If the Eagles front office is doing nothing more than sitting around playing fantasy football, as wise-guy cornerback Asante Samuel suggested last week, you at least have to give them credit for getting the right starters on the field in Week 9.
Maybe the extent to which the Eagles dominated the Cowboys 34-7 on Sunday night was part fantasy, part mirage - as compared to most of the season prior to the bye - but it was nothing more than what the organization thought it had when the team came out of training camp. It might even turn out to be real. We'll see about that.
"I hope everybody put Eagles on their fantasy team this week," Samuel said with a laugh. "You'd be stacking up some points. You better listen to me."
Samuel picked a bad week to second-guess the way the defense was put together, though, or to wonder what management was thinking about when it brought in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha to make for a crowded cornerback position. So crowded, in fact, that the team was looking around to see what it could get in trade for Samuel.
If Samuel is bothered about being on a defense with this much pass-defending talent, he will just have to get used to it. Because the way the Eagles defense operated Sunday night was a carbon of the blueprint the front office and coaching staff drew up. Keeping it from getting crumpled by a better team - or maybe just a team better prepared for that day's game - could be difficult over the final nine weeks. For this night, however, it was almost perfect.
"I guess we might look at this as a turning point," Samuel said. "I guess we're jelling together a little bit, and that's Andy's motto - come off the bye week, get a little streak going and play well. That's what we did tonight."
By the end of the third quarter, when the Eagles were holding a 27-0 lead and driving for their final touchdown, the defense had limited Dallas to five first downs and a total of just 27 offensive plays to that point. Only two of those plays started in Eagles territory, which is almost as amazing as the time of possession, in which the Eagles had a 20-minute advantage.
How did that happen? It happened because the formula of a strong pass rush combined with suffocating coverage finally came fully together. This will be a game in which the attention goes largely to the offense, and Michael Vick was so sharp and so perfectly augmented by the running of LeSean McCoy, that is understandable. But it is also a game the Eagles would have won if the offense had done far less.
As for the fantasy football part of the night, Samuel did pretty well but not great. In the first half, Tony Romo completed just four passes, but two of those went to receiver Laurent Robinson, covered by Samuel, for 11 yards each. That's two fantasy points for the other guys.
The beauty of what the Eagles have assembled, however, when it works, is that teams don't pick on Samuel that often and try to force the ball to some other receiver. That happened when Romo threw into double coverage in the second quarter, and Asomugha came away with his second interception of the season.
No night is perfect, but as Samuel suggested, the Eagles built a commanding fantasy lead and didn't do so badly on the scoreboard, either.
"You can't just say everything is fixed like that because we had one good game," Samuel said. "We've got nine more left, and it's going to be a challenge every time."
This week, as the Eagles head into another good test, against the Chicago Bears, you'll hear a lot less about the flaws of the wide-nine alignment of the defensive line. If it seemed that line coach Jim Washburn tightened the line against Washington, then it also seemed that the Eagles were playing the wide gaps again against Dallas. The Cowboys couldn't take advantage, though, and, having fallen behind quickly, they abandoned their running game quickly.
Of course, that's part of the master plan, too, and the offense held up its end this time.
There's no guarantee that what was on display from the defense on Sunday night will be seen every week, or even be seen again. Until the garbage time of the fourth quarter, it was hard to find any fault at all. They were that good.
If it does turn out to be fantasy football, or at least a fantasy defense at times, then give the credit where it belongs - to the little guys sitting in the offices upstairs playing their little game. Asante Samuel might not like the feeling of being one more piece moved around the game board, but at the moment he's been placed in just the right spot.