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Resilient Eagles look to avoid consecutive losses
That's why Chip Kelly preaches: ''Praise and blame are all the same.''
After dominating the Cowboys in a 33-10 win on Thanksgiving, the Eagles had seemingly stamped themselves as one of the elite teams in the NFC. But they followed up with a 24-14 loss at home to the Seahawks that dropped into the second tier behind Green Bay (10-3), Arizona (10-3) and Seattle (9-4).
They're 9-4 and tied with Dallas for first place in the NFC East going into Sunday's rematch against the Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field.
''They understand it doesn't define you,'' Kelly said about a bad loss. ''Someone says that you played well and you're real happy about it and then someone says you play poorly. I think you have to answer to yourself.''
The Eagles have been a resilient team under Kelly. They haven't lost consecutive games since Week 7 and 8 last year. They're 16-5 since.
Each time they've lost this season, the Eagles rebounded with two straight wins. They're averaging 36 points per game following a loss. They'll need another strong bounce-back effort and the Cowboys are the perfect opponent.
''This team has good resolve,'' Kelly said. ''There's no better thing to get their attention than playing the Dallas Cowboys at home in the Linc in front of our crowd, so I think they will be fired up for it.''
The Eagles practiced indoors Tuesday because of rainy weather, focusing on the mistakes they made against Seattle.
''We don't look at it like the past game is going to dictate our success this week,'' tight end Zach Ertz said. ''It's the business of football. It's a roller coaster. The highs are high and the lows are low.''
Kelly relies on his veteran players to make sure younger guys don't dwell on losses, especially when the stakes upcoming are high.
''We have a mature group of guys so that's never a problem,'' linebacker Connor Barwin said. ''This game is so important so late in the season.''
It might be tougher for some players to forget the loss to the Seahawks because guys like Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett criticized the Eagles afterward. But the Eagles realize there's a chance they'll play the Seahawks again in the playoffs.
First, they have to beat the Cowboys.
''They were the better team, but hopefully we see them down the road,'' linebacker Trent Cole said of Seattle. ''Our focus is on Dallas. It's a very big game and we have to win.''
NOTES: The Eagles released CB Roc Carmichael without making a corresponding roster move.
NFL preview: Raiders unit analysis
The biggest mistake that general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen made last year was messing with the offense, and a switch from the power, gap scheme to a zone-blocking one was disastrous. Darren McFadden is running straight ahead again this year, and free-agent signee Rashad Jennings looks like a nice, powerful backup. Long-striding quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who could be the starter sooner than later, is the X-factor. The loss of left tackle Jared Veldheer to a triceps injury hurts a lot.
Pass offense Carson Palmer completed 61 percent of his passes for 4,018 yards but took a lot of the blame for the fall from 8-8 to 4-12. He's gone, and Matt Flynn was supposed to run an offense that was more horizontal than vertical. Flynn's marching orders were to avoid turnovers, and then he threw two interceptions and fumbled in the third preseason game. That has opened the door for Pryor, whose escapability and run-away-from-you ability might be better suited for this patchwork offensive line, anyway. Denarius Moore should be the No. 1 receiver, but the coaching staff has been questioning his want-to and focus. Applications to play tight end are still being accepted.
Run defense Defensive tackles Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly didn't really buy in last year with Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, so they're gone. All the staff really wants out of experienced defensive tackles Pat Sims and Vance Walker is for them to stand up against the run. Fourth-year defensive end Lamarr Houston came to camp in the best shape of his career and will be asked to blow up some plays. Middle linebacker Nick Roach, previously with the Bears, is an immediate upgrade over retired bust Rolando McClain, though if we were nitpicking, 6-foot-1, 234 pounds is a little small for a middle linebacker.
Pass defense Oakland signed free-agent cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins, drafted cornerback D.J. Hayden in the first round and then signed free-agent safeties Usama Young and Charles Woodson in the offseason. They, and returning safety Tyvon Branch, are the core of this defense. With the different looks, pass-coverage ability, blitzing and expected ball-hawking skills of the defensive backs, the rest of the defense can ride the secondary's experience, play-making and excitement. The pass rush is counting on, among others, a fifth-rounder last year (end Jack Crawford) and a seventh-rounder this year (end David Bass). Did we mention the secondary?
Special teams Sebastian Janikowski was perfect on 25 field-goal attempts from 49 yards or closer, and was 6 of 9 from farther. He is back and will be joined by either Chris Kluwe or Marquette King at punter. King, the second-year player, has a bigger foot, but Kluwe, the former Viking, is better at coffin-corner kicks. There is a very good chance the loser of the competition gets a job elsewhere in the NFL. Special teams was a focus at training camp - last year's kick-return and coverage units were lackluster enough that coach Bobby April was added to replace Steve Hoffman.
Coaching Dennis Allen definitely is carrying himself with more confidence in this his second season. He has more younger players and guys with a chip on their shoulder than he did last season. Whether he has enough talent to improve on 4-12 is debatable, as is whether he makes his players better with his game plans or game-day adjustments. Tarver hopes his defense's energy and communication skills can match his, and offensive coordinator Greg Olson is saying all the right things, even though when he accepted the job, it was to work with Palmer.