Quick Turnaround For Eagles Showdown To Test Cowboys Both Mentally & Physically

Nick Eatman is the author of the recently published If These Walls Could Talk: Dallas Cowboys, a collection of stories from the Cowboys' locker room, sideline and press box, with a foreword written by Darren Woodson.

IRVING, Texas - And now the Cowboys can focus on the Eagles.

Head coach Jason Garrett was adamant about keeping the mindset solely on the Giants all last week and wouldn't even entertain questions pertaining the quick turnaround or the "two games in five days" references.

But now that the Cowboys are past the Giants, beating New York 31-28 in the final minutes, the attention can now be fully directed towards the Eagles Thursday night.

And it's not just the next game, but arguably the biggest for either team this year.

Philadelphia is 8-3. Dallas is 8-3. And everyone knows what is at stake by winning the NFC East, meaning a home game in the playoffs. Perhaps a first-round bye is a stake as well.

Tight end Jason Witten said the magnitude of this game should help all of the players get ready for Thursday.

"It's hard to get to this point," Witten said of the 8-3 record. "I think the excitement that comes with this can override how tired you are. It's a great opportunity for us. You have to get through it and move forward. You're going to be tired regardless. You have to find a way to get through it and move on to the next one. That's the focus."

The Cowboys landed back in Dallas Monday morning at 5 a.m. and were back in the building later in the afternoon. A light walk-through practice took place later in the afternoon and the team will then hold practice on Tuesday and Wednesday before Thursday's showdown.

"You just got to get your mind right quickly," Garrett said, reiterating his team did a good job of focusing on the Giants and blocking out this Philadelphia matchup. "As soon as it's done it's over with and now it's a laser like focus on this game that you have Thursday afternoon. I think the players who've been around it understand that, understand the rhythm of the week."

Garrett, a former player in his own right, knows all about the quick turnaround of Thanksgiving Day. In fact, we're closing in on the 20-year anniversary of his memorable comeback win over the Packers in 1994 when he out-dueled Brett Favre to rally Dallas back from a 17-6 halftime deficit to a 42-31 win.

While Garrett wasn't too interested in talking about that game 20 years ago, he stressed the important role the coaches have in getting the players ready.

"It's our job as coaches to make sure we understand the physical burden that they've been under," Garrett said. "They played a game that ended at midnight (Sunday) night. They got home at 5 o'clock in the morning. We have to understand that but having said that we've got to get their minds forward and get ready for this next challenge. I thought our team did a good job of handling that today and we'll have a similar type practice (Tuesday) in getting ready for Thursday. But your mind is strong. If your mind is strong, you're mentally tough and if you're a mentally tough team you handle these situations."

And defensive end Jeremy Mincey said physically the Cowboys should be in good shape for another reason.

"Us coming off the bye, I don't think the turnaround is going to play a big factor," said Mincey. "Sometimes it's good to play games closer together. Your wind is up because you just played a game. We look forward to the challenge. We know what we're up against."

Whether it's a reference to the Eagles or the quick turnaround, the combination of the two might be the most challenging.

"It's exciting though," Witten said. "You love to play in these games. You just have to make sure you get yourself ready to play."

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