Eagles get their chance for first place

Ed Benkin
December 07, 2018 - 3:44 pm
eagles/cowboys

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- It has felt like an uphill climb all season for the Philadelphia Eagles.  

The defending Super Bowl Champions have had a difficult time on the road to a repeat.  They have hardly looked like championship contenders.  Their season has been declared dead enough times where the buzzards were circling over the carcass.  The door to the coffin was almost nailed shut after a blowout loss in New Orleans left the Eagles at 4-6.  However, two straight division wins have taken the Eagles season off life support.  For head coach Doug Pederson, it was a far cry from the aftermath of a 48-7 loss in the Bayou. 

"The guys knew coming out of that game they just flat-out didn't play well," said Pederson.  Obviously, you take it upon yourself to try and get things fixed, and it just comes down to your preparation during the week, what are you doing extra to get yourself ready to play on Sunday when practice reps get cut back or whatever it might be."

Not only are the Eagles back at the .500 mark, but they are also a game behind the Dallas Cowboys for first place in the NFC East.  The two teams will meet on Sunday in Texas.  A win will pull the Eagles into a first-place tie and give Pederson's squad the temporary tie-breaker advantage.  A loss will pretty much end any division title hopes for the Eagles.  Regardless, the Eagles have managed to put themselves in a position to play a game for first place in December.

"We're given this opportunity," Pederson said.  "I challenged the guys, too, about having no regrets.  Leave everything out on the field, do your job one play at a time,  All those things that are kind of coach speak. It really magnifies itself in games like this."

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The Eagles opponent received some extra motivation when Eagles linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill said that the Cowboys "always choke" in clutch situations.  Such talk has not often been heard out of the Eagles locker room since Pederson took over as head coach.  Pederson made it clear he wished his linebacker would have kept his comments to himself.

"We have a ton of respect for the Cowboys," said Pederson.  "It has nothing to do with that  We have a ton of respect for Coach (Jason) Garrett.  He and I actually were in the league together at the same time, so we played against each other when he was with Dallas and I was with Green Bay, so we go back a ways.  It's unfortunate that the comments were made. I talk to the team a lot about how we don't need to post anything that can be used on other teams’ website or bulletin board.  It's unfortunate that happened."

Grugier-Hill's comments may be long forgotten by the time the ball is kicked off in Dallas on Sunday.  There is always something special about the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry, which is magnified when first place is on the line.  A season which was on the brink of extinction has turned into a much different story.  By Sunday night, the Eagles will either be in the driver's seat in the NFC East or on the verge of elimination from playoff contention.

"We have a lot to play for," Pederson said.  "Number one, a chance to kind of dig ourselves out of a hole that we've created for ourselves early in the season.  I talk about teams, particularly us, we need to be playing our best football in all three phases the last month of the season, and so here we go."