This was the video-game offense the Eagles expected when they put this Dream Team together.
The schizophrenic Birds actually built a first-half lead and held it. The team’s much-maligned run defense held rookie DeMarco Murray in check. And, on a night when the Eagles inducted two former defensive standouts into their Honor Roll — Jim Johnson, Eric Allen — Juan Castillo enjoyed his best game as defensive coordinator. The result was a 34-7 win Sunday night over the Cowboys that kept them in the hunt for the NFC East crown.
“Sitting here, after playing a game like that, it’s like how in the world did we lose those games in the beginning of the year, it makes no sense to me,” said Eagles defensive tackle Trevor Laws. “Hopefully, it makes no sense to me the rest of the year.”
In a game many players, including Laws, called a must-win, the Eagles dusted the frost off those Halloween pumpkins from Dallas and kicked them to the curb.
Mike Vick played his best game of the season, posting a 129.9 QB rating while going 21-of-28 for 279 passing yards and two touchdowns. LeSean McCoy shaked and baked his way to 185 rushing yards, with two score. And the search for Brent Celek is over, after the tight end hauled in a season-high seven catches for 94 yards and a TD.
“It’s very hard for defenses. We got weapons all over the field,” said Celek, who has racked up 136 receiving yards in the past two games. “If they take away one guy, then it’s up to someone else to step up.”
“I don’t think each player on this team gets enough credit because the guy next to him is so much better than it is on other teams,” said McCoy, who has 754 rushing yards this season, good for second in the NFL. “We have so many weapons to go to. Any one of them can take off. Hey, man, right now I’m hot but next week or two weeks from now, DeSean [Jackson] will be hot so you never know.”
Even Andy Reid was clicking on all cylinders, winning two coaches’ challenges while simply out-coaching defensive mastermind Rob Ryan. The same Ryan who promised Dallas would kick the Eagles’ ass back in training camp.
“Coach Ryan was probably just open talking,” said Vick, who also rushed for 50 yards. “In the back of our minds, we knew what had been said. At the end of the day, the players have to get out on the field and the coaches can’t get out there so we disregarded that. It really was a non-issue.”
Non-issue or not, Reid’s troops flipped the script and the brash Ryan was left shaking his head on the sideline. The Eagles scored on their first three possessions, all touchdowns.
“You see what happens when you don’t turn the ball over,” Vick said. “We catch good breaks, we catch bad breaks. We just have to keep rolling with the punches and I think that as an offense, we’ve shown that we’re capable of getting it done week in and week out.”
“We go as Mike [Vick] goes,” added Celek. “Tonight, he was on point.”
It started on the Eagles’ first possession, when Vick found Jeremy Maclin on a beautifully designed screen for a score. Then,McCoy put his stamp on the game with three straight ankle-breaking runs, including a two-yard touchdown. Before the packed house at Lincoln Financial Field had time to exhale, Vick hit Celek on a nine-yard strike to put the Eagles up 21-0 in the second quarter.
“I would hate to play the Philadelphia Eagles,” said Laws. “Starting with Michael Vick, then you go to the receiving corps and LeSean is just playing out of his mind, Pro Bowl year this year. How can you stop them? It’s tough.”
As many fans – and media – braced for another second-half collapse (remember, the Eagles blew a 20-3 first-half lead to San Francisco and were shutout in the second half during their 20-13 win over Washington), it never came.
“Right after that first drive, we kind of knew that things were going well,” center Jason Kelce said. “Our main focus was just to keep it up. Our goal today was to put a complete game together.”
Well, mission accomplished. McCoy tacked on another touchdown, a 13-yard scamper, early in the fourth quarter. That, combined with a pair of Alex Henery field goals, provided the final margin of victory. Meanwhile, Castillo’s defense nearly pitched a shutout, if not for a 70-yard go route from Tony Romo to Laurent Robinson that finally put the Cowboys on the board with 12:43 showing in the fourth. Dallas had one more chance to score late, but a Jason Babin sack stalled that drive on fourth-and-goal. On the Eagles’ final drive, they handed the ball to McCoy on six straight plays and let the clock tick down.
“Up by that many points, you have to ice the game,” said McCoy. “You know, we kind of learned from our mistakes from before, when we didn’t execute.”