The Eagles didn’t just beat the Cowboys on Sunday night. They smacked them in the mouth, took their lunch money, and dared 'em to tell their mommas.
“Our team played hard!” Jerry Jones insisted as he exited Lincoln Financial Field and slipped into his chauffeured black SUV, ostensibly to begin contemplate firing his head coach. Again.
Your team didn’t play as hard as the other team, Jerry. Not even close.
Your team lost, 17-9, because your team played like a bunch of prima donnas worried about their next contracts, unconcerned with their coaches’ futures. If Eagles rookie Miles Sanders was The Bus — he gained 156 yards from scrimmage — then DeMarcus Lawrence and Sean Lee threw Jason Garrett under it headfirst.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys were the latest brick wall Doug Pederson’s players faced and demolished. The Eagles have won three straight games, are now 8-7, control the NFC East, and clearly want to play deep into January. The Cowboys? They’re 7-8, and clearly can’t wait for December to end. The difference is palpable.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, a rookie receiver, injured his foot on Friday and hobbled through the first 3 1/2 quarters before he had to leave the game. He returned a few minutes later, unable to believe the restorative powers of a rivalry played in a riotous home stadium filled with nearly 70,000 haters of all things Cowboy.
“I mean, it’s Dallas," he said. “All week we’ve been talking about, ‘It’s Dallas.’ This is a different kind of game. It’s just … Dallas. It’s bigger than us. It’s for everybody. I didn’t even think about my foot. I ain’t playing for myself. I’m playing to make big plays for the whole team."
"The whole city.”
The city understands that these Eagles aren’t really the Eagles, per se. They’re missing right tackle Lane Johnson, who is the best player on offense, as well as all of their front-line receivers, and their top running backs. At one point on Sunday they didn’t have either of their starting outside cornerbacks, or Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz, and they briefly missed Fletcher Cox, the best player on defense.
So, no, the better team might not have won.
But the tougher team damn sure did.
“This is the NFL,” said cornerback Jalen Mills, who shook off an ankle injury. “Any team that is more mentally tough than the next team is going to win.”
It was a Lazarus game. The Eagles, underdogs at home and overwhelmingly outmanned, rose from the dead. So did Mills, Ertz, Cox, and Arcega-Whiteside.
It was thrilling to watch.
Xavier Woods collapsed Ertz’s rib cage early in the first quarter, and he played 14 more minutes in before leaving 3 minutes, 3 seconds into the second quarter clutching his left side. He visited the locker room, and presumably the pharmacy, came back to the sideline, had his ribs wrapped, and returned to the game with 1:52 to play in the second quarter. He finished with four catches for 28 yards.
Afterward, Ertz could barely pull his shirt over his head, and he struggled to put his coat on, and he had so much trouble speaking that he wouldn’t conduct his postgame press conference. But, asked on his way out the door if there was any way he wasn’t going to finish the game, he grunted, “Uh-uh.”
All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox lost feeling in his right elbow after trying to tackle Ezekiel Elliott early in the third quarter. He missed just two plays. He not only returned but he immediately forced Tony Pollard to fumble, at the Eagles’ 26-yard line.
“We don’t let little ‘bo-bos’ take you out of the game,” Cox said. “We’ve got respect for each other. If we can come back and fight, why not do it?”
Cox is from Mississippi and Texas, where they call injuries “bo-bos”, whereas here in the Northeast they’re called boo-boos; but regardless of where you’re at, bo-bos sometimes cannot be overcome. Unless, apparently, you’re at Lincoln Financial Field.
Mills rolled his right ankle on the re-sodded field early in the third quarter. He needed a cart to make it to the locker room. Still, somehow, Mills returned early in the fourth quarter.
“There was no question I was coming back,” Mills said.
There was no question about any of them. If they could walk, they’d be putting on their helmets. If they’d lost, they’d have had eight months to heal.
“It shows you how tough this team is. We’re out here playing for the man to our left and the right,” Mills said. "We’re a team. We’re a family."
The Cowboys? Not so much. More like a loose assemblage of peers and acquaintances.
Cowboys linebacker Joe Thomas was completely uninterested in tackling Sanders during his 29-yard catch-and-run that led to the Eagles’ touchdown on their second possession. Cowboys center Travis Frederick never touched linebacker Nigel Bradham on the screen pass that began Dallas’ second series and lost two yards. Linebacker Sean Lee and safety Josh Jones both checked out on Sanders’ 1-yard TD run in the third quarter. Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper each dropped easy catches.
It was astonishing. Or was it?
This is a Cowboys franchise that has four playoff wins and hasn’t gotten past the divisional round in 24 years. There’s more heart in a Grinch colony than at 1 Cowboys Way.
The Eagles? They won a Super Bowl after the 2017 season with Halapoulavaati Vaitai starting at left tackle, with Doug Pederson as the head coach, and with Nick Foles starting at quarterback.
At this point they think they can do anything.
“The past three years, this team has always dealt with adversity,” Mills said. “That’s our identity.”
Dallas’ identity? From the chants at the Linc, you’d infer that “Dallas S****.”
Dallas didn’t have enough energy to s***.