This Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles emphatically proved that they are the most dominant team in the NFC. Crushing the New York Giants 27-6, they clinched their fifth consecutive playoff berth and fourth consecutive NFC East championship, and became only the third NFL team to win their division in 11 games since 1978. In the process they made Andy Reid’s hundredth game as head coach a special one – he is now tied as the winningest coach in franchise history.
The first half of the game was a defensive struggle, with the score at halftime Eagles 7, Giants 6. New York’s controversial rookie QB Eli Manning had a solid half, including two 50+ yard bombs, each of which yielded a field goal, but in the second half the Eagles stifled him, sacking him twice, intercepting him once, and holding him to only six completions.
Eagles defensive end Jevon Kearse showed himself worthy of his nickname "The Phreak," capping off a brilliant day by blocking a Giants punt, which prodigal bird Hugh Douglas recovered inside the 25 yard line. The entire defense played solid football and kept their opponents out of the end zone in consecutive games for the first time since 1990.
Star receiver Terrell Owens was shut out in the first half when his lone reception fell prey to an offensive holding call, but he responded with a powerful second half, coming up with several crucial catches, including a powerful diving grab in heavy coverage to convert a 3rd and 9. After the game, he said, "This is just the first step in a long process. We want to get to [the Super Bowl in] Jacksonville. Regardless of our record now, once we get in the playoffs, that’s where the real ballgames begin."
Donovan McNabb continued in career-season form, finishing with 244 yards and one TD in the air. He scored the first half’s lone touchdown on a 5-yard scramble, and threw for an electrifying 34-yard score to Brian Westbrook in the second half. Westbrook also rushed for one touchdown, and offered some advice, "If you can stop me from scoring, you’ll have an excellent chance of winning, but…"
In moving to a record of 10-1, Philadelphia remains among the league’s elite- Pittsburgh and New England also went to 10-1 with commanding victories on Sunday. Next week will be an important test for the Birds on both sides of the ball, when the red-hot Green Bay Packers come to Philly looking for some revenge for last year’s season-ending collapse on 4th and 26.
From here on out, the Eagles are focused on reaching the playoffs healthy, and with home-field advantage. Success requires that they tighten up the ship a bit and address some of the sloppiness and mistakes that have kept them flat in the first half. If they can achieve a complete game, they will be a juggernaut in December.