There was no celebration after the win in Chicago, per se. Oh, the Eagles acknowledged a job well done in beating the plucky Chicago Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field, but the mood was reserved and the understanding of where they were took hold: Dallas Week started immediately and with that, a very short week to rest, recover, and prepare for a Christmas Eve game that means so much.
"Got to win. That's all. Get a win," said wide receiver A.J. Brown after his 9-catch, career-high 181-yard performance against Chicago. "Do whatever we got to do. Get our bodies prepared. Get a win. Big division game. You know it means a lot. Up for the challenge. Let's go."
This is a team that has been perfectly focused all season, that does not take the "bait" when there is an invitation to talk trash or to look ahead or to dream of what might be. The Eagles have a singular purpose that has been coached into their daily mindset by Nick Sirianni since the day he arrived: Focus on today, make yourself better today, think only of what you can do to make the team better.
With that, today (Monday) is Tuesday and tomorrow (Tuesday) is Wednesday and the Eagles have a short few days to prepare for a Dallas team that is going to come out snarling mad after losing a game it had all but wrapped up in Jacksonville on Sunday. The Eagles understand the big picture and for those who might not be so sure, here you go. To break it down in simple terms, here is what is at stake on Saturday for the 4:25 PM kickoff ...
The Eagles are 13-1, with a three-game lead in the NFC East over the 10-4 Cowboys.
An Eagles win means the Eagles capture the NFC East outright.
An Eagles win also guarantees that the Eagles will finish with the best record in the NFC, and with that comes some particular benefits. The No. 1 seed heading into the conference playoffs earns a highly desired bye week heading into the playoffs and hosts the postseason games. As we saw in 2017, Lincoln Financial Field provides a very significant home-field advantage.
And that's really it. The mood at the NovaCare Complex on this Monday – er, Tuesday in the football schedule – is work. Grinding. It's a short week. Exciting? Of course. The Eagles are 13-1 and the Magic Number for clinching home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs is one. But if you think that everyone is walking around giving high fives and ruminating on Sunday's game and talking in dreamy tones about Saturday's battle in Dallas, then you are mistaken.
Dawg mentality. For everyone.
"What have we accomplished, really? I mean, nothing. Well, not nothing. We're 13-1 and I'm extremely proud of that. But we have much bigger goals and until we reach those goals, there is no sense of truly accomplishing anything," linebacker Haason Reddick said after the win in Chicago. "We know we have Dallas coming up and that's a great team over there. What we did against them in the first game (Week 6, a 26-17 Eagles win at Lincoln Financial Field) doesn't really apply this time because they are a different team. We understand that.
"We know what is at stake for this game and I think everybody is ready for the competition because we know it's going to be a great one."
Sure will be a great one, with a huge national audience and a chance to win the NFC East and clinch the No. 1 seed in the conference playoffs. There isn't a whole lot more to say. The Eagles won't get drawn into the bulletin-board material that is already part of the media and fan conversation. Instead, it's just business as usual, albeit in a much tighter window. Everything is just as intense and focused as it is every week.
The Eagles need to play a great game to win. That's all that matters. That's the message.
"We have familiarity with them and they have familiarity with us. We know it's a really good football team. I have respect for how well coached they are, at all fronts: offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, head coach, and I have a lot of respect for those players that they have over there," Head Coach Nick Sirianni said in Chicago after the win over the Bears. "So we are going to have to have our best week of preparation to make sure we are ready to go 1-0 this week."
So, with that, it's Dallas Week. Outside the bubble in which the players and coaches live, there is a building anticipation and a bit of frenzy among the media and fans. Inside, it's all about maximizing every minute of each day. Saturday arrives quickly. There is a lot of work to be done and a great game to be played.