The Eagles' offensive line looked like it knew exactly what it was doing Sunday night against Dallas.
That may not sound like much, but it is. Because the five guys who took the field had not played a single snap together previously. Danny Watkins did not start until Week 5, and when he finally got on the field, Jason Peters was out with an injury.
Going against a Cowboys defense that had played well in its first six games, the Eagles linemen simply dominated as the offense came away with points on its first six drives and did not have to punt until the fourth quarter.
Two quick examples:
On the second touchdown drive, the Eagles just bullied Dallas up front. Four called runs and three called passes. After four plays, the Eagles had a 1st-and-10 from the Cowboys' 47. Then came a 34-yard run by McCoy; an 11-yard run by McCoy; and a 2-yard touchdown run by McCoy.
On the Eagles' very next drive, they had a 1st-and-goal from the Cowboys' 9. The Cowboys blitzed, sending five at Michael Vick. But he had so much time in the pocket, it was as if Dallas had rushed only two or three. Everyone was picked up, Vick looked to his left and then came back to the middle, hitting Brent Celek for a 9-yard touchdown.
The offense was prepared and comfortable, executing at a nearly flawless level. That's a credit to both the coaching staff and the players.
Having said that, here's the player-by-player breakdown after having rewatched the game:
Michael Vick - I'll have the full breakdown in Mike Check Wednesday, but Vick was on point. He completed 21 of 29 passes for 279 yards and a pair of touchdowns. But maybe most importantly, it appeared that Vick knew exactly what he was looking at. He changed the play at the line of scrimmage on the Jeremy Maclin touchdown, and the call worked perfectly. When Vick talked about the play after the game, there was a certain pride in his voice, as if he was saying to himself If I figure this part out, it'll be impossible to stop me. We probably take some things for granted with Vick, like making Sean Lee, who's been one of the best linebackers in the league this season, miss on a 15-yard run. Overall, Vick ran seven times for 50 yards and played one of his best games as an Eagle.
LeSean McCoy - What can I say about him that hasn't already been said? I have some numbers that I'll share in a future post, but McCoy was the best player on the field, rushing 30 times for 185 yards (both career highs). Going into Sunday, the Cowboys had allowed one run of 20+ yards all season. McCoy had two of them in the first 12 minutes of the game and three of them overall. On an 11-yard run in the first, he made Jay Ratliff miss and then stiff-armed Lee. The 13-yard touchdown run in the fourth almost looked too easy. As a blocker, McCoy did a poor job picking up safety Gerald Sensabaugh on the first Vick sack. But he came back and delivered a good block on linebacker Bradie James on a 15-yard Vick run. McCoy also took a screen pass 16 yards in the third.
Ronnie Brown - He played three snaps and had one carry for 4 yards. Dion Lewis was involved in a car accident and didn't dress.
Owen Schmitt - The Eagles didn't use him much. Schmitt played six snaps. He was targeted once - on a third down in the red zone - but the pass was incomplete.
Jason Peters - As I mentioned on Twitter, my favorite part about Sunday night games is Cris Collinsworth's man-crush on Peters. But once again, Peters deserved it as he delivered both in the run game and the pass game. He moved Marcus Spears out of the way, opening up a lane for McCoy’s 21-yard run. He led the way on McCoy’s 6-yard run in the second. He blocked Jason Hatcher on McCoy’s 34-yard run. He took Spears out of the play on McCoy’s 9-yard run in the third and blocked him again on McCoy’s 6-yard run in the fourth. In protection, Peters blocked DeMarcus Ware one-on-one on the deep ball attempt to DeSean Jackson that drew a flag. He drove Mike Jenkins out of bounds on the Jeremy Maclin touchdown. And he did a great job one-on-one on Ware on Vick’s touchdown pass to Celek. One false start for Peters; otherwise, a pretty much flawless performance.
Evan Mathis - The best word to describe Mathis is reliable. When the Eagles moved Todd Herremans to right tackle, left guard became a concern, but Mathis has been a perfect fit. I didn't notice him having even a single issue in pass protection. He did a good job on Vick’s touchdown pass to Celek. And Mathis blocked Ratliff on McCoy’s 34-yard run. He made another nice block on Ratliff on the 15-yard screen to Celek. And Mathis blocked Ratliff again on Brown’s 4-yard run. McCoy ran right behind him on the 3rd-and-1 carry that picked up 3 yards. And Mathis had a nice block on Anthony Spencer on the screen to McCoy that picked up 16 yards. Great game all around.
Jason Kelce - Right now, I see two sides to Kelce. There is run-blocking Kelce, who punishes defenders, opens up holes for McCoy and consistently makes plays at the second level. Then there's pass-blocking Kelce, who still needs to improve in protection and got beat multiple times. Let's start with the good. He blocked Ratliff on McCoy’s 21-yard run early. He and Herremans blocked Frank Walker on the first Maclin touchdown. Kelce's athleticism was on full display on McCoy’s 2-yard touchdown run as he got to Bradie James and blocked him out of the play. He threw Sean Lissemore to the ground on McCoy’s 2-yard run in the second. He did a good job on Vick’s touchdown pass to Celek. He put a great block on Spears on McCoy’s 13-yard run in the third. He got to the linebacker on Brown’s 4-yard run. He did a good job in short yardage on McCoy’s 3-yard run on 3rd-and-1. He got in front of Keith Brooking on the screen to McCoy that picked up 16 yards. And he handled Ratliff on McCoy’s 9-yard run in the third. See? Lots of good there. But Kelce had some trouble with Ratliff on the 19-yard completion to Celek, even though Vick got rid of the ball quickly. Ratliff got past him, forcing Vick to scramble for 9 yards in the first. Later, Ratliff went around him, forcing Vick to take off for a 3-yard gain. He had trouble with Ratliff on Vick’s 18-yard completion to Avant. And Kelce was called for holding in the third, although it looked like a questionable flag. He also hit himself in the backside with the snap, but Vick recovered the fumble. Yesterday, Kelce had fun with the mishap, tweeting: Note to self: Know where @MikeVick is before you snap the ball. Like I said, Kelce did a lot of good things, but still has plenty of room to improve in protection.
Danny Watkins - The rookie is getting better every week. Let's start with the good. He did an outstanding job on Ratliff on McCoy’s 2-yard touchdown run, making one of the key blocks. He did a good job one-on-one in pass protection against Kenyon Coleman on Vick’s touchdown pass to Celek. He did a good job in protection on Vick’s 22-yard completion to Celek. Watkins and Herremans double-teamed Ratliff, opening up room for McCoy on his 13-yard run in the third. He and Herremans double-teamed Coleman on Brown’s 4-yard run. And he and Kelce double-teamed Ratliff on McCoy’s 22-yard run. Now, the room for improvement section: I’m not sure whose fault it was, but he and Kelce let Ratliff through, and he pressured Vick on a third-down incompletion in the red zone. Watkins had some trouble in protection against Lissemore, but Vick got rid of the ball on a short crossing pattern to Jackson. And Ratliff bowled him over on McCoy’s 3-yard loss in the red zone. Again, more ups than downs, and most of Watkins' errors occurred in the second half. I really like what I'm seeing from him in the run game.
Todd Herremans - Another excellent outing from Herremans. He and Kelce took care of Walker, one of only two players who had a chance to bring Maclin down on the first touchdown. He threw Coleman to the ground on McCoy’s 2-yard touchdown run. His block created room for McCoy’s 5-yard run in the second. He was good in protection on Vick’s 18-yard completion to Maclin. He got just enough of James on McCoy’s 22-yard run. He made the key block on McCoy’s second touchdown run, sealing Coleman on the edge. The only slight misstep was when Ware got past him to sack and strip Vick, but in fairness to Herremans, it looked like that was supposed to be a three-step drop. Herremans ended up recovering the fumble.
King Dunlap - He came in as an extra lineman on McCoy’s 2-yard touchdown run, lining up on the right side.
Brent Celek - He was the Eagles' leading receiver with seven catches for 94 yards. He looked like the Celek of old, catching a ball over the middle and dragging Brooking 7 yards for a 19-yard pickup. He beat James for a touchdown in the second and had an 8-yard catch on 3rd-and-5 on a play where the Cowboys only rushed two. As he's done all year, Celek showed up as a blocker too. He made the key block on Ware on McCoy’s 34-yard run. He blocked Coleman one-on-one on the deep pass attempt early to Jackson that drew a flag. Celek had some trouble blocking Ware one-on-one on Vick’s 18-yard completion to Maclin, but kept him away long enough. He was called for a false start in the third. Overall, an outstanding game.
Clay Harbor - He was on the field a lot, playing 37 of 70 offensive snaps, and had some impressive moments. Harbor blocked Ware one-on-one to the ground on Vick’s 22-yard completion to Celek. His block on Spencer was key as McCoy picked up 22 yards in the third. And Harbor blocked Spencer again on McCoy’s 9-yard run in the third. He was only targeted once, but looked good, picking up 11 yards on a screen in the fourth.
DeSean Jackson - He only had three catches for 31 yards, but if you think he didn't affect the game, you're nuts. As Vick pointed out, the Cowboys safeties played in another zip code, primarily because of Jackson's speed. From a numbers standpoint, he's going to have quiet weeks and monster weeks. That's the way it goes with a big-play receiver like Jackson.
Jeremy Maclin - He caught all three balls thrown to him for 54 yards and a touchdown. Maclin had a nice catch and run, taking a slant 24 yards on the first series. And he showed excellent patience, waiting for his offensive line on the first touchdown. I also liked Maclin's effort as a downfield blocker on McCoy’s 34-yard run.
Jason Avant - He just keeps making catches in the middle of the field. Avant had five grabs for 74 yards and is on pace for 70 catches and 941 yards, which would shatter his existing career highs.
Riley Cooper - He played eight snaps, but did not have a ball thrown his way.
Steve Smith - Smith was active, but played zero snaps.