Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

What the Eagles can learn from the Cowboys-Vikings game | Early Birds

The Eagles didn’t strap on the pads, but they grabbed a share of first place in the NFC East on Sunday.

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) is tackled by Cowboys middle linebacker Jaylon Smith (54) in the second half of their game on Sunday.
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) is tackled by Cowboys middle linebacker Jaylon Smith (54) in the second half of their game on Sunday.Read moreMichael Ainsworth / AP

Good morning, Eagles fans. It should be a great one, actually. The Eagles are back after a week spent resting up, and Sunday’s slate of games went well for the team. The Eagles didn’t have to strap on the pads, but they grabbed a share of first place in the NFC East as the Dallas Cowboys lost to the Minnesota Vikings, 28-24. The wild card is still going to be a tall order, but the Los Angeles Rams and Carolina Panthers losing on Sunday helps the Eagles at least stay in that hunt. Below, we’ll discuss what the Eagles could learn from the Vikings’ win over the Cowboys, and where the Eagles stand now as the playoff race is in sight.

If you like what you’re reading, tell your friends it’s free to sign up here​. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @EJSmith94.

EJ Smith (

Answers to the test

Not much went right for the Eagles during their 37-10 loss to the Cowboys earlier this season, but you’d be forgiven if you forgot perhaps the only thing that did. They rushed for 115 yards despite trying to mount a comeback for roughly 50 minutes. Some of those runs came in garbage time, of course, but Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders still combined for 4.1 yards per carry and 71 yards.

The Vikings had a similar formula, only they had the luxury of being ahead for most of the game, unlike the Eagles. They rushed for 153 yards with Dalvin Cook leading the way with 97 yards on 26 carries.

It may sound like a novel, newfangled concept, but the Eagles and their new heavy-formation running attack would probably be able to mount a similar level of success if they can get an early lead when the two teams face off on Dec. 22.

No, the Eagles don’t have Dalvin Cook, nor do they have someone on Cook’s level. But Howard has gotten on a roll in the team’s last two games, and Sanders offers versatility and a complementary running style.

What the Eagles do have is an offensive line to push around the Dallas defensive front the same way the Vikings managed to do. The Vikings and Eagles are both big fans of two-tight-end formations, and the Eagles have the best run-blocking line in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.

But don’t get your Christmas lights out and start preparing for this game quite yet. A lot can change in the next six weeks, especially with the disparity in the team’s strength of schedule remaining. Not to mention, I’m not a fan of Christmas lights before Thanksgiving.

The Eagles will have the 8-1 New England Patriots this week and the 7-2 Seattle Seahawks the following week. But even with those two teams still on the schedule, the Eagles have the sixth-easiest strength of schedule remaining this year. The Cowboys have the 13th-hardest slate left.

Even if the Eagles drop both games against the Seahawks and Patriots, the division race would still be in reach unless the Cowboys put together a lengthy winning streak.

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. Miles Sanders’ former college teammate Saquon Barkley — you may have heard of him — said the best is yet to come, as Erin McCarthy writes.

  2. Zach Ertz starts his Patriots prep this morning, and it might look a little familiar to the Detroit film from Week 3. A known Christmas light hater details what he should expect with DeSean Jackson out.

  3. Marcus Hayes isn’t sure why Eagles fans are being so pessimistic. The team should reasonably win six of its next seven games and make it to the playoffs, he argues.

From the mailbag

I was surprised to see that the Eagles only have a 4-4 record coming off the bye week over the last 8 seasons. They had been very good off the bye during the Andy Reid era. What do you think the Eagles need to do better in order to have more success coming out of the bye week? — Dan May (@dannmaal) via Twitter.

Good question, Dan. I won’t pretend to fully understand how Andy Reid was so effective with a bye week. I’m not sure many people are privy to what he’s doing, otherwise more coaches would do it. I’m sure Doug Pederson replicates as much as he can from Reid, but the results haven’t been the same.

I would imagine the Eagles’ coaching staff spent the bye week self-scouting to identify tendencies, but it’s likely they also spent some time trying to correct the team’s slow starts. Under Pederson, the Eagles have averaged 6.7 points per first half. They’re 1-2 coming out of the bye in his tenure, with the lone win coming against the Cowboys in 2017. If the players come back well-rested and the coaches have some effective scripted plays to open the first quarter against the Patriots, it would go a long way to improving that record.