Despite an early interruption by gracious Eagles fan Santa Claus, head coach Chip Kelly was laser-focused Monday as he and the Eagles begin to turn the page from Sunday night's 54-11 undressing of the Chicago Bears to next Sunday night's NFC East championship game against the Dallas Cowboys.
You already know how we got here. The Cowboys battled back from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Washington Redskins Sunday afternoon, guaranteeing themselves a chance to win the division if they can beat the Eagles at home. In turn, the Eagles took advantage of what some called a "meaningless" game to find a level of play for which they've been searching all season. All that matters now is what happens next Sunday night.
"You'd like to say that (we have momentum after yesterday's win), but not in this league," Kelly said. "I think that's the one thing, you better get rid of it, whether it's a win or a loss, very quickly. I'll give Dallas credit. They give up a 23-point lead to Green Bay the week before and the sky is falling and then they come back and they beat Washington. This league will test you from a standpoint of, it's not what you did last week, it's what you do this week and it's how you prepare. When we get back to work tomorrow, we better understand that."
Because of the holiday week, the Eagles' schedule will be slightly altered. Tuesday and Thursday will be heavier work-wise than normal so that the players can have Christmas morning with their families on Wednesday before a condensed workout. After seeing the way his team responded to their loss to the Minnesota Vikings last week, Kelly has no doubts about his team's approach in the week to come.
"I've always felt that you know you have a really good team when your best players are your hardest workers," Kelly said, in specific reference to a question about center Jason Kelce. "You look at DeMeco Ryans and Trent Cole and Jason Kelce and Jason Peters and Brent Celek and (LeSean) McCoy and DeSean Jackson, I mean it goes on. There's not one guy you're going to say, 'Well, we don't get a lot out of him in practice, but he's a gamer.' We don't have a bunch of gamers, we have a bunch of guys that really understand that we win because of our preparation and (Kelce) is a prime example of that."
Much has changed since the last meeting between the two teams, when the Cowboys came to Lincoln Financial Field and won 17-3, thanks to career-worst performance by Nick Foles. Then, Foles was still part of an unsettled merry-go-round at quarterback. Now, of course, all Foles has done is emerge as a young star with a league-leading 118.8 quarterback rating.
"There's a lot to that," said Kelly. "I think when we did stumble, there was a lot of instability at the quarterback position, and when you have a guy and you can get settled at it, I think it helps because people kind of know where he's going to be and when the ball is going to be released, kind of what his makeup is and where are we going to be as an offense. That's been a huge part of our success over these last couple of games.
"I think his confidence is a byproduct of his experience, and I think the more looks he sees, the one thing with Nick is that he's a very quick study. I think one of the ways that all of us are a quick study is we need to make mistakes, but you have to be able to learn from your mistakes, and I think that's one thing that Nick does a really, really good job of is he's very analytical of himself."
The three-point output against the Cowboys back in October now feels like a distant memory. In the four games since the bye, the Eagles are averaging 35.5 points per game, thanks in large part to only two turnovers in those four games.
"That's huge," Kelly said. "That's the number one thing offensively; do not turn the ball over. We talk about it as a group about being a great ball security team. SIW's are self inflicted wounds and those are things that we can prevent. We've done a better job as the season's gone along from a penalty standpoint on the offensive side of the ball and we've done a better job of not turning the ball over. The numbers are off the charts what our plus-minus is in the games we've won compared to the games we've lost. We lost by 10 to Kansas City on the Thursday Night game and we were minus-5. We turned the ball over five times offensively. You're not going to win when you're continually stopping yourselves … That'll be a number one factor again when you go into this game on Sunday night, who's a better team with ball security."
Regardless, there will be no lack of motivation Sunday night for an Eagles team that has fought back from a slow start to grab control of their playoff fate. Even in the face of the news that the Cowboys will likely be without quarterback Tony Romo, Kelly says his team will have no trouble putting in the right preparation.
"Since we went 3-5, every game's been like our backs are against the wall," said Kelly. "This game's no different. As I told those guys last night and I'll say again, for us the playoffs just start this week. If we're fortunate enough to win on Sunday, then we get an opportunity to play again. If we don't win on Sunday, then we're not playing again. It's very black and white to us, so I don't think I have to hammer that home in terms of this is the biggest game, because it is."
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