One of the oldest rules in the coaching book states that no matter how big a blowout victory, you've got to pay lip service to the idea that there were still places in need of improvement before the next game. Wade Phillips can say that and he can actually mean it in the wake of Saturday night's 34-14 win against the Eagles.
The Cowboys had 14 accepted penalties resulting in 112 yards against them during the game, the highest total by a winning team in the playoffs since 2002. Nine of those penalties came on offense and three of them were in the red zone, which tells you that the Eagles could have been flying home on the receiving end of a much bigger beating. Tight end Jason Witten was a one-man crime wave with three penalties, two of which wiped out a prime scoring chance on the game's first drive.
Some of the problem can be explained by the chippy nature of a game with a division rival -- the Eagles had nine penalties for 116 yards themselves -- but there should be a good bit of concern about the false start and illegal motion penalties. They are the kinds of little penalties that can sink drives and turn touchdowns into field goals and they are exactly the kinds of penalties that become a lot more likely when playing on the road in front of a loud, hostile, shirtless, horned hat wearing crowd.
Those are also the only penalties the Cowboys can really worry about when preparing for this week's game, because playing totally penalty-free isn't really an option. They just have to make sure that they are committing smart penalties, for lack of a better phrase.
It may seem too easy to simply accept that the Cowboys will have a healthy chunk of penalty yardage, but it's worked out for them this year. They are 9-2 in the 11 games that have ended with them having more penalty yardage than their opponents, and that doesn't even include Saturday's win.
Personal fouls like the ones picked up by safety Ken Hamlin are going to happen when you're playing the game full speed. While you don't want to encourage late hits or grabbing the face mask, these things happen and its better to pay the price than slow down while trying to keep up with Sidney Rice or Adrian Peterson. On the same token, you have to assume that Flozell Adams is going to get called for 30-odd yards of penalties while trying to keep Jared Allen from destroying Tony Romo.
They'll just need to swallow those calls when they happen and not allow them to be their downfall. Based on the Eagles game, that's something they can pull off without much trouble.