LANDOVER, Md. – This was a Mike Tyson-in-his-prime kind of knock out.
After plenty of jawing by both sides before the game, the Eagles opened the real action with a head-snapping, message-sending uppercut. It took 18 seconds.
They then poured it on the Redskins in a record-setting offensive display, using the bright lights of Monday Night Football to serve notice that the Eagles are a dangerous team that must be counted among the NFC’s elite as the season’s second half begins.
There is still a long way to go to the playoffs, but for now the Eagles are 6-3, and have already throttled the only NFC team with a better record, the Falcons. Monday’s 59-28 win pulled the Eagles into a tie with the Giants atop the NFC East. A showdown between the rivals looms Sunday in Philadelphia. The Eagles will roll into that game riding a defense that has steadily improved and an offense that looks downright volcanic.
If Monday’s game had been a fight, the Redskins would have been counted out after the first punch. Instead, with a full 60 minutes required, the Eagles kept delivering haymakers. After Michael Vick hit DeSean Jackson for an 88-yard touchdown on the game’s first play, Vick ran for a score, LeSean McCoy went in, and backup running back Jerome Harrison added a 50-yard score for a 28-0 lead before the first quarter concluded.
Redskins fans shouted their first cheer of the game when the referees announced the end of the period. On the next play, Vick launched a 48-yard rainbow to Jeremy Maclin to pump the lead to 35-0. It wasn’t just the score, but the ease with which the Eagles sprinted by the helpless Redskins. It took the Eagles just over 19 minutes of possession to ring up 45 first half points, setting a team record for most in one half.
By the time the Redskins got off the mat and got to punching back, it was too late. Donovan McNabb came up with some of the big throws that helped earn him a five-year extension reportedly worth up to $88, but the Eagles kept coming, smothering their opponents in a way the young team had failed to do earlier this year.
That the Eagles turned the game into a green-and-white highlight reel on the night McNabb got a lucrative extension, against a division rival that had beaten them earlier in the year, and after enthusiastic pre-game smack talk, surely made the victory that much sweeter for Eagles fans and their front office.
In a re-match against the one defense that had truly stifled the Eagles this year, Marty Morhninweg drew up a clever game plan that bought Vick time to throw, and gave his explosive receivers time to get deep downfield, taking advantage of their speed and the quarterback’s huge arm.
The results: the Eagles gained 592 yards, a team record. Vick threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns on just 20 completions and had a 150.7 passer rating; he ran for 80 yards and two more scores. His passing and rushing touchdown totals tied career highs. Four different Eagles caught touchdown passes. Cornerback Dimitri Patterson, in his second career start, added two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. Harrison, in his first extensive action for the Eagles, ground out 109 yards and one score.
The 87 points by both teams tied an Eagles record.
Both teams came out charged for the prime time game, scuffling, mostly shoving and talking, as the Eagles headed to their locker room following pre-game warm ups.
The Eagles turned talk to action on the game’s first play. Vick faked a hand off right and rolled left. Jackson raced past two defenders. Vick threw the ball some 63 yards in the air, and Jackson pranced backwards for the final 10 yards of an emphatic score, punctuated by a forceful spike.
The Eagles’ 28 first quarter points were the most the team has ever scored in the opening period. Vick’s first play bomb to Jackson was the longest play of either of their careers, and the Eagles lead at the end of 15 minutes was the largest for a road team in NFL history.
There were still 45 minutes left to play, but the game was over nearly as soon as it started. The Redskins absorbed the blow, but everyone in the NFC should get the message.