Eagles 30, Lions 13
Until Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles hadn't played a football game in this town in 20 years. As far as the demoralized Detroit Lions and their deflated fans were concerned, it wasn't long enough.
With Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb, the NFL's leading passer, running for one score and completing 17 of his 23 first-half throws for 211 yards and two touchdowns, the undefeated Eagles opened an early 21-point lead and cruised to their third relatively easy victory of the season, 30-13 in front of 62,472 at Ford Field.
"Our guys can see what a championship-caliber squad is like," Lions Coach Steve Mariucci said. "We just played one."
The Lions came into this game hoping to get off to their first 3-0 start since 1980. But with starting cornerbacks Dre Bly (knee) and Andre Goodman (thigh) injured and inactive, McNabb capitalized early. He threw short and deep with near impunity and completed passes to eight players by the time the final gun sounded.
The Eagles' defense also had its best game of the early season, blitzing frequently and getting constant pressure on quarterback Joey Harrington from newly acquired defensive end Jevon Kearse. In the second half, Philadelphia relied on David Akers to provide the necessary points to end any hope for a Detroit comeback. Akers made field goals of 26, 47 and 39 yards for a 30-7 advantage with 10 minutes 30 seconds left in the game, and many fans started heading to the parking lots.
The Eagles, 3-0 for the first time since 1993, had one serious scare. On the first play of the fourth quarter, 335-pound defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson smacked into McNabb from his blind side, causing the quarterback to fumble an instant before his arm went forward. The Lions recovered and McNabb lay on the ground for several seconds before getting up and trotting back to the bench. He did not miss a play and said afterward he was not hurt.
It's been a big week for McNabb. On Thursday, his wife, Raquel, had the couple's first child, a girl they named Alexis, but he managed to keep his focus on football, to a point. "My first main focus was to make sure my family was healthy," he said. "The second was that I know I have a job to do. The baby was an exciting event for my family, but then I was able to go to work and focus in on what I had to do."
McNabb's numbers -- 29 of 42 for 356 yards and no interceptions -- could have been gaudier. With his team leading by three touchdowns late in the first half and facing third and seven at its 15, McNabb launched a deep pass over the middle to a wide-open Freddie Mitchell, running in full stride two steps ahead of the closest defenders at the Lions 40. The ball was on target for what should have been an 85-yard touchdown, but Mitchell couldn't hold on.
The Lions must have been jolted out of their early stupor by that near disaster, because Harrington smartly started to throw primarily to talented rookie wide receiver Roy Williams on Detroit's last possession of the half.
The Lions got the ball at their 36 with 1:27 left in the second period, and Harrington completed four passes for 63 yards on the drive -- all to the seventh overall pick from Texas. The last pitch and catch was the best -- a 12-yard touchdown pass with Williams beating veteran safety Brian Dawkins a yard into the end zone with 20 seconds left in the first half to cut the lead to 21-7.
McNabb led his team on touchdown marches of 88 and 87 yards in the first half, sandwiched around a gift fumble by Harrington late in the first quarter as the quarterback fled a collapsed pocket. No one touched Harrington two yards behind the line of scrimmage, but his own knee knocked the ball out of his hands, and it was recovered at the Detroit 29 by defensive back Roderick Hood.
"It's not like someone hit me or they brought pressure and we missed the protection," Harrington said. "That was my fault. I felt terrible because I put the defense in that situation."
McNabb wasted little time taking full advantage, especially when he got single coverage on wide receiver Terrell Owens on first down. Cornerback Fernando Bryant was badly beaten down the right side, and McNabb's 29-yard touchdown throw to his new favorite wideout opened a 14-0 lead.
"To be able to put a touchdown on the board that fast, that was a big thing," McNabb said. "It's a confidence factor we need to keep feeding off."
Owens, acquired from San Francisco in the offseason and a frequent critic of Mariucci when both were with the 49ers, did most of his talking Sunday with his performance -- six catches for 107 yards and that touchdown. He has five scoring catches in his first three games.
Williams, one of the classiest rookie wide receivers to come into the league in a long time, also distinguished himself for the often inept Lions. With nine receptions for 135 yards and two touchdowns, he became the first Lions rookie wide receiver since 2000 to have a 100-yard receiving game. He also threw his first NFL pass, a tight spiral early in the fourth quarter that fell incomplete.
Williams gave the crowd another thrill midway through the fourth quarter when he caught a quick pass over the middle on third and 10 at the Eagles 29. Getting the ball at the 15 a step in front of cornerback Lito Sheppard, Williams broke three Philadelphia tackles, the last attempt by Hood, and had his second touchdown catch of the day, cutting Philadelphia's lead to 30-13 when a two-point conversion attempt failed.
"They're a championship team," Williams said of the Eagles. "They're not 17 points better than us right now, but at this point in time they are better."