What's important to understand if you haven't already gotten the drift about the 2014 Eagles, this is an equal-opportunity team. They'll beat you, and there is no prescription for how it will happen. On a gorgeous Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles took apart Tennessee, 43-24, doing damage in a variety of ways …
It certainly wasn't a Picasso for the Eagles, who turned the ball over two times and allowed too many big plays to Tennessee's passing game (eight completions of 20-plus yards), but it was a nice bounce-back effort after the lopsided loss in Green Bay and ahead of Thursday's Thanksgiving Day NFC East tussle with Dallas, which, of course, we'll obsess about over the course of the next four days.
"It was huge because we're 8-3 and we have Dallas on Thursday," linebacker Trent Cole said after a performance that included two quarterback sacks and three tackles for loss along with a pair of quarterback hurries. "Just to get back out after Green Bay and to win again in front of these great fans, it's exactly what we needed."
On this Sunday, the Eagles won their 10th consecutive game at Lincoln Financial Field with a rocket-fueled kickoff return to open the game – Josh Huff's team-record 107-yarder – and took a 7-0 and never looked back.
Along the way to their eighth victory in 11 games for the season, the Eagles piled up 462 total net yards and had some welcomed balance. Running back LeSean McCoy was brilliant with 130 ground yards and a touchdown on 21 touches. Quarterback Mark Sanchez did a lot of good things – completing 30 passes to nine different receivers – but he also threw a pair of interceptions, his fifth and sixth of the season in 146 pass attempts.
The defense played it pretty basic against rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger and won the battle up front, sacking Mettenberger five times and stuffing Tennessee's running game (52 yards on 19 carries). The Eagles had three takeaways, one on the heels of a Sanchez interception when they forced a fumble that cornerback Bradley Fletcher recovered.
Special teams? Outstanding, as always. Huff took the opening kickoff seven yards deep in the end zone and built a head of steam and squirted through a hole created by some solid team blocking and then cut right into the clear. Huff broke a tackle attempt by kicker Ryan Succop in front of the Eagles bench and then stiff-armed safety Daimion Stafford to finish the play and score the touchdown, the sixth for the special teams this season.
That's where we are with this team. The Eagles, despite the curves and speed bumps and starts and stops of the season, are 8-3 and in first place in the NFC East, and they begin on Thursday a three-games-in-17-day stretch at Dallas and then home with Seattle and the Cowboys. It's a stretch that will tell us everything about this football team.
"You can't win all three at one time so you need to take care of the first game, and that's Dallas," Sanchez said after becoming the fourth Eagles quarterback to have three consecutive games with at least 300 passing yards. "We know we're on a short week and we have to turn it around very quickly, so we're racing against the clock."
It helps exponentially if the Eagles can achieve the kind of offensive balance they had on Sunday. Sanchez passed for 307 yards and the running game churned out 164 yards, and that helped the offense convert 10-of-19 third downs and run 83 plays. The Eagles converted only three-of-seven in the red zone, a continuing theme of the season, and something that must improve down this six-game stretch.
Then, too, the turnovers continued and Sanchez said after the game that he's working on reducing the mistakes. The Eagles have 27 giveaways this season after turning the ball over only 19 times in 2013.
"For anybody to be successful, we've got to take care of the football, no matter what," Sanchez said. "We can't be on the wrong page. I can't miss a ball to (tight end Zach) Ertz down the field. We'll take the win and be happy about that, but we've got to move on and get better."
The Eagles took care of business on Sunday and they ended up with 19-point victory on a day when they were not great. Can they play great football starting Thursday in Dallas and maybe show just how high the ceiling is for a team that wins big even with blemishes over the course of 60 minutes?
"I know this is big," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "It's a division game and it's Dallas. We're battling for the NFC East, and it all starts on Thursday."
GAME NOTES AND THIS AND THAT
- Linebacker Emmanuel Acho left the game with a groin injury and did not return. There was no update on his condition after the game. Casey Matthews played inside full time with Acho out.
- Wide receiver Riley Cooper had a strong game with three catches, 49 yards and some key blocks, including one that helped spring McCoy on a 53-yard run.
- Brandon Boykin, who had six interceptions last season, had one late in the fourth quarter for his first pick of the year. It was the third interception by an Eagles cornerback in 2014.
- Cody Parkey is now 23-of-25 on field goals and has nailed all 39 PATs for a total of 108 points. He's had, obviously, a remarkable rookie season.
- McCoy isn't where he was last year in terms of numbers, but he's got 859 rushing yards and a 4.0-yard-per-carry average. In any other season, that would be considered very, very solid. This year, on the heels of 2013, McCoy has been questioned heavily for his production. "I'm still the same back," he said. "Today we created some openings and that helped a lot."
- Andrew Gardner started at right guard, the eighth different starting offensive line combination for the Eagles in 11 games this year.