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After beating Cowboys, Eagles can’t overlook Giants and improved Saquon Barkley | Early Birds

“Obviously this is a big win today, but we haven’t won anything yet,” center Jason Kelce said. “This is another must-win for us, against the New York Giants, who are playing really good football right now.”

Carson Wentz celebrates while leaving the field after the Eagles' win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
Carson Wentz celebrates while leaving the field after the Eagles' win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

How’s that for an early Christmas present (or a timely Hanukkah gift), Eagles fans?

You were not dreaming last night when you watched the clock hit zero with the score 17-9 Eagles. It was real, and the Dallas Cowboys came out on the losing side of a Lincoln Financial Field bout for only the third time in the Jason Garrett era.

The Eagles started fast, getting up 10-0 on the Cowboys in the first quarter. Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott looked hampered by the right shoulder injury he suffered last week, and struggled with accuracy throughout the game. Meanwhile, Carson Wentz had one of the best outings of his career, finishing the evening 31-of-40 for 319 yards and a touchdown.

The Eagles did lose a couple more players to injury, at least temporarily, including wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (knee) and cornerback Ronald Darby (hip flexor). Tight end Zach Ertz left the game with a rib injury. but returned to the field after a brief trip to the locker room. He didn’t talk with reporters after the game, so we don’t have an update on his condition. Check back with on Monday for more on the injury front.

With the victory over their NFC East rivals, the Eagles improved to 8-7 and took hold of first place in the division. Their path to the playoffs now goes through the Meadowlands and only the Meadowlands. They will travel to New York on Sunday to take on the 4-11 Giants at MetLife Stadium in their regular-season finale, which was flexed to 4:25 p.m.

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Eagles can’t underestimate the Giants after big win

Eagles right guard Brandon Brooks has a reminder tattooed across his chest: “There is no progress without much struggle.”

For Brooks, the Frederick Douglass quote serves as a mantra that has helped him persevere through off-the-field hardship, including his public struggles with mental health.

Yet they’re also words that could apply to this Eagles season, one that’s included dozens of injuries, ugly losses, and unexpected victories, such as last night’s.

The Eagles have overcome a lot in the past few months, and the team had every reason to celebrate the latest win and to bask in the cheers and chants of an elated Linc crowd.

But as they move on to the final week of regular-season preparation, they can’t afford to become complacent and risk coming out flat against the Giants. In the postgame locker room, several players said they weren’t concerned about that happening.

“We’ve been in playoff mode since that Monday night game vs. the Giants," said cornerback Jalen Mills. "So as far as determination goes, I don’t think we could be more determined than we are right now.”

Brooks concurred.

“We know the job’s not done,” Brooks said. “We’ve got to win next week to get in the dance.”

What does the team have to do exactly to ensure they don’t have a letdown game?

“Prepare like we do every week,” he said. “Prepare just as hard. Be just as focused. Don’t think for a second for a second that the Giants are a bad team, because they’re not. They have some good players over there."

In a Monday night game two weeks ago, it took overtime for the Eagles to beat the Giants, 23-17, and hand the New York team their ninth straight loss. Since then, however, the Giants beat the Dolphins, 36-20, last week and the Redskins, 41-35 in overtime Sunday.

Yes, they’re still only 4-11, and they don’t have any postseason hope to motivate them. But at Washington on Sunday, they played tough.

Mobile quarterback Daniel Jones returned after being sidelined for two games with a high ankle sprain, and torched the Redskins’ defense with 352 passing yards and five touchdowns, which is among the best performances ever by a rookie quarterback. Penn State-turned-NFL-star running back Saquon Barkley set a franchise record with 279 yards from scrimmage, including a career-best 189-rushing yards.

Barkley looked much more dominant, like his old rookie self, much more so than when the Eagles last saw him two weeks ago. But then again, one could also argue the Eagles have improved since then, despite adversity.

In the Eagles locker room, center Jason Kelce tipped his green Christmas-themed Eagles hat to the Giants (metaphorically, of course, though the hat was very real).

“Obviously this is a big win today, but we haven’t won anything yet,” Kelce said. “This is another must-win for us, against the New York Giants, who are playing really good football right now.”

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. Want to relive the Eagles’ big win? Well, you can, thanks to Les Bowen’s full game story.

  2. Jeff McLane does his weekly up-down drill. This time, it includes a lot of ups, and a down-vote for the NFC East.

  3. Paul Domowitch hands out the grades for the game, and the Eagles’ run defense earns an A.

  4. EJ Smith writes about veteran defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who led the defense and helped hold Ezekiel Elliott to 47 rushing yards.

  5. Jeff discusses the Eagles’ bright future with electric offensive playmakers Miles Sanders and Dallas Goedert.

  6. Columnist Mike Sielski writes Carson Wentz was the center of everything for the Eagles on Sunday — and no one can complain about him now.

  7. Domo has the story on cornerback Sidney Jones, who had to step up once again.

  8. Columnist Bob Ford writes the Eagles haven’t “won diddly yet,” as Jason Kelce would say, and they know it.

  9. The Cowboys were outcoached Sunday, and that counts for as much as anything on the field, David Murphy writes in his column.

  10. Columnist Marcus Hayes writes that the toughest team definitely won in this division rivalry game.

  11. I break down the two scenarios in which the Eagles make the playoffs, and discuss their possible opponents in the wild-card round. If they win next Sunday, of course.

From the mailbag

Greg Ward and Boston Scott have been major revelations off the practice squad for the Eagles. Have they done enough to earn roles on the team for next season or will they slide back down to the bottom of the pecking order at their positions? — Dan May (@daanmaal) via Twitter

Hi again, Dan. Thanks so much for being such a loyal Early Birds mailbag questioner. I greatly appreciate it.

As for your question, that’s a tough one to answer with certainty, not knowing what moves the Eagles could make in the offense or whom they could draft.

I’d say both Greg Ward and Boston Scott have done enough to earn roles next season. It’s more a question of what those roles will be. Yes, they’ll almost certainly slide back down the depth chart; however, I don’t think it’ll be straight to the “bottom of the pecking order." But hey, maybe I’m just being overly optimistic after a win.