Eagles vs. Dallas, Part 2.
This time it is in AT&T Stadium, where the Cowboys have won 14 straight games. The Eagles are 10-2, holders of the best record in the NFL, and the Cowboys are one game behind in the race for the best record in the conference and the top spot in the NFC East.
In other words, this is yet another huge game for the Eagles.
So, how is the locker room? If it is any indication, offensive tackle Jordan Mailata pulled out his guitar, stored next to his locker in the back corner of the NovaCare Complex locker room, and strummed some notes on Thursday as he often does. The mood has been purposeful and connected, as always. Let's visit with some of the players.
Darius Slay: We need to step up on defense
There is nothing but respect from cornerback Darius "Big Play" Slay, who says that Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott "is playing at a high level, is playing at an MVP level, so I have to give a shoutout to him." The Dallas offense has been clicking "on all cylinders," Slay said, and that presents challenges to the Eagles' defense.
How do the Eagles stop this kind of offense?
"Just go out there and play ball, man," Slay said. "Don't blow assignments, make sure we make it hard for them and contest throws and try to eliminate their explosive plays."
The Eagles are a veteran team with great leadership and they've been in every possible scenario in the last several seasons. So, coming off a tough loss and heading into such a hostile environment is nothing new. Thus, the mindset doesn't change. The mindset is to win on Sunday night.
"It's cool. It's smooth," Slay said. "I'm the same guy every week. I be chilling every week. But it's cool, we're vibing. We know what kind of team we are: We're a physical team that can put up points. We need to get more stops on defense. It's about proving it to us more than anything on the outside."
Boston Scott: We know what's at stake on Sunday night
"The next game is a big game because it's the next game," says running back Boston Scott. "That's the way we look at it. Faceless opponent. We want to be better than we were the week before. Last week didn't go as we expected, but everyone in this organization is committed to excellence, committed to being the best they can be. For us, we need to be at our best."
Scott has delivered when called upon this season – he's averaging 5.3 yards on his 13 rushing attempts, 13 yards on his four receptions, and 26 yards on the four kickoff returns he has had – and that's kind of what this team's mentality is all about: Know your role and be a star in it.
Against Dallas, everyone is going to have to produce in their respective roles.
"It comes down to fundamentals and we always talk about it, so for us on special teams, it's going to be a great battle," he said. "We know how good they are. We've been playing well. On offense, we have to put our best foot forward. Our running game, we're close, man. We've been winning games and that is nice, but we aren't satisfied. We haven't played our best game yet.
"That's what we plan to do on Sunday night."
Zach Cunningham: Missing a game sucked
It didn't take long for linebacker Zach Cunningham to make his mark after the Eagles signed him in August: He moved into the starting lineup and led the team in tackles through 11 games. But a hamstring injury suffered late in the win over Buffalo sidelined Cunningham for last Sunday's game against San Francisco and that, frankly, was a bummer for Cunningham.
"It's part of the game, but yeah, it sucked," he said. "I did everything I could on the sidelines to help the guys. But I missed being out there. It was tough."
Cunningham is back at practice this week and hopeful to play and make an impact on Sunday. He's also been helping new Eagles linebacker Shaquille Leonard learn the defense in a crash-course kind of way, understanding the limited amount of time between games.
"It's something that a lot of guys go through, myself included," Cunningham said. "Learning the language of the defense is probably the hardest part, but he has been around and he has a feel for things. I think he's picking it up pretty fast. He's going to come in here and help us."
A.J. Brown: The offense can put it all together
The talent is there, said wide receiver A.J. Brown. The season has shown examples of an Eagles offense that has every tool and ability to put big points on the board, to play football at the highest level.
That's what he has all the confidence in the world that the best is yet to come for the Eagles, starting Sunday night in Dallas.
"I'm feeling good about where we are and what we're doing. We haven't put it together like we know we can and that's what we're working toward," Brown said. "We just got to go out and do our job. We need to continue to hold guys accountable and play our style of game, because it's going to be a good game.
"I think it's all about us executing and playing our style of football, regardless of who we're playing. That's how I feel. We know them and they know us, so it comes down to us executing and doing our jobs."