If this was a litmus test for the Eagles as they hosted a very strong Atlanta Falcons team on Sunday, then maybe those who think the baby Eagles can't contend in the NFC may want to think again. Maybe they saw the Eagles, for the second straight week, dig deep into their roster and pull off a heck of a win. The Eagles took control of the Falcons and never let up, winning 31-17 to move to 4-2 on the season.
The Eagles came out smoking. Atlanta had the ball first and the Eagles defense took care of business, forcing a three-and-out series. Then the Eagles took over on their 47-yard line and took all of two plays to score -- a Kevin Kolb completion to Jeremy Maclin for 22 yards (a sign of things to come) and then a handoff to DeSean Jackson, who had an electrifying 31-yard touchdown run on the end around, breaking three tackles and narrowly cracking the plane of the end zone.
It was 7-0 that quickly, and the Eagles never looked back. Kolb went to Jackson for 34 yards on the next possession to make it 14-0, and then Kolb connected with Maclin on a diving 8-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a 21-0 advantage.
There were some hiccups along the way after that outstanding Maclin touchdown -- Kolb threw an interception late in the first half that Atlanta turned into a touchdown just before halftime, and the Falcons drew to within 21-10 in the third quarter -- but the Eagles had far and away their most impressive win against a quality opponent this season.
It was beautiful, really. The offensive line, up and down through five games, had a solid performance against a good Falcons front seven. Left tackle King Dunlap, in his first game as an NFL starter, was, well, dominating. He had some help, yes, as the Eagles used backs and the tight end to chip, but Dunlap more than held his own against, primarily, veteran standout John Abraham (one tackle). Dunlap was called for a facemask penalty, but for the most part he kept Abraham off the stat sheet and away from the Eagles' backfield.
Kolb was brilliant spreading the football around, getting Jackson involved in a big way (2 rushing attempts, 44 yards and a touchdown, the one catch for 34 yards and the TD). After three quarters, by which time the Eagles led 28-10, Kolb completed 23 of 29 passes for 326 yards and 3 touchdowns, and he compiled a passer rating of 133.6. Anyone who wondered whether Kolb could throw the deep ball should watch his picture-perfect throw to Maclin late in the third quarter. Kolb faked a handoff to LeSean McCoy, then faked to Jason Avant on the same end-around on which Jackson scored, and then bombed deep down the left sideline in stride to Maclin, who sold the running play and then flew past cornerback Christopher Owens for the 83-yard catch and run.
Philadelphia's offense had just one three-and-out series and compiled an impressive 474 yards, including 154 yards on the ground. An Eagles team missing starting quarterback Michael Vick (he stayed in the locker room throughout the game as the team's No. 3 quarterback), missing Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, missing defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley and playing much of the game without Jackson put a whupping on an Atlanta team that won four straight games entering Sunday.
Maybe this win means the Eagles are finding themselves. Maybe this young team, which went bumpity, bumpity, bump through four games has learned that, collectively, it is a pretty darn good team.
"I think we have a lot of confidence in each other and that is so important," said Kolb. "Everybody is stepping up. We see that. It makes a difference for the entire roster."
On Sunday, the defense came right out and set the tone, stopping the second-best running game in the NFL (149 yards per game after five games) on two Michael Turner (15 carries, 45 yards) attempts and then timing a Stewart Bradley blitz perfectly to put Matt Ryan on the ground. That got the crowd all kinds of fired up and the offense kept the momentum going with the two-play touchdown drive to open the scoring.
"We needed to start strong and we did," said Bradley, who had one of three sacks of Ryan. "They have a very balanced offense, so we have to be disciplined and read our keys and then just go out and ball. We did that today."
It is a pretty thing when it all goes according to plan, isn't it? The Eagles certainly have some options up and down the roster, particularly at the quarterback position. Is it Kolb or Michael Vick moving forward? Andy Reid says it is Vick's job, and everybody seems fine with that. At the same time, Kolb is showing that he is a very fine quarterback, with a great, great future.
This was one of those feel-good days, the first of the Lincoln Financial Field season in 2010. Sit back and think about what the Eagles are, and about what they can be. Tennessee is going to be a very tough game to win on Sunday, but, boy, if the Eagles can steal one on the road and get to 5-2 at the bye week ...
Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Sunday was a day of celebration, a complete victory against a good team. All of the components came together and the Eagles blasted Atlanta. All of that work in the off-season, all of the roster turnover ... it sure seems worth it now, doesn't it? The conversation isn't any longer about whether the Eagles should have traded away quarterback Donovan McNabb; instead, it is about which of their terrific quarterbacks should start moving forward.
Good times! Oh, yeah. The Eagles deserve to enjoy this game ... for a day. Then it is on to Tennessee and another hurdle to clear.
* NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT *
- David Akers uncharacteristically missed three field goals, all wide left, the only real blemishes against the special teams. Otherwise, they were very good. The coverage groups were great and Akers kicked off four times into the end zone, with three touchbacks. Jorrick Calvin may very well be the new return man. He had a 44-yard punt return.* *
- Still too many penalties. The Eagles committed 9 infractions for 78 yards in losses. That needs to be cleaned up.
- SAM linebacker Moise Fokou was credited with 4 tackles, but it sure seemed like he was around the ball a whole lot more. I thought he had a tremendous game against the run and in the passing game. Excellent job by Fokou, who has cemented that starting position. For now, anyway.
- I like what the Eagles are doing with Chad Hall. He had one carry from the backfield for 5 yards and was a target on four passes, one that was completed for 5 yards.
- Defensive end Trent Cole had a pair of sacks and 3 tackles for loss. He is playing at the highest level of his career. The man is double- and triple-teamed every week.
- Not only did Dunlap -- who had three different Falcons line up in front of him -- play very well, but the entire offensive line has its best performance of the season. How far has Mike McGlynn come? He is playing outstanding football at the center position.
- My guess is that Jerome Harrison will be in uniform on Sunday against the Titans. In the meantime, Eldra Buckley had a hard-charging 40 yards on 12 carries. Both totals were career highs.
- Isn't it time, finally, for Maclin to get some national love? He has made great strides in his second season and is putting up numbers that suggest he is on the verge of playing like a true "No. 1" receiver. Maclin has been physical, he is making catches in traffic and he is simply overmatching one-on-one coverage.
- Key statistic for Kolb: He averaged 10.7 yards per pass play. That is huge, huge, huge.