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Eagles, Cowboys talking defense

Dallas' last home opener at Texas Stadium will feature rivals who know how to shut down foes.

September 15, 2008|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

Tonight's home opener isn't just a beginning for the Dallas Cowboys.

It's an ending too.

With their glistening $1-billion-plus new stadium rapidly taking shape, the Cowboys play host to Philadelphia tonight in their final home opener at Texas Stadium, where they have played since 1971.

As a parting present -- a house-cooling gift? -- the Eagles hope to supply the big D. Because it was defense that told the story in last season's series between these NFC East rivals.

The Eagles lost at home to Dallas last November, 38-17, forcing only one turnover and never getting to Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Five weeks later, however, Philadelphia sacked Romo four times and intercepted three of his passes on the way to a 10-6 victory.

Neither team met much defensive resistance in Week 1. Dallas rolled over Cleveland, 28-10, and Philadelphia stomped St. Louis, 38-3, with the Cowboys and Eagles amassing a combined 1,009 yards of offense.

In that 10-6 loss to the Eagles last December, Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens was limited to two catches for 37 yards. He took exception this week to the suggestion Philadelphia shut him down primarily with one-on-one coverage by cornerback Lito Sheppard.

"Dude, every time that I was on the outside, I noticed [Eagles safety Brian Dawkins] pretty much shaded to my side a little bit more than normal," Owens said on a conference call with Philadelphia reporters. "As far as them shutting me down, schematically, yes, they do a lot of extra things to do that, but I know the importance of me on this offense, and I draw a lot of attention."

This time, the Eagles have an even better defensive backfield, bolstered by the addition of Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel. In Week 1, Philadelphia's defense limited St. Louis to fewer than 10 yards on nine of 13 possessions.

But the Rams aren't the Cowboys, and things figure to be a lot tougher for the Eagles tonight. Asked if he's concerned about facing blitz after blitz in this game, Romo sounded as if he welcomed that.

"Any time a team wants to get after you," he said, "you feel opportunities will be there for big plays."

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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