The Philadelphia Eagles used the New York Giants as a foil tonight, serving notice to a national television audience that they are the team to reckon with in the Eastern Division of the National Football Conference.
The depth of talent the Eagles displayed as they won their first three games for the first time since 1954 boded ill for the rest of the division.
Despite the 35-3 thrashing of the Giants, Coach Dick Vermeil wouldn't suggest the Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys have moved to the forefront of the division. "Oh, no, that's not true at all," Vermeil said, but he wasn't convincing.
He didn't try too hard to downplay his team's accomplishments after someone quoted sportscaster and former coach Hank Stram as saying, "the Eagles are a good team, but they are not a great team."
"He may be right," Vermeil said, "but we're 3-0 and that's all I care about now. I don't know of a 'great' team in the league. Maybe Pittsburg is. I think Los Angeles has the capability to be."
Ron Jaworski threw three touchdown passes. Wilbert Montgomery ran for a score, caught a touchdown pass among seven receptions for 67 yards and rushed for 87, mostly on a 45-yard run from scrimmage that set up a score.
Jaworski said that Sid Gillman, the onetime head coach for several NFL teams who now develops the Eagle offenses, told him on the sideline, "You are the best quarterback in the business."
"And to think of the great ones he has worked with," Jaworski said. "I can't say enough about Sid's trremendous help to me. He has given us so many various informations to work with. We're going after people now. We're aggressive, like his old days in the American Football League.
"He gives me confidence. Inside I feel I can complete 100 passes a game."
Bermeil, always the perfectionist, was a disappointment that the Eagels weren't able to run more.
"The Giants shut us off pretty good," he said of 148 yards gained on the ground. "We had to throw and we did it out of some running formations, like the I formation."
"I think Wilbert (Montgomery) ought to have 100 yards every game he plays.
The Giants were good against the rush. If I had the game to play over, I'd have different running formations for Wilbert."
The Giants gained only 83 yards rushing. Phil Simms tried 49 passes, completing 21 for 184 yards while failing to produce a touchdown.
In winning, the Eagles stepped out to a full-game lead over the Cowboys (2-1) and moved two games ahead of the Giants and Redskins (both 1-2) and three over the Cardinals, whom they play on Sunday in St. Louis.
Vermeil said the Eagles have "more good talent this year, they are disiplined, and have a developed a personality as a team."
"If you had seen them practice on Thursday and Friday you would have known they were going to win tonight. Sid Gillman said to me, 'They worked their a- off.' He was surprised at how hard they went for three hours each day.
"Everybody has been waiting for them to go flat, but they were very excited tonight. It gives me more confidence in attacking an opponent. It doesn't matter now what down we throw on; we believe we can complete the pass.
"I believe we can score if we do well on first or second down. Third down is tough these days with all the different defenses."
Jaworski echoed Vermeil's confidence."Gillman spoon fed me for a long time," he said. "This year he feels he can turn me loose, and I love it."