Cowboys have history on their side vs. Eagles

NBA coaching legend Pat Riley trademarked the phrase “three-peat.”

In the NFL, some teams may need to “three-sweep” to win a

Super Bowl.

Dallas is one of them. The Cowboys already have defeated

Philadelphia twice during the regular season, but those victories

mean nothing if Dallas doesn’t win Saturday’s first-round playoff

rematch.

“Yeah, it’s hard to play a team three times,” Cowboys coach

Wade Phillips said during his Monday news conference. “But I’d

rather be on our side of it. I’d rather be the team that won twice

and is playing at home than the team that lost twice and is playing

on the road.”

The same “three-sweep” scenario could apply for Minnesota and

Cincinnati later in the playoffs. The Vikings and Bengals may have

to face Green Bay and Baltimore, respectively, after notching

regular-season sweeps.

On the surface, the odds would seemingly be against a team

running the table in such fashion. Yet since the 1970 AFL-NFL

merger, three times has proven a charm more often than not. Twelve

of the 19 teams that entered the playoffs with the chance to post a

3-0 record against a division foe did just that.

Home-field advantage can spell the difference. Or, sometimes,

a sweep is simply reflective of one team’s being that much better

than the other.

The 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers were the most recent example,

although such success on the path to Super Bowl XLIII didn’t come

easy. The Steelers defeated AFC North rival Baltimore by a combined

total of 16 points in three games that weren’t decided until late

in the fourth quarter or overtime. The final blow was a 23-14 AFC

championship game victory at Heinz Field.

If the Cowboys enter Saturday night’s contest with the same

swagger Pittsburgh had, Dallas should do just fine.

“We had a lot of confidence going into that game,” said

Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who had two sacks and five

other tackles in the 2008 AFC title game. “We said, ‘We’ve beaten

this team twice. Now, they’re coming back on our home field, and

this game is for the Super Bowl.’ We were ready to go out there and

beat them.”

Woodley, though, said Philadelphia should welcome the chance

for a rematch despite having lost to the Cowboys by scores of 20-16

and 24-0.

“I’d rather play somebody I’m familiar with,” Woodley said.

“You know their players and the plays they’re going to run. You

don’t have to install that much going into the week because you

pretty much already know what you’re going to do. It makes practice

a little more relaxed, but you do go over everything that happened

the first two games.”

Sam Madison has experienced life on both sides of the fence.

The veteran cornerback was part of the 2007 New York Giants squad

that had lost twice to Dallas during the regular season before

stunning the Cowboys in the playoffs. Madison also was a rookie

with Miami in 1997 when the Dolphins lost three games against New

England.

Madison said the key to New York’s success and Super Bowl run

was evolving as a team from a Week 10 loss to Dallas and the

second-round playoff upset. Madison said the Giants entered the

postseason clicking offensively and much more comfortable

defensively with first-year coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s system.

“It was like we had two different seasons,” Madison said

Tuesday in a telephone interview. “We caught the Cowboys off-guard

with the type of tempo we were playing. While they were coasting at

the end of the season, we were just getting our thing going and

Spags was putting in a whole lot of other (defenses). Guys

understood our whole defense, so we were able to go in and out of

different things.”

The Eagles don’t have the makeover luxury with the quick

turnaround from Sunday’s shutout loss. The best Philadelphia can do

is create a more aggressive defensive game plan and avoid the

dropped passes and shaky Donovan McNabb throws that derailed the

offense. Otherwise, the Eagles will be out of the playoffs with a

third Cowboys strike.

“When you are playing a team that you see twice a year and

you have another opportunity to play them again back-to-back, it

comes down to execution,” McNabb told Eagles media on Tuesday.

“That’s that message we are trying to express to everyone. It’s

just going through your same regimen through a week of practice

trying to be perfect, know what you’re seeing and being able to

execute. Good things will happen for you.”