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.
Eagles 34, Cowboys 7.
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.
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.