Rich Hofmann: This test was more like a quiz for Eagles

Quintin Mikell knocks pass away from Seahawks' John Carlson.
Quintin Mikell knocks pass away from Seahawks' John Carlson.
Posted: November 03, 2008

SEATTLE - Sheldon Brown has always been the toughest grader in the school. The man would have been a beast teaching English Comp 101, leaving papers littered with red circles and big X's and "argument doesn't follow" and then the dreaded "see me" underlined.

Brown is hard to impress before January. He is impossible to impress on the first weekend in November. He is the only one who will really volunteer the truth on a day when the Eagles beat the Seattle Seahawks by 26-7 - that is, that the Seahawks are playing with a backup quarterback and just aren't very good right now.

"That's cool," said the Eagles' right cornerback, after a win in which they forced Seattle to punt 11 consecutive times at one point.

"But they're beat up. They're banged up. They're kind of in a tough situation - they were rallying the troops, trying to find and figure their way. They're searching.

"We'll really see where we're at this week," Brown said.

This week. The New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field. Sunday night football. Truth-telling.

For a while here, the 7-1 Giants have been the name-that-must-not-be-spoken around the Eagles. After all, the Eagles have had their own problems, falling into last place in the NFC East, losing their first two division games to the Cowboys and Redskins.

But now the Eagles have won three games in a row - and if they didn't exactly have to beat the '85 Bears in the process, well, there is no such thing as the '85 Bears in the NFL anymore. They started off painfully slowly yesterday against the

Seahawks, kept their wits about them in a noisy stadium, and then cruised to the finish, bringing their record to 5-3.

The Cowboys, now with four losses, have fallen behind them and into last place in the division. This thing is still likely to convulse a couple more times before the end of the season, because that is what the NFL is anymore, a season full of convulsions.

"It's all about getting into the playoffs and peaking at the right time. That's what New York did," Brown said. "That's the goal, and we are getting better, no doubt about that. But

we're not consistent."

They gave up a 90-yard touchdown pass to Koren Robinson on the Seahawks' first offensive play, when Lito Sheppard fell and then Brian Dawkins got outmaneuvered trying to make the tackle downfield. But that was it. As safety Quintin Mikell said, "They got a play on us and we said, 'No more.' "

The Eagles allowed virtually nothing else after the first series. The Seahawks had only nine first downs for the rest of the game, and three were in late fourth-quarter garbage time.

"We knew what we needed to do," defensive end Juqua Parker said. "We stopped the run. They got their one big play on us. After that, we just played aggressive football . . . By far, I would say this was our best game. But we've got to continue this next week when we play the Giants. We've got to continue bringing the pressure."

The Eagles are set up decently here. They needed to win this game and they won it pretty easily. They needed not to overlook the Seahawks in a league that brutally punishes the farsighted, and they didn't overlook them.

"I like the way the team's playing," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "We have a heck of a game coming up here, two good teams playing each other."

Was he worried about overlooking Seattle?

"I wasn't, but you never know until you get here," said Reid, who said he would sleep during the cross-country flight home but also acknowledged that he would squeeze in the start of his Giants week somewhere in flyover country.

"I've got a couple of notes in my bag," he said.

This game will be instructive but not conclusive. It is still too early for conclusive. But it will be good for this Eagles team to be presented with a big challenge in a big atmosphere after San Francisco/Atlanta/Seattle. It will be good for this defense, especially, because it has been so schizophrenic.

"We're doing well, setting ourselves up - but we have to keep getting better," said linebacker Omar Gaither, who had six tackles and a sack yesterday.

"We haven't said anything about the Giants - I think this is the first time I've mentioned them. Of course, it's a big game - no bones about it. We're going to prepare like we always prepare and it's going to be a knock-down, drag-out."

The Giants' offense has been interesting. It has played only three games against defenses that weren't in the NFL's bottom dozen in points allowed. Of those three, they scored 16 points against Washington, 14 against Cleveland in their only loss, and 21 against Pittsburgh (with only one touchdown).

Of course, you can make a similar argument about the Eagles, who have padded their defensive numbers against the Rams and Seahawks. It is why the games now take on added meaning, why they can be more revealing.

Given everything, the Eagles have restored some order here. But don't even try to suggest anything more than that around Sheldon Brown.

"We still can play a lot better," he said, pointing everyone who would listen toward next Sunday night. *

Send e-mail to

hofmanr@phillynews.com,

or read his blog, The Idle Rich, at

http://go.philly.com/theidlerich.

For recent columns go to

http://go.philly.com/hofmann.

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