Thursday, December 25, 2014

The real Eagles finally show up

Eagles 34, Cowboys 7

The real Eagles finally show up

LeSean McCoy racked up 185 rushing yards and two touchdowns agains tthe Cowboys. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
LeSean McCoy racked up 185 rushing yards and two touchdowns agains tthe Cowboys. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Ladies and gentlemen, your Philadelphia Eagles.

The team that was praised too early and also buried too early -- just impossible to figure in another confounding NFL season -- arrived Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys lugging a 2-4 record and all of the imperatives such numbers suggest. They showed up for a game in a stadium filled with people who were wondering if they would ever see the team that they expected/anticipated/salivated over with each new free-agent signing in August.

Then, this:

Eagles 34, Cowboys 7.

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It was a night when Chas Henry did not punt until the middle of the fourth quarter. It was a night when the Cowboys’ vaunted run defense was mutilated by Shady McCoy. Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was the coach who got all of the ink during the week, but it was Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg who ended up being the evening’s unquestioned master. And Michael Vick was a sharp as we have seen him.

All of that, combined with a pass rush that set an early, terroristic tone, turned an expected drama into a farce. It also undoubtedly caught the attention of skeptics who have tut-tutted for weeks now about how the Eagles assembled talent in the off-season but did not assemble a team, and about how there was no way so much roster turnover, combined with so much turnover on the coaching staff, could ever have resulted in the kind of expectations that the Eagles carried into Opening Day.

All of it, as we now know, is just conversation -- the Dream Team stuff, the snap-back against the Dream Team stuff, all of it. What we are left with is a team struggling to make up an early deficit, yes, but also a team with a lot of ability that is continuing to blossom. They have been good all year on offense, really. They started coming together defensively 2 1/2 games ago, during the loss at Buffalo.

This is the result.

The question: how much of it can they sustain?

A lot of us spent the bye week doing the math. There was no way around the notion that the Eagles were going to have to beat the Cowboys in this game, no realistic way to make the numbers work with a loss.

That was pretty much accepted by everyone. What follows is conjecture: that the Eagles probably have to win seven of their remaining nine games. Is it doable? Yes. A guesstimate on the Las Vegas odds is that they could very well be favored in just that many games, seven of nine. But it is all about showing up every week. It is the NFL’s biggest challenge and it is the thing Andy Reid teams are best at, especially in the second half of the season.

So, we’ll see. The NFC East has been reduced to this: the Giants are 5-2 and the Eagles, Cowboys and Redskins are all 3-4. Watching the events of the day -- the Giants surviving at home against the winless Dolphins, the Redskins getting shut out by the Bills, the Cowboys getting obliterated by the Eagles -- it is not hard to envision this: four teams, with four knives, locked in a room with a hearty “good luck” and the expectation that only one of them will emerge.

But which?

The Eagles, for the first time in a while, looked like a team with a chance to do just that. If this did not get the attention of the rest of the league, nothing will. What the Eagles did in this game, more than anything, is demonstrate to the world how good they can be.

The next few weeks will tell us if they showed up in time.

Rich Hofmann Daily News Sports Columnist
About this blog
Rich Hofmann arrived at the Daily News in 1980 for a job whose status was officially designated as "full-time, temporary." A senior at Penn at the time, he was hired to fill in on the copy desk during a staff illness. The notion of him covering the Eagles or being a columnist did not exist in anyone's imagination. It was supposed to be six weeks and out, but he never left. It is only one of the reasons why so many people have concerns about him as a potential house guest. Rich has blogged the postseasons of the Flyers and Eagles. E-mail Rich at hofmanr@phillynews.com Reach Rich at hofmanr@phillynews.com.

Rich Hofmann Daily News Sports Columnist
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