It didn't take long for Ernie Sims to learn about the Cowboys. Almost as soon as he arrived in Philadelphia in April as a new Eagle, he heard about the devastating losses in Dallas that had ended the previous season, eviscerated what had been a promising year, and slammed the door on an era of Eagles history.
"They told me how pretty much they just got their behind whupped, and we're going to make sure we're studying every day, doing what we have to do every day to prevent that from happening again," Sims said. "I heard about that the first day I walked in the door."
Eight months later and just under a year after the two humiliating losses under Jerry Jones' bright lights, a remade Eagles team heads back to Dallas on Sunday to try for its first win - and first signs of competitiveness - in the Cowboys' new home. The circumstances of this trip, the standings, the coaches, the personnel, are much different than the last two. But for those Eagles who remain from 2009, memories of their two defeats in Dallas, by a combined score of 58 to 14, linger.
"If you were here last year, I would hope that it means something to you," said defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. "That it's time to man up."
The back-to-back blowouts gave the Cowboys all three meetings last season. Dallas' three consecutive wins represent their longest winning streak over the Eagles since their dynastic early 1990s team took seven straight.
If the Eagles can reverse last year's beat-downs, they're assured of at least a share of first place in the NFC East. Lose again in Texas and they risk falling behind the Giants in the NFC East race and possibly behind the conference's wild-card contenders with three games to play. The Cowboys, out of contention but improved under new coach Jason Garrett, can dent the Eagles' playoff hopes. Again.
It's those practical factors that some Eagles emphasized this week, dismissing emotional talk of revenge.
They point out that both teams have changed significantly from the ones that met last year in Texas. The Cowboys have a new coach and new quarterback, Jon Kitna, in for the injured Tony Romo.
Philadelphia, with Michael Vick now at the helm, has a new starting quarterback and many new faces. Twenty-six of the Eagles' 53 roster players weren't with the team last season, were injured for the final two Dallas games, or didn't play in either visit.
Many observers see those games in Texas as the impetus for the Eagles' roster overhaul, but general manager Howie Roseman this week played down the importance of just two games.
"For us, it's always looking at the total picture of the season," Roseman said.
The Eagles' changes were caused by several circumstances, he said. The team had many players at or near the end of their contracts. Others were aging. A draft class he believed was deep provided an opportunity to restock with young talent.
But Roseman acknowledged that the Eagles are always eyeing the success of the teams that win the division, the NFC, and the Super Bowl as they evaluate their own standing.
Regardless of whether the Dallas games were the catalysts for change or the final pieces of evidence that the Eagles needed to move on to keep up, the result is a revamped team laced with players who had no role in last year's defeats.
"Bleeding green is a new way of life for me," said defensive end Darryl Tapp, in his first season with the Eagles. "It seems like every division game is a rivalry game," he said, pointing out that games against the Redskins and Giants are also heavily hyped.
In fact, looking at the schedule in cold mathematical terms, next week's game at the Giants means far more to the Eagles' season, with both teams jockeying for first place in the NFC East. The Eagles could lose to the Cowboys and still get back to playoff position if they top the Giants.
"It's always a dogfight when you're playing a divisional team . . . they're all huge games, just depending on what week we're in," said guard Todd Herremans. "The main goal is just win the NFC East."
Of course, the Eagles had a great chance to do that last year, until they went to Dallas. They had an 11-4 record and were riding a six-game winning streak before their two trips to Texas.
Does the ensuing wreck add even more fuel to a rivalry already driven by major implications in the standings?
"As much as we say no, it is" a motivating factor, said wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. "We're going to come out on a mission."
Safety Quintin Mikell recalled talking to Sims about the games last spring.
"I just told him that's how we ended our season and that wasn't what we're about as a team," Mikell said. "I mean, they embarrassed us, they straight out embarrassed us, not once but twice in a row."
Thinking back to those moments, to the "sickening" feeling of watching Dallas move on in the playoffs and waiting since the end of last season to get another shot at them, Mikell said: "I definitely had this one circled."
The Eagles have compiled winning streaks of six games and three games against the Cowboys during Andy Reid's 12 seasons as head coach, but the Cowboys have won the last three meetings. Reid is 14-9 against Dallas, which leads the overall series, 58-44. Here are the results during Reid's tenure:
Date Home team Result
Oct. 10, 1999 Philadelphia Eagles win, 13-10
Dec. 12, 1999 Dallas Cowboys win, 20-10
Sept. 3, 2000 Dallas Eagles win, 41-14
Nov. 5, 2000 Philadelphia Eagles win, 16-13 (OT)
Sept. 30. 2001 Philadelphia Eagles win, 40-18
Nov. 18, 2001 Dallas Eagles win, 36-3
Sept. 22, 2002 Philadelphia Eagles win, 44-13
Dec. 21, 2002 Dallas Eagles win, 27-3
Oct. 12, 2003 Dallas Cowboys win, 23-21
Dec. 7, 2003 Philadelphia Eagles win, 36-10
Nov. 15, 2004 Dallas Eagles win, 49-21
Dec. 19, 2004 Philadelphia Eagles win, 12-7
Oct, 9, 2005 Dallas Cowboys win, 33-10
Nov. 14, 2005 Philadelphia Cowboys win, 21-20
Oct. 8, 2006 Philadelphia Eagles win, 38-24
Dec. 25, 2006 Dallas Eagles win, 23-7
Nov. 4, 2007 Philadelphia Cowboys win, 38-17
Dec. 16, 2007 Dallas Eagles win, 10-6
Sept. 15, 2008 Dallas Cowboys win, 41-37
Dec. 28, 2008 Philadelphia Eagles win, 44-6
Nov. 8, 2009 Philadelphia Cowboys win, 20-16
Jan. 3, 2010 Dallas Cowboys win, 24-0
Jan. 9, 2010 Dallas Cowboys win, 34-14