JACKSONVILLE -- It was the perfect sequence, maybe a two-play snapshot to demonstrate the kind of progress this Philadelphia Eagles team has made early in the 2010 season. In a 28-3 win over Jacksonville on Sunday -- a road game in theory, but one dominated by Eagles fans -- the offense and defense collaborated in a complete, 60-minute effort.
Don't look now, but the Eagles lead the NFC East with a 2-1 record with a huge, huge game waiting on Sunday. You might hear more about that later in the week -- just a hunch.
"It's good to be on top of the division, but it's where you finish and not where you start," said middle linebacker Stewart Bradley. "We know we have a tough game coming, but this one really felt good for us."
Distractions? What distractions? Maybe the Eagles should have a quarterback "controversy" every week ...
Two plays midway through the third quarter told the tale of this game. First, it was the defense, with cornerback Asante Samuel stepping in front of a David Garrard pass and making his first interception of the season, setting the offense up for a quick-strike death shot to the Jaguars' solar plexus. Samuel, close on a couple of other occasions in prior weeks and earlier in this game, timed the Garrard pass to the left side of the Eagles defense on a throw intended for wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker and the offense took over.
On first down from the Jacksonville 45-yard line, quarterback Michael Vick dropped back and found wide receiver Jeremy Maclin in a seam in the Jags' two-deep coverage along the left sideline and Maclin hauled in Vick's perfect throw and tip-toed past safety Sean Considine to reach the end zone for his second score of the game.
The touchdown made it 21-3, Eagles and, hey, there sure was a lot of partying and E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES! in the stands at EverBank Field. It was a welcome respite from the nail-biters the Eagles played in Weeks 1 and 2, and it was as complete a performance as the team has put together in a long, long time. Vick was marvelous, throwing for three touchdowns and running for another, accounting for a total of 321 yards of offense and plenty of oohs and aahs, mostly because his connected on so many pinpoint passes down the field to Maclin, and to DeSean Jackson, who had a 61-yard catch-and-run touchdown to open the scoring.
"It felt right today," said Maclin. "Everybody had a little piece of it. We started off the right way and kept it going from there."
Defensively, no question, Sean McDermott was smiling after the game. After allowing big points in the loss to Green Bay and the win in Detroit, the Eagles busted up Maurice Jones-Drew -- holding him to 88 yards on 22 carries -- and absolutely making life miserable for Garrard. The pass rush was tremendous and the Eagles got it from everyone -- Trent Cole, Juqua Parker, Brandon Graham, Trevor Laws -- in their best defensive outing since last season when the Eagles beat the Falcons in December. In all, the Eagles recorded 6 quarterback sacks and allowed just 184 total yards to the Jacksonville attack.
Such a beautiful sight. With three quarters down and the Eagles ahead, 28-3, Jacksonville had gained just 111 total net yards and only 37 passing yards. Having Stewart Bradley back on the field certainly made a difference, and the Eagles were fast and physical, just what McDermott ordered.
Now, the Jags have their problems offensively, but the Eagles took it to them and completely buried Garrard and his passing game and Jones-Drew and his hard-charging efforts on the ground. The rotation up front was great -- Darryl Tapp had a sack, a quarterback hurry and a tackle for a loss on his first three snaps, Laws had quality snaps all game along (6 total tackles and his first career sack) with Antonio Dixon -- and the linebackers made play after play playing downhill.
It was such a satisfying win, hopefully one that allows the Eagles to gain an identity. We know what is ahead -- big games against Washington, San Francisco and Atlanta -- and a young, changed team like this needed to get a jolt of who-are-we? confidence.
So it was great, all the way through. The fans turned EverBank Field into an Eagles-south party and, yes, much of the attention was focused on Vick. He wasn't the high-wire act from a week prior when he put on a dazzling, how-did-he-do-that? performance. Vick made some throws on Sunday that were way off target, and he was only 10 of 21 passing in the first half. But he mixed in a pair of touchdown passes in those two quarters, including a big-time throw to Maclin for a 16-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead with three seconds remaining in the half.
"Jeremy does a great job getting open and I was able to hang in there and he came free," said Vick. "It was a huge play for us. It helped us get some momentum going."
All in all, Vick was sensational once again. He completed 17 of 31 passes for 291 yards and compiled a passer rating of 119.2. He has not turned the ball over in his 10 quarters of action and the Eagles have just that one turnover -- Eldra Buckley's fumble in the third quarter against Green Bay -- in three games.
"I'm just keeping it going, working hard and remaining humble," said Vick. "The game plan was a great one today and the guys up front gave me plenty of time and you saw how well our receivers played. It was fun out there. I'm having so much fun I can't even describe it."
Vick was 6 of 8 in the third quarter for 128 yards and a score, and he also added a 17-yard touchdown dash. Simply put, Vick managed the game so well and took what Jacksonville's defense gave him. The offensive line -- which featured Reggie Wells at right guard in place of an injured Nick Cole from early in the first half until the end of the game -- played much better against a pretty good Jacksonville pass rush.
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
Jorrick Calvin averaged 10.3 yards on punt returns and showed that he has some moves and quickness. I don't know if Calvin will be the guy there in place of Jackson, but the Eagles certainly feel much more confident about him now. Good job. He was out there on Sunday as the Eagles looked to give Jackson and Maclin some rest on a hot fall day.
- Wells did a much better job after Cole had problems with massive Jags defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. It could signal that Wells is the starter at right guard moving forward. Andy Reid said he took Cole out of the game after Cole's knee swelled up a bit early in the game.
- Don't look now, but the Eagles have converted 7 of their 8 trips into the red zone. They are playing with so much confidence in that critical area.
- Check out this number: After three quarters the Eagles had 350 yards of total net offense and the Jags had 111 total net yards. That statistic ended with the Eagles gaining 373 yards to Jacksonville's 184.
- Maclin has touchdown catches in each of his first three games and is making some tough catches in traffic. "I'm doing my part, just like everyone else," he said. "We have some great players here. I'm just trying to fit in."
- If there was a negative, it was a two-play sequence in the second quarter when the Eagles ran twice but couldn't convert on two Mike Bell runs. They needed only two yards. They came up inches short.
- I love Owen Schmitt at fullback. He made a diving catch on a third-and-1 play to keep a drive going and blocked very well in the running game. Schmitt may not be Leonard Weaver, but he has played well in the offense.
- Kevin Kolb said he would have gone in at the end of the fourth quarter had the Eagles gotten the ball back. As it was, he was the No. 2 quarterback the entire game. "It was tough, because I always want to play," he said. "At the same time, I'm supporting everything and everybody. I'm happy as can be at the way this team played. But I'm also a competitive guy and like everyone else, I want to play, too."
- Sav Rocca averaged 45.1 yards on his 7 punts but the coverage broke down on a Mike Thomas 41-yard return. Rocca's net was only 36.3 yards.
- Pretty basic stuff by the defense: 7 men in the box, a lot of man-to-man coverage on long-yardage situations and great execution. "We played fast, we tackled well and we came up with some big plays," said Samuel. "That's the way it is supposed to be."