SEATTLE – Seattle opened with a quick right hook to the jaw of the Eagles defense, but Philadelphia kept pounding the body the rest of the game on Sunday in a 26-7 victory at Qwest Field. After the Seahawks scored on a 90-yard catch and run on their first possession, the defense forced 11 straight punts, including seven three plays-and-out series to turn what started as a nerve-wracking game into a relative laugher on the road.
It wasn't all that pretty, but who cares? The Eagles reached the midway point of the season 5-3, in third place in the NFC East, in the thick of the conference playoff race and in position to make a statement during Sunday night's showdown at Lincoln Financial Field against the division-leading Giants.
Oh, and the Eagles have won three games in a row and are officially simmering, even if there are things that need to be cleaned up along the way here.
Now, let's be clear here: The Eagles played a success-challenged Seahawks offense minus quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and wide receiver Deion Branch. Seattle tore it up the week before against San Francisco, but the Seahawks were shut down and nearly shut out against the Eagles.
Offensively, well, it was downright ugly early on. The Eagles came out throwing and Donovan McNabb was just not sharp. He didn't get much protection, the receivers didn't make plays and the offense bogged down.
Slowly and surely, though, the Eagles picked up the pieces and cruised. Here are some of the things that stood out along the way.
- McNabb was spectacularly streaky in this game, opening by missing on his first seven passes and completing just 3 of 13 passes for 57 yards and an interception in the end zone. Then McNabb completed his next 13 passes, including a 10-for-10 performance in the second quarter. In that second frame, McNabb threw for 109 yards and two touchdowns, compiling a passer rating of 151.7. After that start, McNabb finished 25 of 30. The visor? He wore it in the pre-game, but then discarded it very early on.
- The offense gained more than 400 yards, but the running game just wasn't as consistent as the team is going to need at some point this season. Is it the offensive line? Do the Eagles miss Shawn Andrews that much? Is this team physical enough up front? Sunday night is going to tell a very important tale.
- Nick Cole replaced Max Jean-Gilles at right guard to start the second half and immediately teamed with Dan Kleck to open a hole on a Brian Westbrook 4-yard gain. Cole has the chance to take reps at practice and he is ready for times like this.
- Todd Herremans' touchdown catch was the second for an Eagles player listed as an offensive lineman in team history. It hadn't happened since 1934 against the Pittsburgh Pirates at the Baker Bowl, when Bob Gonya caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Dan Barnhardt, a back. It was Barnhard's only game as an Eagle.
- Whatever the coaches must do, whatever the players must do, they have to correct the way this team has started games of late. The Eagles had three three-and-out series to start the game and then McNabb's interception ended the fourth drive. The Eagles recovered to beat San Francisco, Atlanta and Seattle. Opening that way on Sunday against the Giants is not advisable.
- Strange game for Kevin Curtis. He had some opportunities early and the Seahawks were all over him on the corners. Then Curtis made 2 catches for 32 yards, one a huge gain of 26 yards to set up a touchdown, and seemed to be open the rest of the game. Curtis finished with 6 catches for 83 yards.
- Sheldon Brown made a couple of very nice plays in the third quarter, first drilling Koren Robinson after a catch that held Robinson to no gain, and then sticking his hand in coverage on the other side of the field on another throw to Robinson to force fourth down. Nice job by Brown.
- Lito Sheppard got caught on Seattle's first possession, stepping in and buying Wallace's pump fake toward Robinson hoping for a quick throw at the 10-yard line. Instead, Robinson went up the field and Wallace just beat Stewart Bradley's blitz to hit a wide-open Robinson. Robinson then avoided Brian Dawkins at midfield and completed a 90-yard touchdown catch and run. Sheppard suffered a groin injury and missed much of the game after that.
- Dawkins came back, by the way, and made some very nice plays in coverage. He drilled Robinson on a throw to the wide receiver down the right side and just as Robinson appeared to make the grab, Dawkins made a timely and effective hit to force the incomplete pass. Then Dawkins broke up a near catch in the end zone by Keary Colbert by getting his hand in as the ball arrived.
- Still a poor job in the red zone, particularly a sequence late in the third quarter. A pair of passes to Brent Celek moved the ball to the 7-yard line. A completion on first and goal to Matt Schobel moved the ball to the 2-yard line. Then the Eagles tried a McNabb bootleg and roll to the left side, a play on which McNabb looked for Celek. Celek was covered, so McNabb tried to run it in and lost yards. Then on third down, a screen pass to Brian Westbrook was sniffed out and stopped. No throws to the end zone and no points. The Eagles were one of three in the red zone on the afternoon – a McNabb interception and two David Akers field goals. Akers has made nine consecutive field goals, including a 42-yarder to give the Eagles a 23-7 lead with 9:27 to go on Sunday. Akers is two of three on field goals from 40-49 yards this season.
- Good game from the interior of the Eagles defensive line, Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley especially. Trevor Laws did fine and Victor Abiamiri had a good effort.
- Omar Gaither was outstanding with six solo tackles, one sack, three tackles for loss and one quarterback hurry.
- The Eagles committed one penalty, which came in the last 30 seconds of the game when Stewart Bradley was called for a horse-collar tackle on Wallace.
- Darren Howard has 6 1/2 sacks this season to lead the team. He had all of one sack last season. His resurgence is a pretty amazing story, and a huge part of this team and the defense.