This was a message heard loud and clear delivered by quarterback Jalen Hurts at the very end of his weekly press conference on Wednesday at the NovaCare Complex. He had spent the previous nine-plus minutes answering questions, mostly about his performance on Monday Night Football's ManningCast and one about the Eagles being aggressive on fourth downs and one about his relationship with Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray and another about former Eagles tight end Zach Ertz.
Something was missing.
And Hurts wanted to make everyone aware of it.
"I will say this, too, um, I didn't get any questions about the Cardinals, for real," Hurts said. "This is a really good team we're about to play. They have a really good defense, disruptive up front. They have speed on the back end so, let's not set the precedent for that. This is a good football team."
Friendly reminder: The Eagles have bigger plans in mind than winning the first four games of this season, and they are very well aware of the pitfalls of thinking they've accomplished anything other than starting strong this year. They're playing at Arizona on Sunday, where they are 0-6 since the 2001 campaign. Philadelphia is 0-4 at State Farm Stadium. The defense has its hands full playing against the rare talents of Kyler Murray, who is capable of busting a big play from anywhere on the field. The offense plays, as Hurts said, a disruptive front featuring J.J. Watt, so exactly why in the world would anybody not focus on this game?
"We know about Kyler and how dangerous he is. I know him, for sure," said NFC Defensive Player of the Week Haason Reddick, a first-round pick by Arizona in 2017 who played there through the 2020 season. "He can make the plays using his feet and he has great arm talent, which is undeniable. We just need to be ourselves. We need to continue to do what we do and do it well."
The Eagles have had good starts to seasons before, with mixed results for the remainder of those years.
• In 2016, the Eagles opened 3-0 heading into the bye week and finished 7-9 and not even close to the playoffs.
• In 2014, they opened 3-0, finished second in the NFC East with a 10-6 record missed the postseason.
• In 2004, the Eagles started 7-0 and reached Super Bowl XXXIX.
Want to go way back to a team that looked like it was on a roll with a bright future? In 1994, Rich Kotite's Eagles opened 7-2 and the head coach, Kotite, talked about a contract extension right around that time. The Eagles lost seven straight games and Kotite was gone and the new owner of the team, Jeffrey Lurie, hired Ray Rhodes. A new ownership era of Eagles football started and, here we are, so many victories later.
The point is this: The Eagles are going to keep doing what they've been doing to get to 4-0 and it is essential, absolutely imperative, that they block out the outside noise. Or, in the case of Hurts' press conference, the apparent lack of interest in the quarterback's thoughts on the defense he will face on Sunday.
"We don't care what anybody thinks because it's on us," defensive end Brandon Graham said. "You learn that the only thing that matters is what happens here, with this team. Man, this game humbles you real quick. Don't get in front of things. Do your job that day. That's the NFL. That's the rule you follow."
To that end, Head Coach Nick Sirianni is keeping his messaging the same and we've heard this from his first day on the job. He has his five core values and he talks about them every day to his players and, more than talking, he stresses them every day.
The Eagles go back to the basics every day. Win or lose, Sirianni hasn't changed much since this time a year ago when the team was struggling and the chatter from the outside had an entirely different tenor.
We have a lot to improve on, and we're constantly trying to get better in everything that we do.
"We're in constant mode of how we can get better and the way we really preach of how we get better is we want to go every single day and be really super highly detailed in meetings," Sirianni said. "That starts with coaches. You guys have heard me say this before. Then we want to be full speed to the snap in walkthrough. Because it's still a walkthrough, right, but we want our minds going. And then when we are practicing, we want high, high intensity in practice to make it as much game-like as possible.
"Then we want to be intentional with our core values, and our core values: Connect, compete, accountability, football IQ, fundamentals. I think accountability, football IQ, and fundamentals, they happen on their own in practices and in meetings and all those different things, but what I said to the guys today is be super intentional about connecting, be super intentional about competing. We just want to get improved on those things all the time."
The Eagles have a big NFC game on Sunday in Arizona against the 2-2 Cardinals, who are working to find themselves. They're going to give the Eagles their very best shot and if this team is not prepared, well, the questions for the players and the head coach next week won't be nearly as breezy and fun. A small slip in the NFL means a lot, and the Eagles aren't interested in losing their footing as they build to their peak in a long, grinding 2022 season.