Talk about setting a tone. Talk about making a statement. The Eagles unfurled their perfect storm of a first half on Sunday, sending shivers down the spines of the NFC East and making sure to pay attention to the details in a powerful, impressive 40-17 drubbing of the Giants at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles are now 5-2 and they share first place in the division with Dallas, who visits Philadelphia next week.
Blowing out the Giants was something to savor. Donovan McNabb was brilliant in the first half, completing 11 of 15 passes for 201 yards and 3 touchdowns. The offensive approach, minus the inactive Brian Westbrook, seemed pretty standard. McNabb and Co. executed the game plan to near perfection, and the offense did it right from the start.
After a terrific Ellis Hobbs 35-yard kickoff return gave the Eagles possession at the 40-yard line, the offense went to work. A screen pass from shotgun formation went to LeSean McCoy for 16 yards. Then McCoy ran right for 3 yards to the New York 41-yard line. On second and 7, McNabb handed off to fullback Leonard Weaver, who ran to the left side, found a hole and burst into the open, outrunning the Giants secondary for a 41-yard touchdown. It was an exhilarating way to begin the game, and it set the tempo for the Eagles at the line of scrimmage.
With Lincoln Financial Field hopping, cornerback Asante Samuel stepped in front of an Eli Manning pass intended for Travis Beckum, made the interception and returned the football 37 yards up the left sideline to the Giants 10-yard line. A scoring pass to Brent Celek was called back because of a penalty, but two plays later the pair hooked up again as McNabb threaded the needle and found Celek in the end zone for a 13-0 advantage.
Wow! The Eagles have had starts like this before, and they have, at times, taken their foot off the pedal. Not this time. The 13-0 lead became 16-0 and then, after the Giants drove 89 yards to make it a game late in the first half, the explosiveness of the Eagles offense, and the takeaway ability of the defense, combined to make the game a rout.
A 39-yard Hobbs kickoff return gave the offense the ball at the 46-yard line, and then McNabb found DeSean Jackson all alone on a crossing route, and he made the catch and scooted up the left sideline for another huuuuuggee touchdown play for Jackson, and the Eagles led 23-7.
With 1 minute, 26 seconds to go in the first half, Quintin Demps intercepted Manning and the Eagles again had the ball and a chance to score. From New York's 43-yard line, McNabb completed a 20-yard pass to Celek, and then he threw to the left side for Maclin, who went high to make the catch in the end zone against cornerback Corey Webster for the touchdown.
Just like that, it was 30-7 at the half. All Eagles. For 30 minutes, they played near-perfect football. It was beautiful, and it was needed on a day when the Eagles played without Westbrook (concussion symptoms) and free safety Macho Harris (ankle). McCoy did a good job filling in for Westbrook, particularly in pass protection, and added an exclamation point in the fourth quarter with a 66-yard touchdown run. And Sean Jones again had a positive impact on the defense, mostly supporting the run and limiting the Giants and their physical running game.
Things got a little bit sloppy in the third quarter, but McCoy's touchdown run on the second play of the fourth quarter sealed the deal. The run capped a 4-play, 90-yard drive, and it came on a third-and-1 call that sent the crowd into spasms. McCoy was the single back and the Eagles had a trips formation to the right. The left side of the line opened a gaping hole and McCoy exploded into the second level of the defense, then used a Maclin block down the field for more room before cutting left and squeezing into the end zone for the score as the Eagles upped their lead to 40-17.
Now the Eagles have a first-place division showdown with the red-hot Cowboys, who battered the Seahawks on Sunday. It will be an epic Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
For now, though, the Eagles deserve the praise for coming up big against the reeling Giants, who have lost three straight games. Weaver and McCoy led a power running game and the Eagles had tremendous balance in their play calling. McNabb was sharp, giving his receivers chances to make plays, which they did. The Eagles attacked the middle of the field and had success.
The pass protection was pretty good, although the Giants beat left tackle Jason Peters a couple of times to reach McNabb. Right tackle Winston Justice shut down Justin Tuck and the backs and tight ends blocked well helping out the line keep the ferocious Giants pass rush on its heels.
The biggest change in the Eagles offense, which had been so up and down through six games? Probably the running game, which was great. The Eagles dedicated the offense to balance and they stuck to it. Weaver, who had 7 carries through six games, gained 75 yards on 8 carries against New York. McCoy took what the defense gave him through three quarters -- not much, just 18 yards on 8 carries -- until he broke off the longest run by an Eagles rookie since Herman Hunter had a 74-yard touchdown run against Dallas on November 24, 1985.
It was that kind of day. Total fun. The Eagles showed what they are capable of doing, how they are capable of playing. Now they have to keep it going, get on a roll and take control of the NFC East. Good balance, a hungry defense and big plays on special teams led the way. It was a victory to behold, and one to savor for a day.
Next up is Dallas, a team playing as well as anyone out there right now. The Eagles must be just as good next week as they were on Sunday, when they rolled New York for their third straight win over the Giants.