Ezekiel Elliott

Doug Pederson on Cowboys: 'This team has our number'

Doug Pederson on Cowboys: 'This team has our number'

Doug Pederson is going to try to do something this weekend that he’s had a hard time doing since he got here.

Beat the Cowboys.

Pederson is 2-5 against the Cowboys, although in the loss on the last day of the 2017 regular season with the Eagles already locked into the No. 1 seed came with backup players.

“This team has our number right now,” Pederson said Friday.

The Eagles face the Cowboys on Sunday at the Linc with a chance at the NFC East title at stake.

A win combined with a win against the Giants a week from Sunday gives the Eagles the NFC East title and a playoff berth. A loss gives the division title to the Cowboys. 

A Cowboys win Sunday would make Dallas the first team to win the NFC East two years in a row since the Eagles in 2003 and 2004 and give the Cowboys three division titles in the last four years.

So there’s a lot going on here. 

Pederson is 38-22 against the rest of the NFL, a .633 winning percentage. And 2-5 against the Cowboys.

He conceded Friday that the Eagles' failures against the Cowboys bother him.

“I do think about that,” Pederson said Friday. “The start of the season every head coach gets up and says, ’Let’s take care of our division.’ You take care of your division, you’re in the postseason. The Cowboys have been a team we've struggled with, honestly. It’s something we've just got to continue to work and try to overcome. They've had our number here recently and then really since my time here in Philly. It’s something that as we look at the tape and how I prepare the football team and get ready to play and all of that, I look at all of that. At the end of the day, we’re focused on this game, and hopefully we can turn things around. We do well with the other teams. It’s just this one team that has our number right now.”

The Eagles are 6-2 vs. the Redskins and 6-1 vs. the Giants under Pederson. 
The only other team that the Eagles have faced more than once since 2016 that Pederson has a losing record against is the Seahawks (0-3). You can add the Saints (0-2) if you include the playoffs.

If the Cowboys win Sunday, it will be the first time since 1993 and 1994 they’ve swept the Eagles in consecutive seasons. 

The Eagles haven’t swept the Cowboys since 2011, and their current four-game losing streak to Dallas is their longest since a seven-game losing streak over the 1992 through 1995 seasons.

The Eagles are 1-6 in their last seven games against the Cowboys at the Linc and overall going back to 2009, they’ve won just 8 of the last 22 matchups.
Carson Wentz has played well against the Cowboys, with 11 TDs and 2 INTs. 

But the Eagles have had trouble stopping Dallas. In the last three games in particular the Cowboys have averaged 31 points, 167 rushing yards and 462 total yards and converted at least 50 percent of their third downs in all three games.

This is the first the Cowboys have ever netted 400 yards in three straight games against the Eagles.

The Cowboys crushed the Eagles 37-10 in October, taking a quick 14-0 lead after two early Eagles turnovers and not looking back. It was the Cowboys’ most lopsided win over the Eagles since 1998.

“I look back to our first game, again, the turnovers early in that football game really cost us big and then we were playing from behind,” Pederson said. “Even some of the games that we’ve watched this week and from last year and even the year before, we got down early in these games, and it’s something we try to put an emphasis on the best we can. We’ve got to stop the run, we understand that, and try to slow them down, and offensively we’ve got to start fast and put points on the board and try to sustain. (And avoid) the penalties where you’re in 3rd -and-long and their pass rushers can really get after you. And then we’ve got to be able to score sooner than later against these guys.”

Stop the run, don’t turn the ball over and avoid commit costly penalties. Sounds easy. For the Eagles against the Cowboys lately, it’s been anything but.

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5 matchups to watch as Eagles host Cowboys in NFL Week 16

5 matchups to watch as Eagles host Cowboys in NFL Week 16

The Eagles (7-7) will host the Cowboys (7-7) in an important NFC East battle in Week 16 at Lincoln Financial Field. 

A quick reminder: If the Cowboys win, they will clinch the division. If the Eagles win, they won’t just yet. They would either need to beat the Giants in the regular season finale or hope the Cowboys lose to Washington. 

In recent history, the Cowboys have pretty much owned the Eagles. The Eagles are 2-5 against the Cowboys since Doug Pederson took over in 2016. They have lost the last four games to the Cowboys, dating back to 2017. 

Earlier this season, the Eagles lost 37-10 to the Cowboys, which was the biggest margin of victory for any of their opponents against them this year. 

To the matchups: 

Ezekiel Elliott vs. Eagles’ run defense 

The only two times Doug Pederson and Jim Schwartz have beaten the Cowboys in the last four years came when Elliott didn’t play. The All-Pro running back is 5-0 against the Birds in his career. This is such a key we already spent time earlier in the week breaking down this matchup and its importance

In the previous matchup, Elliott ran everywhere. 

Amari Cooper vs. Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills 

Aside from Elliott, the other offensive weapon who has killed the Eagles is Cooper. In three games as a Cowboy against the Eagles, he has 21 catches for 398 yards (18.9) and three touchdowns. That also includes the game on Oct. 20, when Cooper had five catches for 106 yards. His biggest game against the Eagles came last December in Dallas when he had 10 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns against what was left of the Eagles’ secondary. Even earlier this year, Cooper faced the Eagles without Ronald Darby and in Jalen Mills’ first game back from injury. 

That’s not to say Mills and Darby have performed well recently. They certainly haven’t. Aside from receiver, the Eagles’ cornerback position is their biggest problem. 

This season, the Eagles have allowed an individual 100-yard receiving game 10 times to nine different players (Terry McLaurin twice). Cooper has been banged up this season, but this is a big chance for him to have a day. 

Eagles right tackle vs. DeMarcus Lawrence 

In the last meeting, Lane Johnson finally gave up his first sack to Lawrence and it was a huge one. On that play, Carson Wentz fumbled and the Cowboys punched in a touchdown two plays later. Coming into this game, Johnson has a high ankle sprain and his status is unknown. If Johnson plays, he won’t be 100 percent. If he can’t play, Halapoulivaati Vaitai will fill in. Big V did a fine job last week against the Redskins but Ryan Kerrigan didn’t play in that game. Facing Lawrence in a must-win game is a much bigger task. 

This season, Lawrence’s sack numbers are down. He has just 5.0 sacks in 14 games, but he’s still dangerous. 

Xavier Su’a-Filo vs. Tim Jernigan 

The Cowboys have a pretty good offensive line but the weak spot is definitely Su’a-Filo at left guard filling in for Connor Williams, who is on Injured Reserve. Su’a-Filo is now in his sixth NFL season and is probably best as a backup. His strength is in the run game; he’ll give up some pressure in pass protection. If Fletcher Cox is dealing with right guard Zack Martin, there’s a chance for Jernigan to get some pressure on Su’a-Filo. Jernigan has never been known as a sack guy, but this season he has just one and it came in the season opener. This would be a good time for him to at least pressure Dak Prescott and if not, at least beat Su’a-Filo and get Zeke to the ground. 

Miles Sanders vs. Cowboys run defense 

Since the bye week, without Jordan Howard, Sanders has really proven himself to be a feature back. He’s coming off his best game as a pro against Washington; he had 122 rushing yards and 172 yards from scrimmage in that one. He should get a lot of touches in this game, including in the screen game, where the Cowboys are susceptible. 

The Cowboys are statistically the 12th-best rushing defense in the league, giving up 103.6 yards per game this season. The Cowboys got a lead against the Rams and then limited them to 22 rushing yards last week. But that broke a streak of seven straight games of the Cowboys’ allowing 100-plus on the ground. You can run on this team if you’re not forced to pass. Doug Pederson just can’t abandon it too early. 

We all understand the Eagles don’t have big-play ability and in this game that might be OK. Keep feeding Sanders the rock and try to hold the ball for as long as possible to keep that Dallas offense off the field. That should be the idea in this game. 

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The key to beating Cowboys: Somehow stop Ezekiel Elliott's historic dominance

The key to beating Cowboys: Somehow stop Ezekiel Elliott's historic dominance

To simply say Ezekiel Elliott has had success against the Eagles would be a pretty big understatement.

Because since he entered the NFL in 2016, Elliott’s dominance over the Eagles has been historic. He’s been an absolute Eagles killer.

With the biggest game of this season on deck, the Eagles need to at least slow him down on Sunday.

“He’s one of the best backs in the league for a reason,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “We understand the challenge that’s ahead of us. We’re not just going to step off the bus and stop him. I think you see it on tape vs. pretty much everybody. So for us, we take a lot of pride in stopping the run and that will be no different this week.”

Take a closer look at just how much Elliott has dominated the Eagles since he entered the NFL:

• Elliott has never lost to the Eagles; he’s 5-0. Since 2016, the Eagles are 2-5 against Dallas and their only two wins have come without Elliott in the lineup.

• In five career games against the Eagles, Elliott has 815 yards from scrimmage (163 per game) and three touchdowns. The next closest player in scrimmage yards against the Eagles since 2016 is Sterling Shepard with 495 in seven games.

• The only players to have more scrimmage yards against the Eagles in their first four seasons were Jim Brown (1,053) and Emmitt Smith (949) and both did it in eight games. Elliott has a significantly higher average per game.

• Elliott’s 815 yards against the Eagles are the most he has against any team. Next closest: 669 against the Giants in six games (111.5).

• The fewest yards from scrimmage in any of his five games against the Eagles: 147.

• Jim Schwartz-led Eagles defenses have given up 100 yards to a running back just seven times in four years. Elliott accounts for four of those games.

Yeah, this is perhaps more than just a little dominant.

So, with the 2019 season hanging in the balance, why should we expect anything to change against Elliott on Sunday afternoon?

“Because, man, it’s all on the line,” Brandon Graham said. “When you look at the film, it’s just little stuff. One guy out of his gap, one guy here, one guy there. We’re going to try to minimize the mistakes. I feel like with the energy and us trying to get to the ball as a team, I think that’s going to help out a lot.”

This season, Elliott has put together another 1,000-yard season and has gone over 100 rushing yards in a game six times, including the Oct. 20 bashing of the Eagles at AT&T Stadium, when he rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown and added 36 as a receiver.

Take a look at his individual career games against the Birds:

Oct. 30, 2016: 22 att, 96 yards, 4 rec, 52 yards
Dec. 31, 2017: 27 att, 103 yards, 3 rec, 38 yards
Nov. 11, 2018: 19 att, 151 yards, 1 TD, 6 rec, 36, 1 TD
Dec. 9, 2018: 28 att, 113 yards, 12 rec, 79 yards
Oct. 20, 2019: 22 att, 111 yards, 1 TD, 6 rec, 36 yards

Statistically speaking, the Eagles have the third-best run defense in the NFL (90.4 yards per game) this season and have the No. 1 run defense in the league since Schwartz took over.

But they just can’t ever seem to stop Zeke.

The Cowboys’ entire offense runs through Elliott and that might be even more true this weekend thanks to Dak Prescott’s shoulder injury. The Eagles know that, but that doesn’t mean they can just load the box or blitz all day either. The Cowboys have a talented trio of receivers who can burn you if you leave them in man coverage all day.

After what was a pretty poor tackling game last week, the Eagles just have to make sure they get Elliott to the ground when they have their chances. Fletcher Cox said it’ll be important to gang tackle and make sure guys are rallying to Elliott when he has the ball. If not, Elliott will make them pay. This season, Elliott has 21 broken tackles and has averaged 2.2 yards per carry after contact.

The Eagles know all this.

They know how good Zeke is. They know how much he’s killed them in the past. There’s nothing they can say to change that.

“I hear you. True,” Graham said. “Let me tell you, man. The NFL is no easy task. Every week is hard. He’s a heck of a player. … We respect him. There’s a lot of respect given to that team. We’re going to go out there in practice and treat it as such and then in the game show up.”

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