especially with a guy like Romo, who's prepared for it. He can dish the ball off quickly."
NOTES: Eagles linebacker Emmanuel Acho was again limited in practice, Tuesday. His status for the game is still unknown, but rookie Marcus Smith is taking a lot of reps in his place. Casey Matthews is the starter, but Acho has rotated in about half the snaps since the team lost DeMeco Ryans to a torn Achilles.