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For Players, Focus Turns To Dallas

Posted Dec 22, 2013

In the hours leading up to Sunday night's kickoff, the Eagles knew their playoff fate would be decided in seven days against the Dallas Cowboys. But there was no looking beyond the Bears and there was no lack of emotion as the Eagles raced out to a 24-0 lead in front of a raucous Lincoln Financial Field crowd. With the Bears facing a playoff-clinching opportunity, the Eagles took a so-called "meaningless" game and pulverized the visitors 54-11.

Knowing the relative lack of importance of the outcome, why was it so essential for the Eagles to bring the wood Sunday night?

"It was our next game," said linebacker DeMeco Ryans, echoing the sentiment of his head coach. "Every game, every time it's on the line for us, and we've got another opportunity to go out and get better as a team, fix some corrections. Let's go out and play great football."

"That's what we're built to do," said left guard Evan Mathis. "Our process has been a one-game season every single week. We're not going to change our approach due to external factors. We keep the same method, keep the same habits and keep this momentum going forward."

Earlier in the afternoon, it looked like the Eagles would be the one facing the division-title-clinching opportunity. When the Cowboys trailed the Washington Redskins by nine points in the fourth quarter, some Eagles were well aware of the potential stakes.

"I was watching it," said center Jason Kelce. "I said all week I wasn't going to watch it then we were sitting in the hotel room and I said, 'Ah, I might as well watch it.' It was me, (Brent) Celek and Todd (Herremans) watching the game in the hotel room and we were kind of fired up there for a little bit when we saw Washington pulling ahead. But at the end of the day, we look forward to a good game next week. It would have been nice if Washington could have taken care of that one, but we still feel like it's always good to have meaningful games at the end of the season against divisional opponents. The emotions are a little bit higher."

"To me, (the Cowboys game) was insignificant," said cornerback Cary Williams, "because we had to win. I think we needed to continue to play well at home, continue to build confidence here, build confidence in the city. I think the fans want to see us win home games."

The common sentiment in the locker room Sunday night (or early Monday morning) was that the team needed to get back to their winning ways following the disappointing loss to the Vikings last week.

"We needed a rebound from what we did last week in kind of playing the type of football we're capable of playing, and we did that," said linebacker Connor Barwin. "It's over now. We need to refocus on Dallas and move on and carry this momentum with us.

Now, with the Bears in the rearview mirror, the focus turns quickly to next Sunday's night primetime showdown. As Kelly said after the game, the playoffs have come early for the Eagles and Cowboys.

"It's everything," said Williams. "Everything. Everything we worked so hard for in the offseason, camp, preseason, up until this moment. It means everything. It's the biggest one we got."

For an Eagles team that has conquered several obstacles in Kelly's first season in charge, one final hurdle remains in order to reach the postseason. Not only is next Sunday night's showdown a win-and-in test, but it also serve as an opportunity for vengeance. For the first time this season, the Eagles will line up against a team that beat them earlier in the season.

"There's all kinds of challenges, said Barwin. "We're on the road, it's a team that's already beat us and it's a one-and-done season. It's a playoff game for us so we have to prepare with the kind of focus that we had this week, if not elevated even more, and just play our best football next week."

Back on October 20, the Cowboys came to Lincoln Financial Field and shut down the Eagles offense in a 17-3 victory. It was a forgettable game for the Eagles and was likely the worst game of Nick Foles' career. Next Sunday serves as a chance for redemption.

"We're excited to play Dallas," said Kelce. "We're a much better team now. We're excited. I'm sure Nick, in particular, is excited. I'm sure he's tired of hearing about that first Dallas game, in which everybody keeps telling him how bad he played. Offensively, we're very excited to get another crack at them."

"We're all excited," said Ryans. "We're pumped about it. You can't write it any better. It's for the NFC East championship and in Dallas. We're pumped about it. Like (Kelly) said, our playoffs start next week and it's win or go home and that's the attitude that we all have."

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