If you’re wondering about the mood of the Eagles’ locker room and the vibe of the NovaCare Complex in the days before the NFC East showdown at Dallas, imagine this scene: Dozens of reporters and a half-dozen cameras, seeing Kamu Grugier-Hill emerging from the training room, towel covering his head, raced toward his locker to set up for the shot on Thursday afternoon the day after Grugier-Hill’s emotion-in-the-the-moment comments about the Cowboys.
Just as the cameras converged, the towel was removed from the head and a grinning Shelton Gibson, with hoots and hollers from his approving teammates, turned to meet the reporters. Gibson, undercover, was sensational in breaking the tension. How could you not laugh at such a goofy gotcha moment? It was hilarious.
And it was also the perfect example of the mental state of the team. The Eagles are loose. They’re confident. They’re having fun. Two wins in the division will do that for you. A game that means so much on Sunday against an arch-rival team gets the blood boiling.
“I think everybody is excited for this,” defensive end Chris Long said. “We know that Dallas is a good team and we know that they beat us here a month ago. This is a big game for both teams. I think that’s what you want at this time of the year. You look forward to these kinds of games.”
The storylines for Sunday are well established. Offensively, the Eagles want to build on the performance from Monday night when they scored 28 points, moved the ball up and down the field, had a solid running game, and made explosive plays in the passing game. It was far from perfect – two inside-the-10-yard-line possessions ended with a failed effort on fourth-and-goal and an interception – but it was a good next step for an offense that has struggled this season.
“I thought we were finally really kind of playing together, really executing. Kind of in the run game, play-action,” quarterback Carson Wentz said. “The things that we always talk about, we were finally able to do that. We were also able to start fast and that’s something we talk about all the time. I feel like I’ve talked about that in here (weekly press conference) a thousand times and we were finally able to do it.”
Defensively, the Eagles have to do a much better job against running back Ezekiel Elliott than they did on November 11 when he rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown and also had six receptions and a touchdown in the passing game.
“It all starts with Zeke,” defensive end Brandon Graham said. “He’s a great player. He makes that offense go.”
There’s a whole bunch more of the X’s and O’s stuff that we could talk about – and will, prior to kickoff. The reality is that the Eagles know the Cowboys and the Cowboys know the Eagles and there aren’t going to be a lot of surprises on Sunday. The Eagles can’t miss tackles on defense. They can’t miss opportunities for big plays on offense.
We’re set for a big game. A great game. What you want in December.
Between now and then, the Eagles have to work on getting themselves right mentally and physically on a short week. Everyone had Grugier-Hill’s back on Thursday and nobody seems to think that “bulletin-board material” means much once the football is kicked off.
“All I know is that we and myself personally, have a lot of respect for that team and what they’re doing this year,” Wentz said. “Obviously we watch a ton of their defense and game plan for their defense and they do a lot of things well. They make it tough on offenses … we’re excited for this one.”