In the aftermath of Sunday's loss to Washington, head coach Andy Reid gathered his team on Monday at the NovaCare Complex and laid out the mandate for the week ahead: Let's beat the Cowboys. Nothing else matters. Whatever the playoff scenarios may be, and no matter what the percentages say, the only thing the Eagles can control is how they play against a Dallas team that dealt Philadelphia a cruel loss back in Week 2.
"I want the guys to prepare to play their best game and not worry about any of that other stuff," said Reid, in his NovaCare Complex office. "We know it is an important game. Every game is important in the National Football League. Do the best you can to prepare each and every week. That is what we are going to do this week."
I know you are all emotionally spent right about now. The season was all but over at 5-5-1 for many, but then the Eagles ripped off three straight wins and controlled their playoff path at 8-5-1 and with all engines on board, the team lost to the Redskins. Pffffft ... flat. The fans are in shock. The media have been sharpening the claws.
It is a tough time.
But the Eagles are going to play it out on Sunday and see how things unfold. This is Dallas coming to town, and no matter what the records are, no matter how high the stakes, playing the Cowboys means something. It is a special occasion, and maybe if the planets align and the Eagles are back in control of their playoff destiny, kickoff at 4:15 p.m. will be one of those home games to remember for all time.
Regardless, the Eagles need to step up and play their best game of the season to defeat a Dallas team that has excellent balance and explosiveness on offense and that features the one-man wrecking-crew presence of DeMarcus Ware on defense. The teams played an epic game in Week 2 as the Eagles failed to hold a lead in the fourth quarter and lost a heart-breaking game.
What continually amazes me in the NFL is how coaches and players are trained to move on to the next assignment. In this case, it's the Cowboys. You can't dismiss the disappointment of Sunday against the Redskins so easily. It is a painful kick in the stomach still. Coaches don't show pain. They feel what they feel for only a day or so and then they robotically transition to the next opponent. Players succeed because they don't allow negative thoughts to creep into their lives, so while they are hurting about the loss, they are now in rest and recovery mode. Dallas starts to occupy the brain on Tuesday for the players.
You and I aren't built that way. The healing continues ...
*CLEANING OUT THE EAGLES NOTEBOOK *
- It sounds like defensive end/tackle Victor Abiamiri will have a tough time getting ready to play against Dallas because of a sprained foot. Too bad if he can't play. Abiamiri has really come on of late and his sack and then tackle for a loss early in the game against Washington helped set a defensive tone. Abiamiri should be a factor here next year, a big-time factor both as an end and as a pass-rushing tackle in the nickel. He has a chance to be outstanding.
- One of the disappointments against Washington was the lack of work, again, for running back Correll Buckhalter. He had a few touches, but not nearly enough for a player who has been as productive as he has been when he has gotten the chance. Buckhalter's in-and-out role has been a great mystery the last couple of years.
- I wrote on Friday that the Eagles felt they would be fine at wide receiver minus Hank Baskett and Kevin Curtis, so there is no going back and lamenting their absence from the game. But, no question, the rest of the receiving corps did not fill the void. DeSean Jackson had a tough game with a couple of drops, and that young man is going to learn from such a difficult afternoon. Jackson has shown some impressive resolve this year. He weighs 170 pounds (or so) and is the team's punt return man and its leading receiver. He has had a fine season. But maybe he is worn down. Tough kid, outstanding future and Jackson will work hard at his game to go to the next level.
- With all the work put in and all the improvement at takeaways for the defense, I know how disappointed the players are that they failed to come away with two should-have-been interceptions against Washington -- Quintin Mikell had a chance to intercept a Jason Campbell pass in the end zone and end a drive that resulted in a Redskins field goal and Asante Samuel had a shot at a pick in the fourth quarter. Tough misses there by the defense.
- Shawn Andrews remains on the active roster, but there is no word that he is anywhere close to playing. Andrews is an interesting case when the Eagles start looking to next year. Can they count on him to be ready to go, physically and mentally? Will he again be a dominating player? Is he a guard or tackle? Andrews is one of many intriguing off-season storylines to follow ... when the time is appropriate.
- Lost in the shuffle here is that the Eagles limited tight end Chris Cooley to 4 catches for 28 yards on Sunday. The defense has done an excellent job on tight ends the last nine games. Big test on Sunday, a healthy Jason Witten or not.