Philadelphia Eagles: Stopping DeMarco Murray Is the Key with Tony Romo Out

Cody SwartzSenior Writer IDecember 28, 2013

Dec 2, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) runs with the ball against Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (24) at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

With the news that Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is officially out for Sunday's Week 17 finale, the Philadelphia Eagles get themselves a more favorable situation.

Backup quarterback Kyle Orton is a fine No. 2 for any team, but he's not the playmaker Romo is. Orton is a pocket passer with limited mobility and below-average arm strength, meaning the Cowboys will need to be more run-based with their game plan. Simply put, the key to the game may be the Eagles' ability to slow down DeMarco Murray, one of the more underrated backs in the league.

Murray comes into the contest sporting an impressive 5.4 yards-per-carry average, tops among all running backs with at least 200 attempts. Murray ranks 10th with 1,073 rushing yards and is tied for sixth with nine ground touchdowns. He's difficult to bring down on the first hit, checking in at 2.8 yards per rush after initial contact.

The Cowboys are 11-0 lifetime when Murray gets at least 20 rushes. Much of that has to do with the basic logic that if Dallas is winning, it's going to be more prone to giving Murray the ball to run the clock down. Murray is a physically imposing back who can handle a full workload, and the Cowboys would be wise to lighten the load on Kyle Orton.

Jul 23, 2013; Oxnard, CA, USA;  Dallas Cowboys quarterback Kyle Orton (18) during training camp drills at the River Ridge Fields.  Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

After all, Orton is a backup QB making his first meaningful start in two years. The Eagles have struggled before against Kyle Orton—he threw three touchdown passes against them in both 2008 and 2009. His task in this game should be to simply move the chains, not turn the ball over, and put Dallas in position to score points. If Murray pounds the ball on the ground, Dallas could put up some points.

Philly does enter the game with a defense that’s pretty solid against the run. The Eagles rank third among all NFL teams in rushing yards allowed per attempt. They haven’t given up more than 100 yards on the ground to any team in a month.

Dec 22, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Cedric Thornton (72) celebrates a safety with linebacker Connor Barwin (98) during the third quarter against the Chicago Bears at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Howard S
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Realistically, Philadelphia should win this game regardless of how Murray performs.

The Eagles have just too explosive of an offense, a defense that has really gelled under Billy Davis and a phenomenal head coach in Chip Kelly who has gotten the most out of his playmakers this season. And if Philadelphia reaches the playoffs, it's a team that could make a serious run.