ROB RYAN unsheathed his sword, planted the hilt in the ground at his feet and, with all of his considerable might, fell on it.
The Eagles shredded Ryan's defense last night for 495 yards, almost 200 more than the Cowboys' average as the NFC's stingiest, and 21 more points than usual. The 34-7 final actually might hide exactly how well Andy Reid and his Eagles prepared to carve up the Cowboys.
"It all comes down to coaching," Ryan said. "Andy Reid was reading my mail. He kicked my ass. I've got to be smarter than this."
Ryan called for blitzes early, and they generally were picked up or evaded.
Eager to limit speedy sideline threats DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, he left the middle of the field open.
Tight ends Brent Celek and Clay Harbor, possession receiver Jason Avant and running back LeSean McCoy combined for 194 of the Eagles' receiving yards.
Jackson, who chafed at Ryan's preseason remarks - he called the Eagles the "all-hype team" and said the Cowboys would "kick their ass" - caught just three passes for 31 yards but served as a marvelous decoy.
Michael Vick evaded the blitzes, hit hot receivers and checked down to eviscerating running plays. He was 21-for-28 for 279 yards, ran seven times for 50 yards and committed no turnovers. Vick had the Eagles up, 21-0, 20 minutes into the game.
Once again, blitzing Vick, especially when he is well-prepared, can be deadly, Ryan learned.
"I called a crappy game . . . I was too aggressive early, and it killed us," Ryan said. "You're out of the game. You're scrambling the rest of the game to even be competitive."
Ryan's competitiveness is what got him so much attention. Like his twin, Jets head coach Rex Ryan, and his daddy, fabled Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan, Rob Ryan is not afraid to spout off.
This week, after Jackson said it was inappropriate for Ryan to crow, Ryan said he would relish any contact with Jackson and would seek to injure him.
He will not fear spouting off in the future: "Hell, I got my ass kicked. It's not the first time I've said something and gotten my ass kicked. Hell. I don't say anything that I don't really believe. Hopefully, this will be the last time it happens."
Ryan did not believe the Eagles were motivated by his words, recent or past. He believed Reid, now 13-0 coming off a bye, outsmarted him.