There were no rah-rah speeches. No underdog masks. No anonymous sources. Following a heart-breaking 30-28 loss to Baltimore, Eagles players looked one another in the eye — man to man, brother to brother — and voiced a commitment to start a three-game winning streak.
It was a “spoken” challenge issued by head coach Doug Pederson, according to team captain Rodney McLeod, and everyone on the roster accepted it and bought in. They know two more victories over divisional opponents should put them in the driver’s seat to claim back-to-back NFC East crowns. They beat the Giants 22-21 last week for win number one. Now they host the Cowboys on “Sunday Night Football” in another must-win contest.
“We haven’t really looked at anybody else. It’s been about us and we’ve stuck together and we believe in one another,” McLeod told reporters on Monday. “We made a commitment, man, last week to say, ‘Hey, let’s commit for these next three weeks.’ We understand the opponents that we have, let’s take it one week at a time, but it’s about us. Everything that’s transpired this season has been, for the most part, self-inflicted.”
Every game counts when you're trying to win the division.
— Sunday Night Football (@SNFonNBC) October 26, 2020
McLeod has fully embraced the leadership void created after the Eagles chose to part ways with Malcolm Jenkins, his long-time tag-team partner at safety. The 30-year-old admitted it was part of the conversation when Philly was negotiating whether to bring him back. They eventually inked McLeod to a two-year, $8.65 million deal.
“I think it was understood, but it was mentioned once I signed back,” McLeod said of his leadership role. “But I think it was already understood once Malcolm, they decided Malcolm wasn’t coming back, and so I accepted the role proudly. Like I said before this even took place, I was viewed as a leader on this team and now my role has increased a little bit more.”
Going home with the win tonight, and I love it!! Got mad love for the squad and it’s going to stay that way.
— Rodney McLeod (@Rodney_McLeod4) October 23, 2020
It all starts Sunday by fulfilling part two of that three-part commitment.
“Every game moving forward is like a playoff game for us in this division and we haven’t done anything yet,” McLeod said. “We did our job last week in beating the Giants and now the next job is taking care of Dallas on Sunday.”
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Cowboys Perfect Recipe for Committed Eagles
The Eagles couldn’t ask for a better opponent than Dallas this week. The Cowboys are floundering, in a total free-fall, as reports of finger-pointing and distrust run rampant. Not to mention injuries.
Much like the Eagles, Dallas is down to only one projected starter from their original offensive line coming out of training camp. Although there are rumors they may be getting Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin (concussion) back. But the Cowboys may be forced to start third-stringer Ben DiNucci at quarterback, a seventh-round rookie out of James Madison.
“I don’t think you can pay too much attention,” McLeod said about the injuries and turmoil in Dallas. “Because they are a talented team and their record does surprise me, but I understand who they have over there and what they’re capable of doing.”
"Quite frankly, they embarassed us last year… We have a chip on our shoulder and we have to go prove ourselves."
Rodney McLeod says he's surprised by the Cowboy's record. He watched their loss to Washington yesterday, but says they know it's going to be a tough matchup Sunday. pic.twitter.com/xsSWgSGC34
— Kristen Rodgers (@KristenERodgers) October 26, 2020
The Eagles veteran safety was quick to bring up last year’s embarrassing 37-10 loss in the forgettable “Orlando Scandrick Game.” The traitorous cornerback was cut and trashed the Eagles a few days later. Scandrick aside, that stinging loss still irks McLeod and put a huge chip on his shoulder.
“We cannot take them lightly,” McLeod said. “And, like I said, this is a rivalry game, a lot of history and quite frankly they embarrassed us last year at their home. We have a chip on our shoulder and we have to go out and prove ourselves.”
Everyone Knows It’s ‘Dallas Week’ in Philly
The Eagles and Cowboys have combined for four lonely wins and eight horrific losses, with one Philly tie thrown in for good measure. Not playoff-caliber records. Yet they are the two favorites to win the NFC East right now and this week’s game could go a long way in deciding the eventual division champion.
— Michael Greger (@mike_greger) October 26, 2020
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox smiled wide and said, “It’s Cowboys Week” when asked about the matchup, adding to “throw the records out.” McLeod agreed and mentioned the history of one of the most intense rivalries in football. The Cowboys lead the all-time series 69-53-0.
“It’s a division opponent and there’s a lot of history between the two teams and so you just have to put records aside and go play ball,” McLeod said. “Any given Sunday, anything can happen, and so we’re going out there prepared for a fight.
“It’s going to take us playing 60 minutes of ball in all three phases, that’s what it’s going to take to win this game. There’s no excuses, and we understand what we have to get done.”
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