Eagles prepare same for Dallas no matter the QB

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


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 7 1/2 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.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: