Donovan McNabb is pressured by DeMarcus Ware in first quarter and get called for intentional grounding on Saturday. ( Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer )

On nights like these, it is hard to know where to begin. Because you would need a fire hose to clean the mess off of the sidewalk, there is nothing to do but stare at it for a while and search for some kind of meaning within the mess. But it is hard.

Cowboys 34, Eagles 14. I’ll admit that I thought it would be bad, but not this bad. The Cowboys looked to be the far superior team last Sunday afternoon, but I thought the Eagles might be able to slow down the steamroller a little bit. I was wrong, really wrong.

There are two main issues here:

The Cowboys look like they are very, very good. They show a lack of discipline sometimes but they really look like a complete team right now. Size up front, speed on defense, weapons, a quarterback who is maturing before our eyes -- the Cowboys are just excellent right now. There is no disgrace in losing to them. The concern is with the imbalance.
The reason for the imbalance, mostly, is that the Eagles’ defense is just a shell right now. The middle is hollow. And against a good offense, any good offense, they were going to be picked apart. Which they were, on back to back weekends at Cowboys Stadium.

I spent the season asking the question, as gently and respectfully as possible -- because I do respect 11-5 in the NFL -- “Well, who have they beaten?” As it turns out, they beat nobody. You will search a long time before finding a really signature win during the 2009 season. You can only play who is on the schedule, and that is fair enough, but the truth is the truth -- and the truth is that the Eagles played five games against playoff teams this season and lost them all.

I have delayed the Donovan McNabb discussion here for as long as humanly possible. He engineered one meaningless touchdown drive in the game, after they trailed by 34-7, and Michael Vick gave you the full Michael Vick experience: a 76-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin, and a fumbled handoff to Leonard Weaver that cost the Eagles a touchdown. But back to McNabb. I think this might very well have been it for him and the Eagles after 11 seasons. I have no inside information; it’s just a vibe, tied to his contract status.

That doesn’t mean that this game was his fault, because it wasn’t. But on a day when they needed him to be their best player, McNabb was just one of the fellas. His numbers on the day are a pretty fair representation of his level of play, although they were padded a bit at the end. He faced a lot more pressure this week than he did last week and that has to be acknowledged. It factors into any and all calculations. But he holds the ball too long, and his accuracy was iffy, and well, the numbers: 19-for-36 for 230 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 1 lost fumble.

What this all means for the future is to be determined, as they say. There are all kinds of questions. This very well could have been McNabb’s last game. This very well could have been Brian Westbrook’s last game. And everybody knows that the defense is in for a significant bit of surgery. You don’t get beat like this and act like nothing happened.

But that is for later. First, there is a mess that needs cleaning.