Eagles defeat Cowboys, 34-7

Posted: October 31, 2011

And in the seventh game, the Eagles were good.

Dream Team good.

In took six games, some of them brutally awful, but the squad many had expected finally arrived Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field. It couldn't have come at a better moment.

The NFL was put on high alert after the revived Eagles shellacked the Dallas Cowboys, 34-7, in a prime-time game that was anticipated to be an old-fashioned donnybrook between NFC East rivals.

"Eagles are back, and we're ready to play Eagle football," cornerback Asante Samuel said. "And we did that on prime time so everybody could see."

Instead of a tug-of-war, the Eagles' fast-break offense left spike marks all over Rob Ryan's defense. The Birds defense, lifted by the return of end Trent Cole, harassed quarterback Tony Romo into one errant pass after another. It was the second straight sound outing from coordinator Juan Castillo's unit.

And at the final whistle, coach Andy Reid - who after a 2-4 start had seemingly never been so close to seeing his tenure in Philadelphia come to an end - moved to a remarkable 13-0 in games after the bye.

"No idea," Reid said, trying to explain his perfect mark. "Seriously, I have no idea [why]."

The "rest" portion of the Eagles schedule is over. Having dug a hole for themselves, they must continue to tunnel out. They are 3-4, tied with Dallas and Washington in second place in their division, two games behind the New York Giants, who squeaked by the winless Miami Dolphins Sunday.

If the Eagles' balanced, nearly flawless offense plays as it did against the Cowboys, there is no reason to think the Birds can't catch the Giants, who face a difficult stretch over the next six weeks. The Redskins have lost three straight and are all but toast, and the Cowboys were pathetically wretched Sunday night.

The Eagles took it to them right from the get-go. Quarterback Michael Vick, in a performance that echoed his breathtaking Monday night showing at Washington last November, was the picture of precision, completing 21 of 29 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns.

On the first touchdown - a 12-yard pass to receiver Jeremy Maclin - Vick audibled to a perfectly-executed screen pass.

"A couple of those touchdowns were his calls," Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said.

"He did a heck of a job playing the quarterback position tonight."

Vick was so sharp in the first half that his passer rating was actually a shade higher than it was against the Redskins last season. He completed 13 of 17 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns and carried a 150.9 rating into the half. A year ago, Vick tallied a 150.7 first-half rating after completing 20 of 28 passes for 333 yards and four scores.

Brent Celek, increasingly becoming more involved in the offense, was his favorite target. The tight end caught seven passes for 94 yards and a touchdown. But Vick spread the ball to all his receivers, often hitting DeSean Jackson and Maclin with short or intermediate passes and allowing the track stars to pick up yards after the catch.

But the passing game was only half the story. On many other nights, LeSean McCoy would be the story. There's been a running argument this season that the third-year tailback has now entered the conversation as one of the top five players at his position. How about No. 1?

"Right now he's playing as well as any running back there is," Reid said.

Said McCoy: "I feel like I'm one of the elite guys."

McCoy had career-highs of 185 rushing yards and 30 carries and scored two touchdowns on the ground as he gutted Dallas' top-ranked run defense. He has eclipsed 100 yards rushing four times this season and has scored in all seven games.

The individual parts were not greater than the whole, however. As a team, the Eagles committed zero turnovers. Zero. Coming in, they had coughed up 17 and never had fewer than one a game.

"The games that we lost, our offense looked pretty much the way it looked tonight," Vick said. "Turnovers are things that happen. It's inevitable. . . . You just got to keep rolling with the punches."

The defense, meanwhile, forced an interception and the Eagles won the turnover battle for the second straight week. Nnamdi Asomugha's first-quarter pick of Romo came when the cornerback pulled in a tipped ball. A few weeks ago, that kind of bounce seemed to always go against the Eagles.

But when you can generate a pass rush as the Eagles did, you're going to get good bounces. Castillo tightened his defensive front on obvious run downs for the second straight game, and Dallas' running attack never got in a groove.

The ends, for the most part, were unleashed out of the wide nine and got after Romo early. Jason Babin dropped the quarterback on Dallas' first drive and added another sack later. The unit finished with four sacks overall. Romo never looked comfortable in the pocket.

Asomugha has now put together back-to-back outings that have warranted his big free-agent payday. Linebacker Jamar Chaney was the middle linebacker you may have remembered from late last season.

The Eagles exhibited the swarming defense Ryan was supposed to have on the opposite side of the field. The defensive coordinator riled the Eagles during training camp when he called them the "all-hype team" and guaranteed that the Cowboys would "beat their ass."

Buddy's boy didn't back away from those comments on Friday. He said, "If they need my motivation to get ready to play us, then we're going to kick their ass anyway."

Well, someone got kicked somewhere on Sunday night.

"He ate his words," Maclin said.


Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745, jmclane@phillynews.com or @Jeff_McLane on Twitter.

 

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