PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Whether it’s Tony Romo or Kyle Orton under center for the Dallas Cowboys, the Philadelphia Eagles are approaching Sunday’s winner-take-all game the same.
“We’ve got a great challenge no matter who the quarterback is,” defensive coordinator Billy Davis said Tuesday. “I don’t think the offense changes too much with one or the other. I think we’re prepared for both of them, and we’re prepared to give the Dallas Cowboys the absolute best no matter who is the quarterback.”
It wouldn’t matter if it were Troy Aikman, Danny White or Roger Staubach leading the Cowboys (8-7) against the Eagles (9-6) for the NFC East title. They need a tie or win at Dallas to the clinch their first division crown since 2010, secure the No. 3 seed in the conference and complete a worst-to-first journey under rookie coach Chip Kelly.
The Eagles already were 3-point favorites before news of Romo’s injury. The line jumped to 7½ because a back injury might force Romo to watch from the sideline as the Cowboys play their third straight do-or-die regular-season finale. They lost to the Giants in 2011 and Redskins in 2012. Romo and the Cowboys also lost to the Eagles in the same scenario in 2008.
Given Romo’s past failures, perhaps Orton gives Dallas a better chance to win.
“Kyle Orton can start for a lot of teams in the NFL,” Davis said. “He has a great presence and sees the field well. He’s always distributed the ball equally to the open guys. I think some guys have favorites, some don’t. Kyle Orton is a great system quarterback in that he understands the coverage and what position in the routes, and he does a great job of getting the ball out of his hands and accurately throwing to the open guy.”
The Eagles were in a similar position earlier in the year when Michael Vick injured his hamstring. Kelly never ruled Vick out of a game, forcing opponents to prepare for Vick and Nick Foles. It wasn’t until Vick was ready to return in Week 13 that Kelly finally chose Foles as the starter.
But there’s a difference between preparing to play Vick or Foles, and Romo or Orton. Vick is arguably the best scrambling quarterback in league history, so defenses always have to be wary of his running.
“When the quarterbacks are vastly different, when there is one athletic runner that wants to run instead of throw, (it alters game plans),” Davis said. “But I think these two quarterbacks are similar. Tony Romo probably extends the play more than most in the NFL. That is one of the talents that he has is when the initial play is broken down, to improvise. If he’s healthy, we’re ready for his best. And if Orton is the quarterback, then we’re ready for their best. We’ll give them ours.”
Romo is 9-6 in 15 career starts against Philadelphia. He’s thrown for 2,825 yards, 17 TDs and 13 interceptions.
“It doesn’t really affect anything,” linebacker Connor Barwin said. “There are still 10 other guys out there that are going to be the same and we have to prepare for. Obviously, we’ll watch the tape we have on Kyle Orton. He does some things differently that we’ll try to prepare for, but it’s still the same offense that Dallas will run. They’re not going change everything because of the quarterback the last week of the season.”
The Eagles already lost to a backup quarterback this month when Minnesota’s Matt Cassel picked apart the secondary in a 48-30 win two weeks ago.
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