This is the team the Eagles dreamed about – if you’ll pardon the expression – when they went “all in” during the offseason.
The Eagles offense scored at will. The defensive line pressured the quarterbacks. The high-priced secondary shut down the receivers.
All of those factors contributed to the Eagles’ 34-7 romp over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night before a national television audience and a deliriously happy crowd at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles improved to 13-0 following the bye week during Andy Reid’s tenure as head coach as this NFC showdown quickly developed into a blowout.
The victory lifted the Eagles back into the playoff picture in the mediocre NFC East. They are tied with the Cowboys and Redskins at 3-4, two games behind the first-place Giants. The Giants face a treacherous stretch of games that includes the Packers, Saints, Eagles and Cowboys. It’s not inconceivable that the Eagles could be in first place by Thanksgiving.
That assumes, of course, that the Birds continue to play as they did Sunday night against the Cowboys. Fans tuning in to the national broadcast must have wondered how this Eagles team could have lost four games in a row.
Eagles fans might be wondering the same thing after watching the Birds dominate the Cowboys. How dominant were the Eagles?
- They scored on their first six possessions (four touchdowns, two field goals).
- They had 20 first downs in the first half; the Cowboys had four.
- Cowboys receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Austin did not have a catch during the first half.
- Reid was successful on both of his official challenges.
- Chaz Henry didn’t punt until 9:12 remained in the game.
The Eagles dominated the Cowboys in all facets of the game. Everything they tried seemed to go right.
Let’s start with the offense. LeSean McCoy carried a career-high 30 times for 185 yards and two touchdowns against a Cowboys defense that entered the game ranked No. 1 in the NFL in rushing yards and hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rushing game all season. The Cowboys entered the game giving up 69.7 rushing yards per game. The Eagles exceeded that total during the first quarter.
“Right now (McCoy) is playing as well as any running back,” Reid said. “He’s tough to bring down one-on-one. He’s got tremendous quickness and lateral agility.”
Michael Vick was accurate from start to finish, completing 21 of 28 passes for 279 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
“I thought Michael was sharp on his decision-making,” Reid said.
An example of Vick’s decision-making abilities came during the game’s first possession. With the ball on the Dallas 12-yard line, Vick recognized a blitz and called for a quick pass to Jeremy Maclin on the left side, where the blitz originated. Maclin caught the pass and followed left tackle Jason Peters and left guard Even Mathis, reaching the end zone untouched to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead just 4:19 into the game.
The offensive line was integral to the success of McCoy and Vick. With Peters returning from injury, Todd Herremans moved back to right tackle, allowing the offensive line to have its original lineup intact.
The offensive line excelled at both run blocking and pass protection. McCoy had huge holes to run through. Vick had plenty of time to set up and find an open receiver.
“The offensive line needs to be complimented,” Reid said, “along with the defensive line for the pressure they put on Tony (Romo).”
Romo completed just four of eight passes during the first half as the Eagles built a 24-0 lead. The Cowboys crossed the 50-yard line just once during the first half.
On the rare occasions when Romo found time to throw, he usually found his receivers blanketed by the Eagles’ secondary. Nnamdi Asomugha made a diving interception of a deflected pass with 1:13 remaining in the first half. Asomugha’s interception, which came two plays after McCoy scored on a 2-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a 14-0 lead, led to a third straight touchdown and a 21-0 lead.
Tight end Brent Celek continued to assume a larger role in the passing offense. He caught seven passes for 94 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown to conclude the drive following Asomugha’s interception.
The Eagles’ lead reached 34-0 before the Cowboys got on the scoreboard. The dominance, of course, won’t mean as much if the Eagles don’t beat the Chicago Bears next Monday night.
“We’ve got plenty of room to improve,” Reid said.
The Eagles should expect to hear that message repeated over and over again during the next week. One dominant victory does not mean this is the “dream team.” Yes, this team crushed the Cowboys. But it’s the same team that also lost four straight games.
Which Eagles team will show up next Monday against the Bears? That’s the million dollar question for the next seven days.