There is a lot of stuff to cover this week.
The Eagles won a big game on Sunday, in dramatic fashion no less. The Vikings' loss on Monday night also means the Eagles can secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs will with a win over Dallas.
Let's start with Sunday's big win. Our old friend Brian Dawkins and the Denver Broncos came to town. They were fighting for their playoff lives and we were trying to stay red hot. I was shocked when we got out to the 27-10 lead. I just didn't see that coming. The Broncos scored a pair of touchdowns late in the third quarter to get right back in the game. We tightened the defense in the fourth quarter and got the late field goal to win.
I know some people are concerned by the fact we let Denver get back into the game on Sunday. We played very well in the first half, but got sloppy after halftime. Turnovers, penalties and bad field position killed us. Denver had eight possessions in the second half. Six of them started near midfield or deep in our territory. That meant our defense was always under pressure and we were constantly backed up on offense. I thought the guys responded pretty well overall. I am disappointed that the defense gave up touchdowns both times the Broncos got the ball deep. We really needed to hold them to a field goal on one of those (both would have been great of course). I was very encouraged by the way the defense stepped up in the fourth quarter. That was clutch play.
Donovan McNabb didn't have a great game, but he did make a couple of huge plays in the fourth quarter that helped us to win. His 27-yard scramble on third-and-25 flipped the field. We finally had the field position advantage. That gave us the upper hand for the first time in a while. Also, he made a good throw to Jeremy Maclin on the final drive to put us in scoring position. It wasn't a great pass, but it was catchable and safe. With talented receivers like Maclin and DeSean Jackson all you ask is for the quarterback to give them a chance to make a play for you. McNabb did that and Maclin responded by making a sensational grab. Let's hope no one tells Maclin he's a rookie and they aren't supposed to make plays like that.
Sticking with rookies, Moise Fokou and Macho Harris both played a lot in the game. Fokou started as the strongside linebacker. I thought he played his best game yet. He didn't have a ton of tackles, but he impressed me because he was fast, smart and active. He also played under control, something he struggled with in earlier starts. Harris had a solid showing at free safety. He had a nightmare game as the kickoff returner. Harris fumbled twice, with Denver recovering one. He ran one kickoff back from the end zone and got tackled inside the Eagles' 15-yard line. Those are unacceptable mistakes, rookie or not.
Brian Westbrook returned to the lineup and I thought he looked fine. That was very encouraging. He, LeSean McCoy and Leonard Weaver give us a three-headed monster at running back. You may recall we had a lot of success with that back in 2003. I thought all three players looked good. They had limited success on the ground, but that had a lot to do with the Broncos defense and our blocking.
Biggest Game Ever
I can say without hyperbole that the Eagles/Cowboys matchup on Sunday will be the most important game in the history of football, if not all of sports. OK, maybe that is a small lie. You can bet the hyperbole will be flowing in the build up to this game. Anytime Dallas and Philadelphia play it is a big game. We hate them. They hate us.
Now you mix in the fact that the NFC East title is on the line. The winner will get to host a playoff game. That certainly raises the stakes. Plenty of teams last year showed that you could win on the road (including us). It does make things more difficult, though.
On Monday night, the Bears did us a huge favor and upset the Vikings. Now the second seed in the NFC is up for grabs. This is huge. The top two seeds get a bye week in the playoffs. Over the last decade teams with a bye have had a big advantage in the postseason. That wasn't the case last year. Three of four teams with the bye actually lost in the divisional round. I think that was an anomaly. You can bet that the Eagles coaches and players would absolutely love to have a bye. That would give the coaches more time to prepare. The players love the time off because it gives them a week of rest. That can be so important. Football is a brutal, physical game. It takes a toll on the players.
Think about what a week of rest would mean for Sheldon Brown, Jason Peters, Akeem Jordan, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and any other players that have battled injuries this year. That time off has proven invaluable to us during the Andy Reid era. We haven't lost following a first-round bye in the postseason. Reid also has a perfect record following the bye week during the regular season.
Beating Dallas is always a good thing. This upcoming Sunday, it would be huge. It would give us the division title, a home game and a week off. For the second year in a row things have broken just the way we wanted them to late in the season. Last year we took advantage of that and almost made it to the Super Bowl. We are a better team than last year. Let's hope this group is able to really take advantage of the situation.
I'll talk more specifically about the Dallas game in my next column. There will be plenty of time to break down that game and analyze the matchups. I'll offer this simple nugget for now. Last year's late season thrashing of the Cowboys means nothing. This is a different Dallas team. Don't fall into the trap of thinking we can show up and they'll just lay down for us. We are going to need to play well to win.