FRISCO, TX — The air around the facility and inside of the Dallas Cowboys' locker room feels quite different from a few weeks ago when they were preparing to visit the San Francisco 49ers — carrying a more composed focus and somewhat muted demeanor with the Philadelphia Eagles awaiting them this coming Sunday.
It’s a midterm exam both teams are eager to pass, but it's one the Cowboys need to ace when considering their failure in Week 5, and DeMarcus Lawrence understands this completely.
He's battled the Eagles in Philadelphia eight times in the regular season over the course of his nine-year career — owning a record of 5-3 in those outings — so he knows what it takes to win in that hostile territory.
"San Francisco is behind us but, definitely, this game is important to us because it's our next game and it's a rivalry game," said the Pro Bowl pass rusher. "We're not going to sugarcoat it like the Eagles don't have a good team. They're one of the best teams in the league, and if we want to solidify ourselves and say who we are, and beat our chest, we have to come out with this win."
Sitting at 7-1 on the season, the Eagles are atop both the NFC and the NFC East at the moment, and a victory over Philadelphia would count as 1.5 wins (as far as standings and head-to-head tiebreakers go) for the Cowboys, who sit at 5-2 going into Week 9.
There will be plenty to try and defend against at Lincoln Financial Field, from A.J. Brown to DeAndre Swift to DeVonta Smith to Dallas Goedert and, of course, Jalen Hurts himself; and bottling up the latter includes trying to be the first team to stop the infamous "Tush Push".
When only one or two yards are needed, it's proven to be unstoppable for Philly.
"The Tush Push does not matter to me," said Lawrence. "That's one play an entire game, and if we let one play beat us [that means] we've got way more to worry about than a Tush Push."
That's a fair point, and here's another: putting the Eagles in long yardage situations on second, third and fourth down would completely delete the play from the game entirely.
Lawrence and the rest of the Cowboys' defensive front, a unit also headlined by Micah Parsons and Osa Odighizuwa, know the assignment.
"If you want to stop [it], don't let them get down there," Lawrence said.
All the football world wonders if the Cowboys can prove they're indeed contenders atop the NFC, and having already dropped one to the 49ers in humiliating fashion, it goes without saying that victory in Philadelphia would go a long way to propelling them against those who believe they are not.
So would this be a statement win?
"It is," said Lawrence.