Happy Victory Monday, Eagles fans! What a way to start the holiday week! The Eagles humbled the Dallas Cowboys 17-9 on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field to take the driver's wheel in the chase for the NFC East title. With one game left to play, the Eagles' three-game win streak gives them a one-game edge over the Cowboys, who could have clinched the title in Philly's house on Sunday. Instead, the Eagles will take the division title and the home playoff game that comes with it if they beat the Giants next Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Note that the NFL flexed the kickoff for the Eagles-Giants game to 4:25 p.m.
Before head coach Doug Pederson meets the media at noon, here's a recap of the best stories from Sunday's triumph over the Dallas Cowboys.
1. Spadaro: Eagles power past Cowboys with punishing defense and a QB who is playing at star level
Throughout the week leading to Sunday and a must-win game against Dallas, the Eagles rallied each other in the hallways and in the locker room and in the meeting rooms at the NovaCare Complex: THIS was the moment when we would find out what the Eagles, a Jekyll-and-Hyde team for all of 2019, really were against their arch-rivals with playoff oxygen on the line.
"We heard what people were saying, all the whispers out there about our team," defensive tackle Tim Jernigan said. "I don't think a lot of people out there believed in us, so all week we bonded together and knew that we had to come in here today and ball out. We know what kind of team we have. We showed it for 60 minutes today."
That, the Eagles certainly did.
They continued their creative use of personnel, formations, and playcalling with so many key veterans off the field with injury and quarterback Carson Wentz passed for 319 yards to seven different receivers, and rookie running back Miles Sanders accounted for 156 yards and a touchdown from the line of scrimmage as the offense controlled the football for 36 minutes, 12 seconds. The slow-starting offense started fast, scoring 10 points on its opening two possessions and then putting together a brilliant 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard Sanders run as the Eagles pushed ahead 17-6.
On the other side of the ball, the defense was punishing.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott, an Eagles-killer in his previous five games (815 total yards from scrimmage, 5-0 record) against Philadelphia, was held to 47 yards on 13 rushing attempts and 37 yards on seven receptions. Quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 265 yards on 25-of-44 passing and the Eagles hunkered down against wide receiver Amari Cooper, who had four receptions for 24 yards. The defense also forced a key turnover to end the Cowboys' first possession of the second half at the Philadelphia 25-yard line when running back Tony Pollard, in for an injured Elliott, was stopped on a pitch play to the left on a third-and-1 and coughed up the football.
"This was a playoff game. We knew what was at stake. We knew the atmosphere," cornerback Jalen Mills said. "With their receivers, it's a mindset of going in and saying we are going to play tight coverage and we are going to make the plays when the ball comes. We've been in playoff mode for the last few weeks, so there was nothing different there."
2. Unfinished business: Eagles won't take Giants lightly
The Eagles didn't clinch the NFC East on Sunday. They know that. As exciting as it was to beat the rival Cowboys, the players know that it will be for nothing if they don't handle a Giants team that has won two straight, including a 41-35 overtime defeat of Washington on Sunday.
"These guys in the locker room, they're focused on next week already," head coach Doug Pederson said. "That's kind of the conversation that is taking place in the locker room, even after this game.
"That's exciting for me as a coach to know that's where their mind is at. I can help them out with the schedule and all that this week, but I'm excited for them."
Since 2017, the Eagles rank third in the NFL (and first in the NFC) with a .714 (10-4) winning percentage in the month of December, behind Baltimore (.786, 11-3) and Kansas City (.769, 10-3). Under Pederson, the Eagles are 9-3 (.750) vs. division rivals at Lincoln Financial Field.
"Obviously everyone's excited about this win, but hey, we have one more," quarterback Carson Wentz said. "We have to go win one more. We've won nothing yet, but we're excited for the opportunity. It's in our own hands to go take it, and we're excited for it."
3. Peter King says, 'Don't look now, but Philly's a factor (with a healthy QB)'
Quarterback Carson Wentz's brilliant performance against Dallas was the lead for Peter King's Football Morning in America column.
King detailed how the moment of revelation for Wentz and the Eagles was at halftime of the Week 14 Monday night overtime win over the New York Giants. The Eagles trailed 17-3 and the end of the season, for all intents and purposes, was 30 minutes of game clock away. Instead, the offense came to life, the defense shut down Eli Manning and Saquon Barkley, and rallied to win in overtime.
"Wentz is 3-0, has put up 74 points, has completed 71 percent, with zero turnovers and six TDs," King wrote. "He's who the Eagles drafted, who the Eagles paid top dollar. We're entering Week 17, at the pesky Giants, and a win means Wentz will play in his first playoff game at home. His first playoff game, period."
And while the NFC East Champion may not win double-digit games in the regular season, King thinks that the Eagles can make some noise if they do indeed secure the division crown.
"Wentz is different, the defense seems different, and some new guys aren't obstacles anymore. They're energy," he wrote.
4. Zach Ertz inspires Eagles to 'burn the ships'
There was a common hashtag among Eagles players who posted messages on social media on Sunday morning: #Burntheships.
Tight end Zach Ertz used a history lesson on Saturday night at the team meeting to rally the players.
According to Zach Berman of The Athletic, Ertz recounted the story of Hernán Cortés, who told his troops stationed in the Gulf of Mexico to burn the ships. It meant that they were going to conquer or be conquered. There was no retreat.
Ertz implored his teammates to do the same on Sunday. It worked.
"He told the guys to 'burn the ships,'" guard Brandon Brooks said. "And it was just saying, 'when we go out there, man, there is no Plan B.' This is the only plan. The only plan is to win. There is no second-guessing. There's no doubting we're going to make plays. It's just pure confidence that, at the end of the game, we'll come out on top."
"That's a great analogy," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "If we want to survive, there is no going back. There's no more slack at the end of the rope."
5. For the Carson Wentz stans
Here are some notes from Carson Wentz's marvelous performance Sunday against the Cowboys.
• Carson Wentz is the first QB in NFL history to record 30 or more completions and no interceptions in three consecutive games.
• Wentz completed 31-of-40 (77.5 percent) attempts for a season-high-tying 313 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, and a 108.2 passer rating (back-to-back weeks with 100+ passer rating).
• On Philadelphia's three scoring drives, Wentz combined to go 13-of-15 (86.7 percent) for 163 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, and a 134.2 passer rating.
• Wentz totaled 68 yards and a 107.1 rating on 6-of-7 (85.7 percent) passing in the fourth quarter. Over the last three games in the fourth quarter/overtime, he has completed 34-of-42 (81.0 percent) attempts for 352 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 133.3 passer rating, in addition to two comeback drives in Weeks 14-15.
6. Dallas on Dallas crime
Tight end Dallas Goedert put the first touchdown on the board for the Eagles with a 6-yard reception late in the second quarter to make it 10-0. Goedert led the team with 91 receiving yards on nine receptions, both career highs, with the one touchdown. The 6-yard score helped establish the tone for the team about starting fast which is something the Eagles have struggled with in this season. Not on Sunday, though.
"That was kind of a big thing. Zach (Ertz) actually talked Saturday night about some stats," Goedert said about setting the tone early in the game. "The last three games we played them, we were down at halftime every game. So just to get that early jump, put them in the bind of playing from behind and we were able to do that – go score on the first possession, score on the second possession with the field goal and we just kept rolling from there."
7. Miles Sanders: Offensive Rookie of the Year?
The Penn State product had another standout performance Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. Sanders recorded 156 yards from scrimmage – 79 yards on the ground and 77 yards receiving, against the Cowboys on 25 touches. Sanders is now the franchise's all-time rookie leader in all-purpose yards with 1,590 with one game to go.
"I'm just happy we got the win," Sanders said. "These last four games, we've talked about how we're not done yet. This game was the one that really mattered, but now next week matters more now, so we can secure the division."
Sanders' 1-yard touchdown late in the third quarter helped the Eagles secure their lead and made it a two-score game. When asked about his ability to find the hole and cross the goal line, Sanders gave the credit to the guys in front of him.
"That's big boy football down there," Sanders said. "I'm just happy they trust me and put confidence in me. I just had to go in there and get the touchdown."
8. Zeke taps out
A monster in the five previous matchups with the Eagles, Ezekiel Elliott was held in check on Sunday.
Elliott had 47 rushing yards and 37 receiving yards, a total of 84 yards from scrimmage. Prior to Sunday, Elliott had never lost to the Eagles, accounting for 815 yards from scrimmage.
What was the difference?
"We played from start to finish with some energy. We played as a team," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "Stayed patient in a tight, tight ballgame against a good team. One more game to go."
"It's a pride thing each week," head coach Doug Pederson said. "This is a great offense. They can score points. To keep them out of the end zone, hold them to three kicks like they did, stop them on some fourth downs, hats off to the defense, Coach (Jim) Schwartz and his staff, for having a great game plan."
In fact, Elliott had to come out of the game briefly in the third quarter at a critical time. The Cowboys, down 10-6, moved the ball into Eagles territory. Elliott gained 8 yards on a first-down run, his sixth touch of the drive, to get to the 26-yard line. Elliott tapped on his helmet to come out, so rookie Tony Pollard came in and gained 1 yard to set up a third-and-1. On an option play to the left, quarterback Dak Prescott pitched to Pollard and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox stripped the ball, which was recovered by Jenkins.
"(Prescott) checked out of the play and, obviously, I've been in the NFL for a while, so I heard the center give the point and I just took a chance and went the way I thought he was going and took a chance," Cox said. "(Pollard) was trying to fight for extra yards and I had a chance to get the ball out."
9. Carson Wentz outduels Dak Prescott
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott was limited in practice with a shoulder injury all week, but didn't make any excuses after losing to quarterback Carson Wentz and the Eagles.
"We didn't get it done. We're too talented of a team and individuals to not make the plays, starting with myself. It's disappointing, it's frustrating," Prescott said. "We all take responsibility, and like I said, it begins with me. We're too talented and we didn't execute the way that we're capable of doing and they did."
Prescott was 25-of-44 for 265 yards for a 74.5 passer rating. He had a couple of opportunities late in the game, but overthrows and drops kept the Cowboys from getting in the end zone.
"I thought at times, Dak threw the ball very well," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. "There were times we weren't as efficient as we needed to be in the passing game."
Check out the best photos from the Eagles' crucial NFC East clash against the Dallas Cowboys.
10. Sidney Jones to the rescue
With 1:21 left in the game, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott threw the ball deep to wide receiver Michael Gallup on fourth-and-8 from the Eagles' 23-yard line with the game hanging in the balance.
Cornerback Sidney Jones, in the game for an injured Ronald Darby, saw the ball the entire time and in the left corner of the end zone defended the pass, securing the victory. While Jones has not had an ideal 2019 season, he still puts in the work every day to make plays that will help this team win.
"It's a blessing to come in and step in and contribute in whatever role it is," Jones said. "I just come to work every day grinding. No matter what everyone else is saying, they can say this they can say that, I've had an unfortunate injury and I think that is what's been holding me back. Once I get that consistency, I know I can dominate."
After suffering a hamstring injury last season that caused him to miss about half of the season, the second-round draft pick has been working back toward the standard of play that the Eagles saw when they selected him in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Sunday's performance, along with his game-saving play against the Giants two weeks ago, shows that he is trending in the right direction.
"He comes to work every day, he's working hard, not getting down on himself, knowing that this is a process and knowing that cornerback is if not the hardest position in the league, the second hardest," cornerback Jalen Mills said. "Guys are going to catch the ball on you and you just have to go out there and battle the next play."