Eagles make their long-awaited entrance into NFC East race
You know that feeling when you're waiting to go somewhere -- dinner, a party, a sporting event, whatever -- and someone's holding you up? You sit and stew, check your watch a few times, maybe even call out in an inquiring fashion, "Where are you?"
Then, just when you're sure you cannot wait any longer, they casually saunter in. And the only thought in your head is: "Finally!"
That's where we are at with the Philadelphia Eagles.
It took eight weeks and seven games, but the Eagles made their grand entrance to the NFC East race Sunday night, perhaps just in time to salvage their season. Philadelphia dominated Dallas from the first snap, jumping out to a 24-0 halftime lead and coasting home to a 34-7 win.
The Eagles were perfect -- and that's good, because they've left themselves no margin for error.
Three weeks ago, Michael Vick tossed four interceptions against the Bills as the Eagles lost their fourth straight game. There was no getting around it then (and I didn't even try here): Philadelphia was playing like a last-place team.
But here we are, just 21 days later and the Eagles suddenly look like the biggest threat to the Giants in the NFC East, if not the division's team to beat.
How? How is this possible?
Teams don't often start 1-4, losing in about every way imaginable, then flip the switch and turn into Super Bowl contenders overnight. And, granted, we're a long way from Philadelphia truly jumping into that mix. If the Eagles play like they did against Dallas, though, it's hard to find a game on their schedule that they will not be favored in -- maybe Week 11 at the Giants or Week 12 vs. New England, but that's it.
This was all Philadelphia promised us it would be, after an in-your-face offseason that loaded its roster with talent.
Vick was flawless, demoralizing the Dallas defense early and never letting off the gas. He finished with 329 total yards and two touchdowns, and you get the sense he could have gone for about 500 yards if the game had not gotten out of hand so early.
LeSean McCoy juked his way to 185 yards rushing and two touchdowns, while both Eagles' lines -- and particularly the offensive version -- manhandled the Cowboys.
Philadelphia was brilliant in all phases. The question now is: Can the Eagles keep this up?
If they still have hopes of reaching the playoffs and competing for a title, they don't have any other option. With the Giants already at 5-2 and teams like Detroit, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Chicago harboring, at the bare minimum, wild-card aspirations, the 3-4 Eagles cannot afford to take another week or two off.
Even with the Giants facing a brutal schedule from here out, there's a good bet it will take at least 10 wins to own the division -- maybe more to claim a wild-card spot. For Philadelphia, that means a record of 7-2 or better in the final nine weeks.
Possible, for sure, but that assumes this Philadelphia team is the one we'll see from now until the end of the season.
Will Vick stay healthy for that entire stretch? Will the offensive line play as well as it did Sunday? Will the defense stay hot, as it's been while allowing 20 total points in the past two games?
If the answer to any of those questions -- plus about a dozen others -- is no, then the Eagles won't have a chance to climb out of the hole they created for themselves.
The Week 8 version of the Eagles looked like world beaters. Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who not surprisingly talked a big game this week, had absolutely no answers for Vick or McCoy, not to mention Brent Celek or Philadelphia's plethora of wide receivers. On the other side of the ball, Dez Bryant and Miles Austin were nonexistent as Dallas ran in place all night.
By the time it was over, the Cowboys looked like they had seen a ghost, the Dallas players and coaches repeatedly involved in frustrated and animated discussions on the sidelines.
It was the type of reaction you see when a team is completely outmatched by its opponent.
That was the case Sunday night. Philadelphia was, in every single facet of the game, far superior to Dallas.