YOU MIGHT have heard, the Eagles beat the Cowboys 34-7 at the Linc back on Oct. 30. Saved the season, it seemed at the time. The Eagles walked out of the locker room that evening 3-4, the same record as Dallas. There was much talk of corner-turning, of putting to rest the turnover-machine play of the first month-plus.
Funny thing. The Eagles then lost four of their next five games, turning the ball over a dozen times. The Cowboys? They picked themselves up, brushed the cleat marks off their blue-starred helmets, and won four in a row.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that night that the loss was just one of those things, that his team needed to forget about it and move on, and that was what Dallas did. The tougher chore is figuring out where the Eagles went after that.
"For whatever reason, we haven't responded well to winning," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said yesterday. This seemed a relevant point, given that the Birds have now won two in a row for the first time since beating the Redskins and Cowboys in October. "After we won the two in a row before, we dropped two in a row [to Chicago and Arizona] . . . We've got to learn how to handle winning - once we win, keep that same attitude that we have [otherwise].
"A lot of it is pride. A lot of it is us still having a chance [to make the playoffs]. Two weeks ago, we knew that the only way to continue to have a chance was to win, with all the scenarios that needed to happen, we couldn't control any of that, but the one thing we knew for sure was that if we lost, we're out. We've done what we were supposed to do . . . the past 2 weeks, we've got to approach this week the same way, just say, 'You know what, we just need to win this game.' "
Jenkins noted that the Eagles can't control what happens in tomorrow's Giants-Jets game, which should end right around the time the Eagles and Cowboys kick off. The Jets must beat the Giants to keep the Eagles alive.
"Even if things don't go your way, you still have to be playing for something," he said. "To be 8-8, not have a losing season, that should be motivation enough, too."
That night against Dallas was the only turnoverless game the Eagles have played all season. They looked like the team they were supposed to be back in training camp, with unstoppable weaponry, led by running back LeSean McCoy's career-high 185 yards on 30 carries, against a defense that entered the game first in the NFL against the run.
"It depends what type of team shows up," McCoy said yesterday, in attempting to explain the 2011 Eagles. "Sometimes the team that shows up is the turnover team, driving, then turnovers - fumbles, picks. There's another team that comes to play. Executing, the right guys, the right holes, all those things."
Looking back at the October game, some of the stats are just amazing. First downs were 27-5 in favor of the Eagles entering the fourth quarter. The Birds led 24-0 by halftime. They had the ball an astonishing 42 minutes and 9 seconds.
Michael Vick was much the better quarterback, completing 21 of 28 passes for 279 yards, two touchdowns and a 129.9 passer rating - Vick's highest of the season, one of only three times this year he's been over 100. Tony Romo had his worst passer rating of the season, 66.7, and his lowest completion percentage - 51.4, as he completed 18 of 35.
But Romo has been pretty much stellar every game since, and Vick, while missing three games with broken ribs, has not. Romo's passer rating has been under 100 only twice since he played the Eagles. Vick's rating has been over 100 only once since - last Sunday against the Jets.
"He's one of the top quarterbacks. He gets into those moments where he's really streaky, and it's tough to stop him," Eagles corner Nnamdi Asomugha said of Romo. "You've seen that - he's done it more often than not in the last month or month and a half. He had good games before our game. Our game wasn't his day. Since then he's played well . . . He looks real confident."
Jenkins said Romo has "put it upon himself not to make the mistakes he was making earlier. He's been doing a good job of that. He's been doing a good job of putting up points, not putting his team in bad positions."
Vick talked yesterday of the need to prepare, both teams playing on a short week. This is quite different from the first meeting for the Eagles - that was the annual Andy Reid post-bye-week victory, in which the coach rolled out all kinds of stuff he hadn't put on tape before. At this point in the season, with less prep time than usual, the game probably won't be about doing something unexpected. It will be about doing what you do well without screwing up, which has been a challenging concept for the Birds this season.
An attempt to gain Reid's insights into why the Eagles and the Cowboys have traveled such different paths since October met with a predictable response.
"I don't know," Reid said. "I mean, I haven't even gone there. I'm just focused on this. You don't look back, that's not what we're doing at this point. You're focusing on the Dallas Cowboys - all of your energy goes into that football team and getting yourself prepared to play them."
McCoy's top two career games have come in his last two encounters with Dallas - October and the Dec. 12, 2010 game at Dallas, in which he gained 149 yards on just 16 carries, the Eagles winning, 30-27.
"I'm sure I'll be in there somewhere," McCoy said of this week's game plan. "We have so many weapons in this offense."
McCoy, with 1,274 yards on 260 carries, trails Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew by 60 yards for the NFL rushing title.
Winning the crown "would mean a lot to me," McCoy said. "Prior to this year, I never imagined I could win a rushing title. Also, it would be a good honor for my o-line."
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