They scored early and often here Sunday night and never looked back, using the running of tailback LeSean McCoy to coast to a 34-7 triumph over the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field that further jumbled the NFC East standings.
“We just started fast,” Eagles quarterback Michael Vick said. “That was our mind-set. We wanted to come out and set the tone, set the tempo.”
With their second straight win, the Eagles improved to 3-4 and moved into a second-place tie with the Cowboys and Washington Redskins. Each of the three teams is two games behind the first-place New York Giants, who haven’t always resembled an overwhelming favorite in the division but suddenly find themselves with some breathing room with their 5-2 record.
The Eagles are pleased just to be back within shouting distance of the division lead after so many things went so wrong for them in the season’s early stages. Their post-lockout shopping spree and “dream team” declaration in training camp made them the talk of the league entering the season, but also put a rather large target on them that made things easy for critics when they stumbled early on. Reid’s job security, the Eagles’ defensive tactics and the team’s roster-assembling methods all came under intense recent scrutiny.
But on this evening, at least, things were every bit as dreamy for the Eagles as they’d originally envisioned. McCoy ran for a career-high 185 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. Vick threw for 279 yards and two touchdowns. The Eagles didn’t punt until the fourth quarter and had no turnovers.
“The turnovers are the things that kill you,” Reid said. “We were able to do a better job there.”
And on a night when Jim Johnson, the team’s late defensive coordinator, and former cornerback Eric Allen were inducted into the franchise’s honor roll during a halftime ceremony, the defense bottled up the Cowboys, pitching a shutout until allowing a 70-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tony Romo to wide receiver Laurent Robinson with just less than 13 minutes remaining and the Eagles leading, 34-0.
Rookie tailback DeMarco Murray ran for 74 yards on eight carries for the Cowboys but had far too little help. Romo threw an interception and had a relatively modest 203 passing yards. The Cowboys had 12 first downs and 267 total yards on offense. They also lost linebacker Sean Lee to a wrist injury, cornerback Mike Jenkins to a hamstring injury and punter Mat McBriar to a foot injury. It wasn’t clear how serious any of those injuries was, although none of the three players finished the game.
“They just played better than we did,” Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett said.
The competitive portion of the evening was completed quickly as the Eagles jumped to an early lead on Vick’s touchdown passes to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and tight end Brent Celek, sandwiched around McCoy’s first touchdown run. In Reid’s 13 seasons, the Eagles are 13-0 in games immediately following their bye.
“I’m proud of my guys for how they played,” Reid said.
The Eagles beat the Redskins at FedEx Field before their bye week to end a four-game losing streak and keep their season from unraveling any further. This matchup with the Cowboys began a string of three straight home games, with the Eagles knowing they remained in a precarious position if they wanted to have any chance to live up to their oh-so-lofty preseason expectations.
They wasted no time getting things going Sunday night, scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions. Vick connected with Maclin for a 24-yard gain with a quick throw on a slant pattern on the Eagles’ second offensive play. McCoy provided a 21-yard run on the drive’s fourth play, and the Eagles got into the end zone when Maclin weaved his way around Cowboys defenders for a 12-yard touchdown after catching a screen pass from Vick.
The Cowboys were undone by a holding penalty and a sack on their opening drive, and the Eagles were back at it. McCoy had gains of 11 and 34 yards on consecutive running plays to give the Eagles a first down at the Dallas 2-yard line. He carried the ball into the end zone from there on the next play.
“I just want to prove myself,” McCoy said. “I have the offensive line to do it. I have the players around me on offense.”
Murray, coming off a team-record 253-yard rushing performance in a win over the St. Louis Rams, seemed to get the Cowboys moving with a 26-yard dash on a pitchout. But Romo threw an interception soon thereafter on a tipped pass that was grabbed by Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Vick zipped a third-down pass to wide receiver Jason Avant for a 20-yard gain to the Dallas 9. Celek got open in the back of the end zone against Cowboys linebacker Bradie James on the next play, and caught Vick’s pass for a 21-0 lead.
The Eagles got the ball back and moved into scoring position again, but had to settle for kicker Alex Henery’s 23-yard field goal in the final two minutes of the first half. It was 24-0 at the break, with the Eagles amassing 20 first downs and 324 yards on offense in the half to four first downs and 94 yards for the Cowboys. Henery added a 26-yard field goal in the third quarter, and McCoy ran for a 13-yard touchdown a little more than a minute and a half into the fourth quarter.
“They’re a good football team and we weren’t up to the task tonight,” Garrett said.