Eagles learned lesson from loss to Vikings

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
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PHILADELPHIA -- Cornerback Cary Williams raised some eyebrows a couple weeks back when he said he was "glad" the Eagles lost to the Minnesota Vikings.

"It definitely knocked us off our high horse," Williams said. "It's something that was bittersweet. It was sad that we lost, the bitter part, but it was sweet that we lost. ... It's great that they were able to knock us off. We learned from the experience. We're going to get better."

Two weeks after getting trounced by a Minnesota team without Adrian Peterson and with Matt Cassel playing quarterback, the Eagles are again preparing for a depleted opponent. This time, it's the Dallas Cowboys and the stakes are higher. With a division title on the line, it turns out Williams had a point -- the Eagles might be better for having been humbled a bit.

[+] EnlargeMatt Cassel
Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY SportsBackup quarterback Matt Cassel and the Vikings hammered the Eagles 48-30 earlier this month.
"You saw what happened the last time we played a backup quarterback," linebacker Connor Barwin said. "Nobody here is taking anybody lightly."

The Cowboys appear likely to be without their quarterback, Tony Romo, and their quarterback on defense, inside linebacker Sean Lee.

"I know they're going to miss (Lee)," Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. "But I also know teams rally when guys are hurt, so I'm going to be ready for their best shot."

It isn't that the Eagles don't care who plays quarterback Sunday night. There are very practical football considerations if the less mobile Kyle Orton plays instead of the freewheeling Romo.

"You know where he's going to be," linebacker Brandon Graham said or Orton.

"We have to get back there really fast," linebacker Trent Cole said. "He likes to get the ball out. He's a rhythm quarterback. We've just got to get to him. Romo, he's very athletic. He can get out of the pocket. He can get hot.

"Of course we're very curious -- who's going to be the quarterback? But it's not going to change anything. We might not know until we step on the field who we're playing."

Head coach Chip Kelly didn't buy the Minnesota angle for a minute. That would mean acknowledging that his team wasn't prepared properly for the Vikings game, and Kelly isn't about to do that.

"I don't think that was our mind set going in," Kelly said. "I thought we had a great week of practice and as I said before, I think you've got to give Matt Cassel a lot of credit. Go back and watch the film of how well he played in that game -- they made plays and we didn't and that's what it is. I don't think anybody in this group was like, ‘Hey, we don't have to get ready this week because such and such and such and such isn't going to play.' I know this team is not going to fall for the banana in the tailpipe trick. We are not concerned with that stuff."

However you brand it, the loss to Minnesota is fresh enough to prevent a repeat of the Eagles' flat approach. And if that doesn't do it, the stakes this Sunday should.

"We're fighting for the division," Cole said. "This is. Win or go home. This is where we start our road to the Super Bowl or we end our road to the Super Bowl and get ready for next year. This is big."

Phil Sheridan

ESPN Philadelphia Eagles reporter

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