Slow-starting Eagles stomp on Seahawks

Posted: November 02, 2008

SEATTLE - If the Eagles were world-class sprinters rather than professional football players, you wouldn't have to worry about false starts.

To the contrary, this is a team that seems more than willing to give the opposition a head start. That's what the Eagles did at the beginning of this season, when they lost three of their first five, burrowing a hole to the bottom of the brutal NFC East.

For the second straight week today, the starter's gun was fired and the Eagles accelerated in reverse. While the Eagles picked up just 6 yards on their first three offensive series, the Seattle Seahawks needed just one play to score a touchdown.

"Nobody panicked on the sideline," Eagles coach Andy Reid said after a 26-7 victory. "Everybody just kind of did their thing and settled down. I've been around teams that get a little nervous when things aren't going well. This crew is always encouraging each other, and they did the same thing today."

By the end of the cloudy afternoon at Qwest Field, the Eagles' remain-calm-all-is-well approach had yielded a lopsided victory over the Seahawks that included a 349-yard passing performance by Donovan McNabb, a record day from reserve tight end Brent Celek, a touchdown catch by an offensive lineman, and a dominating, four-sack performance by the defense.

"Things just weren't clicking" early in the game, Reid said. "I thought [the Seahawks'] defense did a nice job. They came out and played a little tighter coverage than what they had shown before . . . and I thought they were driving the ball well. It took a little bit of time to figure things out, and we were able to do a couple things."

McNabb, under heavy pressure, misfired on his first seven pass attempts and was 3 for 13 at the end of the first quarter. He actually completed a fourth pass, but that was to Seahawks safety Deon Grant in the end zone, which ended the Eagles' only trip across the goal line in the opening quarter.

"In this game, you're going to have the highs and lows," McNabb said. "Unfortunately, the last two weeks we've had the lows right at the beginning of the game, but we were able to pick it up and take off from there."

Liftoff for McNabb and the offense took place on their first possession of the second quarter, a series that started with a Seahawks penalty and ended with McNabb's connecting with Reggie Brown on a 22-yard touchdown pass that tied the game with 6 minutes, 33 seconds left in the first half.

That series started a string of 13 straight completions by McNabb, who finished the day 28 of 43 for 349 yards and two touchdowns. After the opening quarter, he was 25 for 30 for 292 yards, which is the kind of performance the Eagles will need Sunday night if they hope to beat the visiting New York Giants.

The Eagles took their first lead with 40 seconds left in the first half, thanks to a guard-eligible pass from McNabb to Todd Herremans. McNabb completed 6 of 6 passes on the drive, including a 26-yarder to Kevin Curtis that got the ball down to the 1-yard line.

It's well documented that the final yard has been the longest one for the Eagles this season, but this time they came up with a different approach. Before the first-down play, referee Mike Carey announced that No. 79 was an eligible receiver.

Every other time this season, No. 79 was nothing more than a blocking tight end, trying to keep defenders from coming off the edge. This time, Herremans was something more. He was the primary receiver, and the play worked to perfection when Herremans broke free for a 1-yard score. It was the first touchdown by an Eagles offensive lineman since Bob Gonya caught a 4-yard pass in 1934.

"We ran it in practice, and we had a lot of fun with it," McNabb said. "I told him, 'If we get a certain type of defense, you will be wide open.' I came out on the fake, and they jumped on our main guys. Todd broke free, and his eyes got as big as a Seahawk."

That quote probably would have worked better if the opponent were the Seattle Whales, but it was a nice effort by the quarterback.

The best efforts of the afternoon were by the Eagles' defense and Celek, who set a single-game team record for tight ends with 131 receiving yards.

After cornerback Lito Sheppard was burned for a 90-yard touchdown pass by Koren Robinson on the Seahawks' first play, the Seattle offense did a disappearing act.

Take away those 90 yards and the Seahawks finished the day with 143 net yards and nine first downs.

"That was just that one play," safety Brian Dawkins said, acknowledging that he should have made the tackle long before Robinson reached the end zone. "I think we did a good job of weathering the storm."

Dawkins was talking about this game, but the Eagles have also survived a shaky start to this season. Four weeks ago, they were 2-3 after a loss at home to the Washington Redskins. They had more losses than the other three teams in the division combined, and people were cueing that infamous Jim Mora Sr. tape in which he mocked a question about the playoffs.

Now the Eagles have reached the halfway mark with a 5-3 record. The injury-depleted Dallas Cowboys fell into last place in the NFC East, and the Eagles have a date Sunday night with the defending Super Bowl champion Giants.

"We kind of hit a wall a little bit and lost some games we should have won," McNabb said. "What you are seeing now is a team that has learned from those mistakes. We know that we are going into the meat of our schedule, and you want to hit this thing rolling. With us at 5-3, we're in a good position, but we have to focus on who we're playing next and not the standings."

That shouldn't be a problem with the Giants being the team on the schedule.


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.

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