IRVING, Texas – A monumental, late-season win against the Bears had just wrapped up, but you could almost feel the attention in the locker room turning toward the future – even within the walls of Soldier Field.
For every reporter's question about the 41-28 win in Chicago, there was another line of thinking coming immediately after. That is, with this latest notch in the win column, the Cowboys now have a 10-day wait for a division rematch against Philadelphia.
This Thursday win came a week after last Thursday's loss to the Eagles, in what was arguably the Cowboys' worst game of 2014. The rematch is still 10 days away, but few players bothered containing their excitement.
"I'm anxious. I'm excited to go back down there and get another shot at those guys," said Orlando Scandrick. "That's a good football team that we're going to play. I'm really excited to go down there, to their place, and get another shot in this cold weather."
It was a given that Dez Bryant would be asked about the return trip to Lincoln Financial Field to face the Eagles. After last week's 33-10 loss to Philadelphia, Bryant reiterated several times that he was excited for another chance.
"You already know I'm looking forward to it," Bryant said Thursday night.
The circumstances surrounding this second meeting couldn't be more the opposite. The Cowboys hosted the Eagles on Thanksgiving after a Sunday night trip to New York, meaning they played that game on roughly three days' rest.
When the Cowboys take the field in Philadelphia on Dec. 14, they'll have had 10 days to rest and recover from a stretch that saw them play three games in 12 days after their bye week.
"It's been a busy 10, 12 days for us, but at the same time -- get a break and then look at the big push," said Jason Witten. "We've got three weeks – we're playing for a lot of stuff. I think we kind of embrace that."
The win against the Bears ensured that plenty will be on the line these next few weeks, after the Cowboys return from their break. While Dallas enjoys an idle weekend, the Eagles host the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks – a game that's bound to have either division or wildcard implications.
Before all that talk ramps up, though, there's the promise of a sort of mini-bye week. The Cowboys are accustomed to getting a weekend off after the Thanksgiving game, but it had to wait a week this year. With this break coming roughly three weeks after the Week 10 bye week, it puts the team in solid position to finish out December.
"I've said this before, and I think the way the season is set up is pretty great for us," said Zack Martin. "We played 10 games, had a bye week, played three more, have – not a bye week, but an extended weekend where we get some time. So it really, I think, has played to our favor."
It's a good break to get after the position they were placed in last week. There weren't many willing to make excuses after the Eagles won that game, but the incredibly short week between the return from New York and kick off against Philadelphia didn't afford time for rest – which is something the Cowboys should have plenty of now.
"Get a little bit of time to take a breath – take a deep breath," Scandrick said. "Kind of get some time to get our minds right and focus on what we've got to get done."
Even if the Eagles down the Seahawks on Sunday, the Cowboys' win in Chicago puts them within a game of Philadelphia as they head into that game – if not tied for the NFC East lead. A win in Philadelphia could either send them to the top of the division standings or create a two-team tie with two games to play.
"This is kind of, for lack of a better word, nut-cutting time, and we know what's in front of us and what we have to do," Martin said.