We're almost to Sunday night as the time crawls by and the Eagles continue to prepare for Dallas and the Week 6 NFC East battle. How big is this game? How critical is this moment against the most bitter of rivals in prime time?
Veteran center Jason Kelce delivered the perfect answer on Thursday, one that said a lot about how this Eagles team has connected and the message that Head Coach Nick Sirianni is giving.
"Huge game, rivalry game, but I thought Nick had a great message in here. Obviously, there's going to be more energy in here. It's a huge rivalry, it's a big game for our division, Sunday Night Football, but man, we're in this position because of what we do," Kelce said. "It has nothing to do with the team we play. It's how we prepare, how we practice, how we play for each other. I think that you don't want to make the opponent the focus. You want to make your teammates and your own self the focus.
"We know it's a big game. We're excited to play the Cowboys, but more than that we're excited to continue to grow and play with each other."
It is the perfect message from the head coach explained in the perfect way from the perfect messenger in Jason Kelce, the epitome of a team leader. When you hear Sirianni talk about "connecting" and about "one percent better," you now have a better understanding of the meaning of his words. As much as the players and the coaches and this football team keep their focus very sharp and in measured bites, it's also about the big picture: "It's how we prepare, how we practice, how we play for each other."
The Eagles understand the magnitude of Sunday night's football game. It's big. Two rivals playing good early-season football are playing a prime-time game and the national coverage has been breathless. At the same time, it is just one game and it is Week 6 and in the context of the regular season, we've got a long, long way to go.
As Sirianni sees it, correctly, and as Kelce echoes the message, the Eagles will go as far this season as the work they put in every day. How truly detailed are the players to do their jobs? How truly selfless as we go through the course of 2022 is the locker room? How laser focused are the Eagles on themselves and not on the teams they play every week, understanding that they're going to get teams' best shots every time out.
These are the lines that stand out from what Kelce said: "You want to make your teammates and your own self the focus." And "... more than that we're excited to continue to grow and play with each other."
In no way is this intended to minimize the importance of Sunday night's game against Dallas, because look, it really doesn't get a whole better than this in Week 6. It's a perfect stage and Lincoln Financial Field is going to be lit and both teams are playing excellent football right now. What Sirianni says to his team and the way the players absorb his messaging is the big story here because we do have a lot of season remaining to play and the goals here are extremely high.
The Eagles are in it to win it against Dallas, but how much more can we say about this game? We know Dallas is the archest of arch-rivals. We know the Cowboys are to be respected to the very highest level for the way they've responded after losing starting quarterback Dak Prescott and turning to Cooper Rush, who is 4-0 this season. The offense has done a great job of playing to its strengths – running the ball, eliminating mistakes, being opportunistic – and the defense has done stuff that no Dallas team has done in 50 years (the Cowboys have yet to allow a team to reach the 20-point mark, the first since 1972 they've held opponents to 19 points or fewer and Dallas has allowed only one TD in each game also for the first time since 1972). Micah Parsons is a game-wrecker and DeMarcus Lawrence is a force and they lead a front seven that runs stunts more than any team in the league, causing havoc. The Cowboys are also just not giving up big plays, something that plagued them last season.
Special teams? All Dallas did last week was block a punt and return it to set up a field goal in the win over the Rams. KaVontae Turpin ranks fourth in the league in punt return average.
So, Dallas is playing well and is being coached well and the Cowboys are 4-1 and surging.
As Kelce said, though, "It has nothing to do with the team we play."
It's all about the Eagles and the way they handle their business throughout the week and then on Sunday night. We're in Round 6 of the 17-round 2022 NFL season, another message Sirianni delivers. Clearly, the players are absorbing what he's saying, connecting on a deeply personal level, and setting the stage for what is to come with this program on Sunday night and many weeks in the future.