It wasn't pretty, but the Eagles got a big win on Sunday. They beat the Seahawks 26-7 and improved to 5-3 on the season. The Eagles climbed to third place in the NFC East and stretched their winning streak to three games. All in all, it was a good day, but I was a bit disappointed.
I was hoping the team would come in and control the game from the get-go. That didn't happen. Lito Sheppard bit on a play fake and Koren Robinson scored on a 90-yard touchdown pass. It didn't help that Brian Dawkins couldn't come through on the tackle attempt. I was furious at both guys and ready to trade them to the Edmonton Eskimos for a Wayne Gretzky poster and a pound of Canadian bacon. Luckily games last longer than five minutes and the Eagles defense did take control of the game.
The offense really got off to a slow start. The Eagles script the first 15 or so plays of every game. This script was more Ishtar than Citizen Kane. The offense had no rhythm. The blocking wasn't all that great. Donovan McNabb was off-target. Those mistakes led to three straight three-and-outs. The fourth series finally involved some success, but even that drive ended in an interception.
Thankfully, the offense got going at that point and played well the rest of the game. McNabb began 0-for-7, and then went 28-for-36. I'm not sure why he started slow. He's done that the last couple of games. It is a problem that Reid and Marty Mornhinweg have to work on with McNabb. The Eagles can't get away with slow starts against good teams.
Once McNabb got in rhythm, he played very well. He made some terrific throws. One area where McNabb is better now than he's ever been is hitting receivers in stride. He got the ball to several guys on the move and allowed them to pick up big gains after making the catch. That used to be a weakness for McNabb. His overall accuracy is improved, but his throws on crossing routes have really improved. McNabb eluded blitzers on a couple of plays. He had defenders come free and run right at him, but was able to make them miss and get the pass away. McNabb ended up throwing for 349 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Eagles-Seahawks: Game Highlights
I was really happy to see that the tight ends were a big part of the gameplan for a second game in a row. L.J. Smith was out because of last week's concussion, but Brent Celek played great. I was hoping that Celek would really emerge this year. He'd been relatively quiet in the first seven games. That all changed against the Seahawks. Celek caught six passes for 131 yards. That was easily the best game of his career. Matt Schobel also had a productive game. He caught two passes for 10 yards.
Celek didn't just put up big numbers. He made key plays. He caught passes for gains of 15, 27, 39 and 44 yards. The 39-yard gain came on a third-and-six play. He caught another pass on a third-and-short play and stretched the ball forward to get the first down. Several of the plays involved short throws where Celek got big yardage after the catch. For the first time in his young career, Celek looked like a starting caliber tight end.
Kevin Curtis had his first good game of the year. He caught six passes for 83 yards and showed no ill effects of the groin injury. He looked particularly good on a 26-yard gain that set up the Eagles' second touchdown of the game. Curtis caught a pass on the left sideline. He made a defender miss with a quick move and got an additional 10 yards on the play. That move showed the quickness and agility that Curtis displayed all last year. If he really is all the way back, that makes the offense that much more dangerous. Teams now have to worry about him, DeSean Jackson and Brian Westbrook. All three of those guys have the ability to create a big play any time they get the ball.
Westbrook was contained by the Seahawks defense. They did a great job of tackling him out in space. They clogged the running lanes and got penetration several times. I was happy to see the Eagles stick with the run even though it wasn't working very well. You have to keep pounding the defense in order to wear them down and keep them honest.
The offensive line had a solid game, with one exception. Right guard Max Jean-Gilles struggled in the first half. Nick Cole took over at that spot in the third quarter and played well as Jean-Gilles battled an illness. He has played well recently, so I was surprised to see his play when I watched the tape. A couple of blocks stood out. Tra Thomas really got into a defender on McNabb's quarterback sneak. Thomas doesn't usually move guys off the ball, but he got good push on a defensive lineman. Todd Herremans also had a good block on that play. He fired off the ball and stayed low, creating space for McNabb. Jon Runyan drove a defensive end five yards off the ball on an early run.
The highlight of the day for the linemen was when Herremans caught a short touchdown pass from McNabb. Cole took over at left guard on the play. Herremans lined up at tight end on the right side of the formation. McNabb faked a handoff headed to the left side. Herremans blocked a defender for the first second. He then got by the defender and was wide open in the end zone. McNabb softly tossed a pass right to his belly. Touchdown. Herremans was excited, but the rest of the offensive linemen were going crazy. They loved seeing one of them get the glory for a play. Great call by the coaches and very well executed by the players.
The defense was near-dominant at times. After the sting of the 90-yard touchdown wore off, the guys settled down and really limited the Seahawks offense. They only allowed Seattle to gain 143 yards the rest of the game. The Seahawks had 11 consecutive possessions end in a punt.
Defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley turned in another strong performance. The stat sheet lists him with three tackles, but he controlled the middle of the line most of the game. He got at least one big hit on quarterback Seneca Wallace. Bunkley had a couple of plays where he just destroyed center Chris Spencer. Bunkley exploded into Spencer on a run play and drove him backward. He then pushed Spencer aside and tackled the running back. On a pass play, Bunkley fired off the ball and hit Spencer so hard that he knocked him off-balance. Bunkley then was able to hit Wallace just after he got the pass off. This is the third straight game where Bunkley has played well and looked dominant at times. He seems to be hitting his stride at the right time of the year.
Trent Cole had a tough assignment. He went up against Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones. Cole didn't get a sack, but he got pressure a few times. It was his pressure that led to Omar Gaither's sack. Cole did have a tackle for loss on an end around that came his way. He is always disruptive.
All three starting linebackers played well, combining for 16 tackles. Gaither had the best day, but Chris Gocong wasn't far behind. He's played two of his best games recently. Bradley and Gocong just barely missed sacks. Gaither got one when Wallace had to step up in the pocket and basically came right to him.
Dawkins had an interesting game. He looked awkward on that touchdown pass. Normally, Dawkins is a sure tackler. Seeing him get beat by Robinson out there was a surprise. Dawkins redeemed himself by breaking up a couple of downfield passes. He hit Robinson along the sideline and jarred the ball loose. He later got a hand on Keary Colbert's arm as he tried to haul in a touchdown pass. Dawkins' arm kept Colbert from being able to secure the ball and it popped loose when they hit the ground. It was very encouraging to see Dawkins making those kinds of plays.
Cornerbacks Sheldon Brown and Asante Samuel both played very well. Each of them broke up a pair of passes. Brown added a couple of good tackles. As a team, the Eagles were credited with deflecting or breaking up eight passes.
Special teams helped out in the win. David Akers nailed all four of his field goal attempts, including one from beyond 40 yards. He connected from 39, 24, 42 and 39 yards. The kicks were all relatively straight. That should help Akers' confidence. The Eagles are going to need him to hit a big kick somewhere down the stretch.
Both returners had good days. Quintin Demps opened the game with a 44-yard return. He could have taken that kick all the way back for a touchdown, but he got tripped up by the pesky 35-yard line. It absolutely has to drive return guys crazy when they trip out in the open. In Demps' defense, he'd just gotten by a couple of defenders and that is what got him off-balance. Jackson didn't have any long returns, but he did average 10 yards per punt return. It felt like he was close to breaking a couple of the returns.
All in all the Eagles played well. They got a solid victory. If they can start scoring more touchdowns instead of settling for field goals and tighten up the pass defense, the Eagles can very quickly go back to being one of the best teams in the league. They aren't far off, but they do have to play better. We'll see just how good the Eagles are on Sunday night when they host the Giants. Right now, the Giants are the best team in the NFC. This should be a really good game.