Here are my 10 observations from yesterday's 44-6 win over the Cowboys:
1. A lot had to happen yesterday for the Eagles to even play a meaningful game. Let's start out with the Thank Yous.
Thank you to Michael Bush for 27 carries, 177 yards and two touchdowns, including a 67-yarder in a wild fourth quarter that put the Raiders back in it. Thank you Johnnie Lee Higgins for six catches for 52 yards, including a 12-yard score in the third quarter. And thank you for setting Oakland up with great field position all day. And well, thanks for just being you. Thank you JaMarcus Russell. We now see why you were drafted with the top selection overall (kind of). You turned it over just once and kept your team in the game. Most impressive, maybe, was your drive at the end of the first half that gave Oakland a 14-7 lead. Thank you to Jon Gruden for choosing to go for it on fourth down and coming up short. Thank you to Jeff Garcia for that timely interception. Thank you to Monty Kiffin. And I never thought I'd say this, but thank you to Ronde Barber. Thank you to Kevin Harlan, for announcing the game like it was the Super Bowl. And thank you to Andre Johnson for 10 catches, 148 yards and two scores.
2. Local ties all over the place yesterday. At one point in our early chat, a reader said he/she would root for Ryan Moats as hard as ever yesterday. Huh? I had to look it up, but it was true. The former Eagles draft pick had been with the Texans since Week 8. I guess this is something an NFL blogger should have known. Anyway, yesterday he had 12 carries for 38 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, local products Matt Schaub (27-for-36 for 328 yards and two touchdowns) and Steve Slaton (128 total yards and a TD) also came up big for Houston. In the Bucs game, did you catch who was in at linebacker? Another former Eagles draft pick. Matt McCoy. He was released in October after a DUI arrest but then re-signed. And not a moment too soon.
3. What a game for Eagles who we thought might be playing/coaching in their last games. Andy Reid was seen waving his hands to the crowd throughout the game asking for noise. I wonder if he ever thought about flipping everyone the bird. Lord knows we probably deserved it. Donovan McNabb. One more opportunity. No turnovers. Efficient. Brian Dawkins. All over the place. A couple of forced fumbles. Leading "Fly Eagles Fly" with all his power. Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas. What Cowboys pass rush? Just an unbelievable performance all around.
4. Some thoughts on the Cowboys. Take a look at some of Dallas' signings over the past couple years. Pacman Jones absolutely killed them. There was the 15-yard penalty for hitting Reggie Brown late and the fumble on the kickoff return. Roy Williams. Final numbers on the season: 34 catches for 426 yards and two touchdowns. Yesterday? A whopping two catches for 4 yards. By the way, did you notice Tony Romo waving off the punt unit in the third quarter and Wade Phillips just having a confused look on his face? "Who's running the show down there?" they asked on the broadcast.
5. The optimist says:
Today is my day. It all came together at the perfect time in the Eagles' most complete performance of the year. A perfect balance on offense. A playmaking defense that created five turnovers when the stakes were at their highest. And now look where we are. In 20 years, do you think we'll remember how the Eagles got in? OK, maybe we will. But the point is they are favored in the first round at the Vikings. And then who are you afraid of? The Giants? Did you see what the Eagles did to them a few weeks ago? They've already beaten the Falcons and Cardinals. So who does that leave? The Panthers? I'll take my chances. This is the perfect year to sneak into the playoffs and see what happens. There are ZERO dominant teams out there. What looked like a disastrous season 48 hours ago now has the chance to be a dream season. It's OK. I'll welcome everyone back on the bandwagon.
6. The pessimist says:
Alright, alright. You got me this time. But let's try to look ahead a little bit. It's Week 7 of 2009. The Eagles are coming off a divisional-round loss to the Giants in 2008. They are 3-4. Andy Reid is pass-happy. Donovan McNabb is inconsistent. The receivers can't get open. The tackles look old. Brian Westbrook is banged up. There is no tight end. And special teams are a disaster. Does that sound so unrealistic to you? Enjoy the next couple of weeks. All it means is more of the same for this franchise. If you really think a Raiders win over the Bucs changes anything that has happened this season, you're crazy.
7. We often criticize Reid in this space so at least one point should be dedicated to him. With everything on the line, his team had one turnover and zero penalties. Other than the McNabb benching, there was little drama involving the players. Loss after loss, mishap after mishap, Reid took the blame. It annoyed all of us, but all he was worried about was his players and his coaching staff. And maybe that's how it should be. I'm not saying he's perfect, but take a look around the league this morning. Coaches getting fired left and right. A Bucs team collapsing. A Bears team failing to take care of business with the door wide open. A Cowboys team self-destructing. A Jets team letting it slip away. You could do worse than Reid.
8. It's funny how little things can change the numbers in this game. Going into Week 17, the stat we heard a hundred times over was that the Eagles would miss the playoffs for the third time in four years. Now? They've been below .500 just once in the last nine years and missed the playoffs just twice. Before yesterday, the defense had 24 takeaways, pretty good, but not great. Now? 29. Only three NFC teams had more. Before yesterday, this was a franchise stuck in mediocrity, needing an offseason overhaul. Now? The national media is tabbing the Eagles as one of the teams you don't want to play in the postseason.
9. When the game was still a game, the Eagles came up huge on third down to the tune of 7-for-8 in the second quarter. That included the big 59-yard gain to Correll Buckhalter. McNabb's QB sneak for a touchdown. McNabb's 34-yard strike to DeSean Jackson. McNabb's touchdown pass to Buckhalter. And McNabb's 13-yard pass to Brown and the subsequent Pacman penalty. Third-down conversions. It's been the stat to look at down the stretch in determining this team's success.
10. Thanks to everyone who joined one of our chats or read the blog Sunday. It was a record-setting day here at Moving the Chains. I anticipated coming up with offseason ideas this week and breaking down the other playoff games, but instead we get more football in Philadelphia. I'll be blogging like a madman this week so be sure to check back throughout the day for updates, and let me know if there's anything you'd like to see covered.