This game had all the intensity of a summer scrimmage, except that it counted. I mean, when you take note of three David Akers touchbacks and research their statistical relevance, you know it is one of those nights. The Eagles opened strong and then breezed past Cleveland, 30-10, controlling the football, dominating defensively and squandering just enough touchdown opportunities to keep the score reasonable.
There wasn't a whole lot to take from Monday night's dismantling of the Browns, other than the Eagles took care of business. Quintin Demps returned the opening kickoff 27 yards to the 36-yard line and the rout was on. Donovan McNabb and the offense drove 64 yards in 8 plays and scored on a touchdown pass to Kevin Curtis.
That's the way it was all night. See the Eagles have the football. See them gain one first down after another and dominate the time of possession category -- the Eagles had nearly doubled the Browns' time of possession by halftime, had converted 7 of 9 third downs and kept the game close only because they threw two interceptions in the end zone, one from DeSean Jackson from the "Wildcat" formation and one on a McNabb fade pass to Hank Baskett at the end of the half -- and see the Eagles have their way on offense.
On defense, other than a couple of go-up-and-get-'em catches by wide receiver Braylon Edwards and a nifty run or two from receiver/return man/do-everything Josh Cribbs, the Eagles smothered Cleveland. You expected anything different?
What happened on a warm, drizzly night at Lincoln Financial Field was that the Eagles did what they had to do to stay alive in the playoff race. They are now 8-5-1, winners of three straight games, and they have greater challenges ahead. But if there was any question the team was going to overlook the woeful Browns, it was answered very, very early. While the offense played poorly in the red zone, McNabb and his mates did what they wanted to do anywhere else on the field.
Seriously, it was hard to take the Browns as much of a threat, especially when the Eagles started with such an impressive drive. Using great balance -- four passes, four runs -- the offense opened with a 1-yard pass to Brent Celek, then came back with a 4-yard run from Brian Westbrook and a 20-yard pass from McNabb to Jason Avant to convert on third down. An 8-yard pass to Curtis set up three straight runs -- gains of 10 yards from Westbrook, 4 yards from Buckhalter and 3 yards for Westbrook -- before McNabb tossed a pretty fade pass in the right corner of the end zone to a leaping Curtis for the touchdown.
Cleveland had a spirited 63-yard drive on its first possession, but then the Eagles came back with a 12-play, 51-yard drive and, well, it was just so obvious that the Browns couldn't stop the Eagles. The offense stopped itself on two red-zone possessions with interceptions but rolled up 392 total net yards and 30 points before the mass substitutions began -- quarterback Donovan McNabb, running back Brian Westbrook, tackles Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan sat down -- and the Eagles coasted for the final 10-plus minutes of the game.
Now it is on to the final two games, two must-win outings against NFC East teams. The Eagles have a short week to prepare for Washington, on the road. Monday night's game didn't seem to be particularly physical and Westbrook had only 19 touches and McNabb was hit only a couple of times ... and the Eagles should be in pretty good shape for Washington.
Yeah, they need to play better than they did on Monday. McNabb didn't break much of a sweat while throwing for 290 yards and two touchdowns -- the man completed 74 percent of his passes -- and continued that nice, relaxed rhythm he had in the previous couple of games. Most notable, almost in the spirit of the scrimmage-like feel of the night, was that three different Eagles tossed interceptions. It was that kind of light-hearted feel in Game 14, very strange indeed.
What do you take from this night? Nobody was injured. Everybody played. The Eagles rolled. The playoff picture is very clear: Two wins keeps the Eagles alive, and either Tampa Bay or Atlanta has to lose one of its two games. As we all knew, the season comes down to the division. The Eagles broke their goose egg with a win at the Giants. On Sunday, they need to play at FedEx Field, a venue that should have a decided Eagles feel to it with the Midnight Green and White decending upon Landover, Md.
This night was over nearly before it began, thank goodness. Feel the power, baby! The playoff race is right here, right now. The Eagles have more business to take care of in the next two games.
**NEWS AND NOTES AND THIS AND THAT
- Right end Trent Cole had a dominating game against second-year man Joe Thomas, who just could not handle Cole's speed. Cole had a sack and 4 tackles and was just great.
- I watched a lot of right guard Nick Cole and was impressed. Good player. Good feet. Plays low and with power.
- Kudos to Jon Runyan for playing after not practicing all week. He is a man's man. One of the toughest players to ever wear an Eagles uniform, and a tremendous leader for the way he plays.
- Greg Lewis had a nice two-play sequence, opening a hole for Correll Buckhalter on a run that set up a 10-yard touchdown pass from McNabb to Lewis.
- Yeah, Asante Samuel dropped the ball at the 1-yard line after his interception and return, and then astutely recovered the ball in the end zone. What is it with this Monday night pre-touchdown celebrations?
- I wanted to see Kevin Kolb have a chance to light it up a little bit, but a missed block allowed pressure and Kolb threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
- The Eagles have now converted 33 of their last 50 third downs. Amazing.
- Brian Dawkins received a great ovation when the Eagles announced at the beginning of the game that he had set a franchise record for most games played. Well deserved, too.
- Nice game for Buckhalter, who ran for 55 yards on 6 carries.
- The Eagles were able to rest most of their veterans late in the fourth quarter. I'm telling you, this game was like a preseason game.