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Eagles salvage their season, but now have to play the Cowboys | Early Birds

“We realize what week it is,” quarterback Carson Wentz said after Sunday’s 37-27 win over Washington. “We realize what’s at stake.”

Eagles running back Miles Sanders celebrates a touchdown with wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (center) and tight end Dallas Goedert.
Eagles running back Miles Sanders celebrates a touchdown with wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (center) and tight end Dallas Goedert.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

LANDOVER, Md. — Good morning, Eagles fans. I bet you’re still thinking about yesterday’s 37-27 Eagles’ win. Well, especially since you’re starting your day by reading this newsletter (thanks, by the way).

In case you need a recap, much like last week the Eagles came out sloppy and apathetic-looking in the first half. The defense did next to nothing against a bad three-win Redskins team, whose quarterback Dwayne Haskins entered the game as one of the least productive signal callers in the NFL and halfway through the second quarter had a perfect passer rating on the day. Thankfully for the Eagles, the offense began clicking in the second half. In the final minutes, practice-squad call-up Greg Ward caught the go-ahead touchdown, and on the final play of regulation, linebacker Nigel Bradham scored off a Haskins fumble.

Also good news for the team, they didn’t add anyone else to their injury report.

The players said they’re hoping they can carry this confidence and momentum into Sunday’s home game against the Dallas Cowboys. If the Eagles win, another Giants game would be all that stands between them and the playoffs.

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In celebratory locker room, Eagles turn attention to Dallas and NFC East

For weeks, the Eagles have talked about “must win” games.

In his postgame news conference on Sunday, quarterback Carson Wentz said several times that he and his teammates’ “backs were up against the wall” in tough, fourth-quarter wins last week against the Giants and this week against the Redskins.

But those two opponents combined have won one fewer game than the Eagles.

This Sunday comes the real test in a true must-win matchup against the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles’ 7-7 divisional rival and a team that has struggled itself since the Eagles last faced them in an embarrassing 37-10 road loss in Week 7. However, the Cowboys came out Sunday and crushed the Rams, 44-21.

More than 1,300 miles away, in a cramped locker room deep inside FedEx Field, the Eagles blasted “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” during their postgame celebration. Once reporters entered, veterans and newcomers alike made clear they knew which team was next on their schedule.

“We realize what week it is,” Wentz said. “We realize what’s at stake.”

What’s at stake is the NFC East.

There are two ways the 7-7 Eagles can win it, and both involve a win over the 7-7 Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field this Sunday. The Eagles can beat the Cowboys and the Giants, or they can beat the Cowboys and lose to the Giants, if Dallas somehow loses to the Redskins the same week.

“We understand nothing’s promised right now in terms of the postseason," tight end Zach Ertz said. “So we’re just trying to do everything we can to win football games."

On Sunday, it took the offense and defense pulling it together in the game’s final 30 seconds.

With the ball back in Washington’s possession after Greg Ward’s go-ahead score, defensive end Brandon Graham said he thought about the big picture, and about how a loss could sink his team’s season. But he thought, too, about the ways the group was still succeeding despite adversity.

“When stuff’s going bad, you start to see what type of team you’ve got,” he said. “I felt like we did a good job with keeping [up] the positive talk.”

When Jason Kelce was asked about an emotional pregame speech he gave before last week’s win, the center said he believed those words should remain “in-house.” Such emotion, he said, isn’t rare.

“A lot of guys have a lot of emotion,” Kelce said. “A lot of guys take this seriously, and are very passionate."

Graham recalled the team’s three-game losing streak to the Patriots, the Seahawks, and the Dolphins. Even after two wins, albeit ugly wins, he said the team is still fueled by the feelings after those games.

“We ain’t trying to feel embarrassed no more,” Graham said. “We’re trying to give our best effort and if we lose on our best effort, I’m happy with that.”

Next week, the Eagles may have to be. But for now, the team and its fans have a few relaxing days to savor the win, and the possibilities that come with it.

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. Relive the matchup with Les Bowen’s game story.

  2. A younger Avonte Maddox would’ve been immensely irritated by his first three quarters. But the cornerback tightened things up at the end of the game in a performance that mirrored the defense’s up-and-down play this season, columnist Mike Sielski writes.

  3. EJ Smith writes about how tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert stepped up Sunday with the Eagles lacking in the wideout department.

  4. Jeff McLane dives into the success of rookie running back Miles Sanders, a success that earned him the distinct honor of being summoned to the podium to field questions about his record-setting afternoon.

  5. Paul Domowitch hands out the grades for the game. The Eagles earned a B overall.

  6. Jeff McLane does the up-down drill, and Carson Wentz, Miles Sanders, and Doug Pederson are up.

  7. This week, the Eagles actually have something to worry about in the Dallas Cowboys. They don’t need to fake the anxiety anymore, columnist Bob Ford writes.

  8. Columnist Marcus Hayes dissects another big game for Carson Wentz and the quarterback’s journey to become the unquestioned leader of the locker room.

  9. Yours truly breaks down the playoff scenarios after Sunday’s slate of NFC games.

  10. Domo wrote about Greg Ward’s best day as a professional football player, which included the game-winning TD.

From the mailbag

With all the injuries at WR, why cut Jordan Matthews? — @JAuchey via Twitter

Hi J, thanks for the question.

So Jordan Matthews returned to the Eagles last month and played in just two games, the loss to the Patriots and the loss to the Seahawks. During those games, he had only four catches for 33 yards. At the time, the Eagles’ struggles at wide receiver had yet to hit their low point, and Matthews wasn’t worth keeping on the roster as a backup, in part due to simple math.

Greg Ward, who caught the go-ahead touchdown pass against Washington, had already shown promise against the Dolphins. Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor were injured, but both were active for the Dolphins game just days after Matthews was cut.

While Agholor and Jeffery are prone to injury, the Eagles didn’t know the pair’s struggles would continue until this point in the season. Jeffery suffered a season-ending foot injury during the Giants game last week. Agholor hasn’t played since early October, despite his active status in that Dolphins game. It’s unclear whether he will recover from his knee injury in time to return this season.

If the Eagles could’ve seen into the future, perhaps they would’ve kept Matthews around, but at the time they had to cut him.