Maniacal Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli was still angry and talking to himself two days after Sunday’s 31-28 victory against the New York Giants.
Marinelli remains frustrated with his unit’s struggles against the Giants’ hurry-up offense in the first half — even though the team adjusted well enough in the second half to secure the victory.
Now consider the prospect of facing the Philadelphia Eagles, the hurry-up, tempo kings of the NFL, on a short week.
“There is always screaming with Rod,” defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford said. “He tells stories in his head about a certain player and that story becomes true in his head. That is what he is yelling at.”
Marinelli doesn’t need to make up any stories about the task the Cowboys face against the Eagles in Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day showdown for first place in the NFC East.
As cornerback Orlando Scandrick said, the Giants were no-huddling, but calling plays at the line of scrimmage.
“Philly gets up there and snaps it. The tempo is before the ball is snapped,” Scandrick said. “We need to be lined up and ready to play when they come to the line of scrimmage.”
The Eagles snap it at a pace like no one else, averaging roughly 13 to 14 seconds between plays in a college-based scheme that coach Chip Kelly brought from Oregon.
Philadelphia averages roughly 71 plays a game with a big-play offense that ranks third in scoring and fourth overall.
“I think this is a trend,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s certainly somebody who’s had a lot of success doing this kind of thing in college, but this is something that has been happening in high school football and college football for a number of years now. It’s one of those things that trickles upward and a lot of the college guys have brought this style of football to the NFL and the guys playing in the NFL grew up playing this style of football so I think it’s very natural for them.
“It certainly challenges you. It’s different than what the NFL has seen for a number of years, but it’s been in place here for a little bit. You have to be ready to play an up-tempo style of offense and you have to be able to get yourself lined up and play sound defense against it.”
The Cowboys had some success against the Eagles last year, beating them 17-3 before losing 24-22 in the season finale.
But the Eagles are better and more comfortable in their second year in Kelly’s scheme that is more about the system than the individual parts.
Kelly calls the play and relays the signal to the quarterback. He has other players on the sideline signaling the play, the formation and the snap count to individual units so they don’t have to get it from the quarterback — all for the purpose of warp speed.
“They are quick with the plays,” Crawford said. “They are not holding up a bunch of different cards and faces and signs for plays [like in college]. They are all about speed. You have to be ready.”
Garrett emphasized being ready on defense before the ball snaps.
“First of all, they’re really good, and a big part of why they’re good is the tempo they play with. But they’ve got a scheme they believe in and a big part of that is playing fast and trying to play downhill at you,” Garrett said. “One of the things they’re able to do is they get themselves lined up and sometimes the defense doesn’t get lined up, and they have an advantage both in the run game and the pass game because of that.”
It’s one thing to have to prepare for Kelly’s offense during a regular week, it’s another to do it in just three days. The Cowboys can’t simulate the tempo in practice because they are not having any full-speed practices this week.
“We watch film and try to get the feel that way. It’s more difficult on a short week,” Crawford said. “We know we have to communicate and have our calls ready.”
Not only will the Cowboys not get the normal look from the scout team, but they also won’t get as much film study either.
The Cowboys say they have to stop the run and take away the play-action passing game that makes them so dangerous.
“When you have a shifty running back like [LeSean McCoy] and group of fast receivers you have to be physical with them,” Scandrick said. “You have to be physical against the run, finish plays when they catch the ball and be physical with the tackles. We have to be the most physical team Thursday. This is the third time we have played them. We are going to do what we do.”