How to explain it, that in the fifth game of this regular season the offensive just, well, dominated. Clicked. Overpowered the New Orleans Saints in the Eagles' 39-17 win on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
After four weeks of wondering just what in the heck was going on at the line of scrimmage, the offensive line had its say against the Saints. A statement? Maybe. We'll see how the Eagles handle success next Monday night when the NFC East rival New York Giants come to town. For now, we focus on what the offensive line did on a day when the Eagles piled up 519 total yards, 34 first downs and 39 points when they could have scored another 21 or so points had quarterback Sam Bradford not had some early giveaway moments in the red zone and the Eagles missed on two fourth-down attempts in the first half.
The line, ladies and gentlemen, won this football game for the Eagles and made it look easy.
"We knew how important this game was and we had a great week of preparation and it showed," center Jason Kelce said. "We wanted to make sure we had all of our details down, our footwork and we know how to hit the blocks. Really, the biggest difference in today's game was the offensive line executing. We gave Sam time to throw for the most part and we gave the backs room to make plays.
"If we do that, it's going to be very, very hard for any defense to stop us."
Having a full starting five for the second straight week helped, too. Left tackle Jason Peters was limited in practice for the early part of the week but came on late and played the whole game. He had his most dominating performance of the season. Same for right tackle Lane Johnson, who shrugged off a knee injury to help the Eagles ring up a season-best 186 rushing yards to aid Bradford's 333 passing yards.
The Eagles returned home to face the Saints in Week 5 of the regular season. View the full gallery here...
How strong was the offense? Punter Donnie Jones kicked just once, for 50 yards, and the Eagles had 79 total offensive plays.
"The guys out there did a great job," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "We didn't really know until late in the week who was going to be able to play, but they pulled it together and really played well. You don't run for nearly 200 yards and pass for what Sam passed for without the runners having room and the passing game having time. You can't cheat this game. When the line plays well, it opens up everything for the entire offense."
The Eagles trailed 7-0 and only forged ahead 10-7 at halftime thanks to a big Fletcher Cox sack and forced fumble, and then the offense turned it on in the second half. Philadelphia scored points on each of its six second-half possessions -- three touchdowns and three field goals. It was impressive to watch and it was something the Eagles wanted to put together from the very start of the season.
"It's never perfect offensively," Shurmur said, "and what might get lost in the final score is that we had to fight back from some adverse situations early in the game, but that's what the guys did. We turned the ball over twice in the red zone and if a team doesn't stick together, those kinds of things might kill you. But our guys did a great job of sticking together until it clicked."
And when it clicked, it clicked big as the Eagles reached 2-3 with a key game against the New York Giants a week from Monday.
"I think we're starting to get some chemistry going," said Kelce of a line that included Allen Barbre at left guard and Matt Tobin at right guard. "I feel like everybody was dialed into the point. Usually, when everybody is dialed in like that, good things are going to happen.
"We didn't start that way, but we got into it. 'Not my man' was the mentality today. Just don't let your man make the play today.'
They carried out the plan and the results were eye opening. The next challenge is to keep it going when the Giants come to town.
Some other notes on the big win ...
- Really nice game by wide receiver Josh Huff, who caught four passes for 78 yards and his first NFL receiving touchdown. He opened the game with a 40-yard kickoff return to the 43-yard line and took it from there. Huff played with great confidence working a lot against the Saints' best cornerback, Keenan Lewis. Huff smartly wrapped the ball up with two arms after his catches, very mindful of some turnovers that marred his rookie season.
- Defensive end Fletcher Cox took full advantage of the absence of left tackle Terron Armstead and right guard Jahri Evans. Cox destroyed New Orleans with three quarterback sacks, two forced fumbles and a recovery. Cox has played at a high level all season and is an All-Pro-caliber player. He's just been outstanding these last few seasons. The Eagles did an excellent job stuffing the Saints in the run game. New Orleans gained 96 rushing yards on 21 attempts.
- Cornerback Byron Maxwell had his best game of the season. He was aggressive, confident and better with his technique. He finished with one pass defensed and a fumble recovery.
- Bradford got better and better as the game went along. He missed an open Riley Cooper on an out route in the end zone and threw an interception and threw behind Miles Austin on a stick route in the end zone. But then Bradford completed 12 of his next 13 passes in the third quarter and into the fourth period. He really looked good with that ample pocket time, and Bradford showed some nice mobility when he needed to escape the pocket. Bradford was 13-of-15 for 118 yards and a touchdown.
- The defense gave up a few too many big plays, but the Eagles forced four turnovers and limited New Orleans on the scoreboard. And isn't that all that really matters?
- An area to improve? The red zone offense had seven chances and scored just three touchdowns. The Eagles want to be a lot better than that.