Tight end Zach Ertz didn't mince words as he described the Eagles' offensive performance in the Week 2 loss at Lincoln Financial Field: "It was a very rough game. We sucked that game. That's the bottom line."
The numbers weren't pretty. In a painful 20-10 loss, the Eagles gained just 226 total net yards, converted 2-of-11 third downs, rushed for 0.4 yards per rushing and possessed the football for only 19 minutes, 30 seconds.
Head coach Chip Kelly said the day after the loss that he was "embarrassed" by the paltry offensive output that marred a strong defensive effort.
Sunday night is a chance to make up for the stinker at Lincoln Financial Field.
"It's a big game against a very good defense," center Jason Kelce said. "They're strong. They do a lot of things well. In the first game we didn't play well, especially up front. We handled movement really poorly, we did a really bad job with our blocking and never gave our running backs a chance. All in all, I just think they had our number.
"Across the board, we didn't play very well."
Sunday is a new opportunity for the Eagles, who are refreshed and focused emerging from the bye week. The offense since that Week 2 defeat has shown glimpses of greatness and a lot of inconsistency, and the hope is that Sunday is the game that marks a major step forward. Sixty minutes of quality football is the goal against an arch rival that happens to be in its own funk, having dropped five straight after a 2-0 start.
The memories of that first game are not pleasant, and as Ertz said, the Eagles will watch the film of that lackluster performance once this week and move on. Before a roaring home-opener crowd, the Eagles gained 21 total net yards and one first down prior to halftime, calling seven rushing plays for -3 yards. Quarterback Sam Bradford completed 5-of-9 passes for 24 yards.
At 3-4, the Eagles are jumbled in the mix of the NFC East, looking to gain some traction. Bradford has had his ups and downs in his first seven games as an Eagle, playing behind an injury-challenged offensive line that started the season struggling in the running game. The receiving corps -- everyone, including running backs, tight ends and wide receivers -- has not caught the football consistently. The Eagles haven't been efficient as they would like in the red zone, and they are still turning the football over more than they want.
There have been some bright spots, however. Ryan Mathews is averaging 6.1 yards per carry and has three rushing touchdowns and a receiving score. DeMarco Murray, after a very slow opening few games, is averaging 4.4 yards per carry with two rushing touchdowns since the first Dallas game. The passing game has had some success down the field.
Still, there is a quest for much, much more. The challenge on Sunday is significant, as Dallas is healthier than it was in Week 2, with pass-rushing ends Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory healthy and linebacker Rolando McClain back in the lineup after a suspension.
"He's a good player," Kelce said of Hardy. "He can get after the passer, he's a good pass rusher. I think that will be a good battle if JP (left tackle Jason Peters) plays and if he can't go, I think that whoever is out there will have his hands full."
The Eagles used the bye week to give the players a chance to get away from the NovaCare Complex and the game of football and relax and heal and get charged for the final nine games of the regular season. The coaches used the time to scout themselves and their tendencies and work on ways to improve to make a playoff run.
After an impressive preseason, the offense has yet to find its 60-minute stride in the regular season. Is Sunday night at Dallas when it begins?
"We have a lot to work on and we're all confident we're going to find the answers," Ertz said. "We have a chance to get things right against a great defense. We're all up for the challenge."