There is no week in Philadelphia like Dallas Week. For two weeks a year, rational thinking is set aside. Prayers are more frequent and more sincere.
There is only one goal: Beat Dallas.
The Cowboys are the Eagles’ biggest rival — even if the feeling isn’t fully reciprocated. For Dallas, it’s Washington and the Giants, with the Eagles right there. For Philly, it’s all Cowboys, all the time.
Sunday’s game has more intrigue than vitriol — for now.
The Cowboys don’t know if quarterback Dak Prescott, their $160 million man, is healthy enough to play. Prescott hasn’t been ruled out of Sunday’s game but he would need to make “significant strides” to return from a fractured right thumb, according to NFL.com.
COOPER RUSH GETS IT DONE
Prescott was hurt in the first game, a 19-3 loss to Tampa Bay. Cooper Rush stepped in, with all of one career start under his belt. He has gone 4-0 and kept the Cowboys afloat in the NFC East Division race.
When Prescott was hurt — with the prognosis four to six weeks — many figured the Cowboys would dig a hole that might be difficult to get out of. With the Eagles’ fast start, it looked as if Philly could get a substantial jump on the division. Hasn’t happened.
- “Cooper Rush has done an excellent job,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “I think the perception was like, oh, Dak is hurt and they’re in big trouble.
- “This is a good football team, and this is a well-coached football team with really good football players all over it. So you’re seeing that they’ve weathered the storm, and that speaks a lot of who Cooper Rush is.”
Rush has played mistake-free football and the Cowboys have rallied behind the fifth-year pro from Central Michigan. He has completed 61 percent of his passes for 839 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
HOW TO DEFEND RUSH
Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon was asked how Rush is accomplishing what he is.
- “Efficiency. I think he is playing very efficient right now,” Gannon said. “He knows where to go with the ball. He is accurate. He is running the offense.
- “They put a lot on the quarterback’s plate to get him in ideal calls, and he’s doing that.
- “They’re talented around him. He’s playing really good football right now, and they have good players around him. I think he is very efficient right now.
- “First and second down and third down, situational ball, red zone. They’re playing well. We have a big-time challenge.”
PRESCOTT UPDATE ON FRIDAY?
NFL teams have until Friday to declare a player’s injury status for a Sunday game. As a matter of spy vs. spy among NFL teams — and hoping for good medical news — expect Dallas to wait until Friday before updating Prescott’s status.
Thus, Gannon has to prepare his defense for both Prescott and Rush.
- “It’s a very similar offense when we look at Dak from all last year and then even the first game and then the last four that Cooper has played. It’s not much,” Gannon said.
- “I mean, he is doing a good job. They really didn’t break stride when he came in the game, and he has played these last four games.
- “Doug [Nussmeier], the quarterback coach, is a really good coach. Obviously, [Dallas offensive coordinator] Kellen [Moore] is a really good coach. They’re doing a good job with him.”
BOTH QUARTERBACKS ARE MOBILE
The Eagles are coming off a victory in Arizona, which is led by the highly mobile Kyler Murray. Both Prescott and Rush can keep plays alive with their legs, offering a challenge for the Eagles’ defense.
- “Both of them when they need to move, they move,” Gannon said.
- “When they need to make off-schedule plays, they both can do that, and Cooper has shown that he can do that.
- “He’s got a really good feel in the pocket when it starts to collapse a little bit. He knows where to find that open rush lane and step up and throw it.
- “So, we’re going to have to do a good job, just like last week, of being disciplined with our rush. However many people we’re bringing, our four-man. It’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
Gannon said linebacker Kyzir White might play the spy role on whichever Dallas quarterback plays.
- “Kyzir has a pretty good feel for it,” Gannon said. “He has done that in the past, and he is fast.
- “You don’t want to have a guy that’s spying the quarterback and can’t run him down. I’ve been a part of that mess. So, I thought he has done a good job with that.”
FIRST PLACE ON THE LINE
This game, which always means something, means even more this year. Stakes are high with the division lead in play, along with the personal animus toward the Cowboys that consumes Eagles fans.
The Eagles are 5-0, the NFL’s only undefeated team. Dallas is 4-1, right behind the Eagles in the NFC East and tied with the surprising Giants.
“It’s Dallas Week, so I think that makes it a little bit more for everybody, the fans for sure,” said center Jason Kelce, who has been playing Dallas since 2011. “We know it’s just one game but we know that it’s Dallas.”