ST. LOUIS – In the end it was almost routine the way the Eagles toyed with St. Louis on the way to a 31-13 season-opening win at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday. After falling behind on the Rams' first play from scrimmage, the Eagles took control of the game and manhandled St. Louis to start the 2011 campaign in convincing fashion.
Steven Jackson's 47-yard touchdown run on St. Louis' first play from scrimmage gave the Rams' faithful something to shout about ... for a couple of minutes. The Eagles answered that early salvo with an 8-play, 80-yard touchdown drive sealed with a middle screen to running back LeSean McCoy, who danced 7 yards for a touchdown to convert a third-and-goal situation for the Eagles.
Touchdown. And other than some self-inflicted wounds, the Eagles pretty much did what they wanted the rest of the way. They rolled up 404 yards of total offense, compiled 27 first downs and converted 8 of 12 third downs in the victory.
Quarterback Michael Vick wasn't as sharp as he has been, and absorbed some hits and some big sacks, but he still accounted for 187 passing yards and a couple of scores, as well as 98 yards (including some kneel downs at the end) rushing. There were some stumbles and stammers along the way as every opener brings, but for the most part the offense went up and down the field.
Defensively, the Eagles rebounded from the Jackson touchdown run to buckle down. St. Louis converted only 2 of 12 third downs and the Eagles registered 5 sacks and won the battle at the line of scrimmage.
McCoy ran for 115 yards and a huge touchdown and, well, it was just a great way to open the season. Going to a tough stadium against an up-and-coming team could have been a stumbling block for some teams. Not the Eagles.
"It's good to get out of here with a win," said head coach Andy Reid. "We're blessed to have some good players. We've had some over the years ... I was curious to see during the tough times during the game how they would respond and during the good times how they would respond. They never hung their heads. That was a good thing."
One game down, 15 more to go. Sunday in Atlanta is going to be a huge test. The Falcons are smarting after their loss in Chicago. It's going to be worth watching, as is every game with this team, one that is breathtaking in its ability to turn a game around.
Here are some other observations about the opener …
- The defense made some nice adjustments against the run. It obviously helped that Jackson left the game early, after his touchdown run. But the front four, which dominated play, got up the field early and the Rams linemen were able to get out on the Eagles' linebackers. Then the front four started making plays, shedding blockers and disrupting the running lanes.
- Outstanding game from Jason Babin, Darryl Tapp and Trent Cole outside, and from Cullen Jenkins and Antonio Dixon inside.
- The offense has to deal with edge pressure a lot better. Too many times the Rams came with the blitz and the Eagles missed an assignment. This is going to have to get better, in a hurry.
- St. Louis attacked the underneath of the defense in the passing game with some success. Other than a pass interference call in the end zone called against Nnamdi Asomugha, the pass defense wasn't tested too much down the field. Asante Samuel was penalized for a bogus illegal contact call early. Brandon Gibson had a diving catch down the field, too. Otherwise, Sam Bradford kept it short and simple before he left with an injury.
- Not a great job in the kickoff return game by Dion Lewis. He hesitated too much bringing back kicks deep into the end zone. It will be interesting to see if the Eagles stick with Lewis. I hope they do.
- Wide receiver Steve Smith played a handful of snaps to get his feet wet as he comes back from knee surgery. Once he gets going, the Eagles will have a devastating four-receiver rotation, with Riley Cooper as the fifth.
- Linebacker Moise Fokou played a good game. He tackled aggressively and did a strong job in coverage.
- Asomugha stayed a right cornerback unless the Rams went empty in their formation on that side. When there was no receiver on his side, Asomugha moved into a safety position.
- Not sure if this is accurate, but I don't think the Eagles used four cornerbacks on the field at once the entire game. That will change against the Falcons.
- Although the defense played pretty well, it didn't take advantage of some opportunities to get off the field quickly. The Rams had just one three-and-out series offensively. There are still some bugs to work out with communication and with the scheme, as it seems every NFL team is learning early in this season.
- Love the way the Eagles ate up some clock in the fourth quarter, handing off to McCoy for gains of 11 yards and 17 yards and then Ronnie Brown for 8 yards. The Eagles moved from their 15-yard line holding a 24-13 lead to the St. Louis 49-yard line. Then McCoy finished off the Rams with a weaving 49-yard touchdown run. Gorgeous drive.
- Tapp left the game with a strained pectoral muscle. Let's hope it isn't serious. He is going to thrive in this defense. Linebacker Akeem Jordan had a shoulder injury. Both will have MRIs on Monday.
- No news is good news for the Eagles kicking game. Placekicker Alex Henery had four extra points and a 34-yard field goal. Punter Chas Henry was OK, but not terrific. He didn't change field position when he had the chance, but the Rams had no return yardage. Henry had punts of 39, 37 and 33 yards.