Eagles Living Up to Hype
Donovan McNabb is off to the best start of his career, Terrell Owens leads the NFL in touchdown catches and Jevon Kearse has been a dominant force on defense.
No wonder the Philadelphia Eagles are 4-0 for the first time since 1993.
So far, the Eagles have lived up to their preseason hype, winning each of their games by double digits and leading for all but 7:36 this season.
They relaxed and enjoyed this week off, a stark contrast to last year when they opened with two straight losses at home -- in a brand new stadium, no less -- then spent the bye week trying to figure out how to save their season.
“There are highs and lows during the season and everything has been rosy right now,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “I think you develop that personality all the way through the season, through the highs and the lows. The first quarter of the season has been great, but you have three more quarters left. We’ll see how it all works out by the time we’re done.”
Except for injuries -- four key players already are lost for the season -- the Eagles couldn’t have imagined a better start. McNabb and Owens are playing like they’ve spent their entire careers on the same team. As a result, Philadelphia has one of the league’s most potent offenses, averaging 27 points and 387 yards per game.
McNabb leads the NFL with 1,168 yards passing and his quarterback rating of 110.5 is third behind Daunte Culpepper and Peyton Manning. McNabb has completed 68 percent of his passes (98-for-144) for nine TDs and just one interception, and also has run for two scores.
“The play-calling has been great. We’ve been able to execute the things we know and in doing that being able to ad-lib for different things,” McNabb said. “When you’re able to make adjustments due to coverage and fronts, and just go out and play football, it makes the game a lot easier. With T.O. here, and the rest of the guys stepping up their game, guys are making big plays for us.”
Owens, in his first season with the Eagles after eight years in San Francisco, has given McNabb the primary target the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback sorely lacked in his first five seasons. Owens has 26 receptions for 364 yards and six TDs, including at least one score in every game.
“I’ve always envisioned myself with a quarterback such as Donovan,” Owens said. “With Steve (Young), he got knocked out of the game early, late in his career and I wasn’t able to blossom with him. With Jeff (Garcia), he was limited with some of the things that he can do. With Donovan, I have all those things with one guy, so I’m just thrilled and blessed just to have him. When we go out on that field, we’re making each other better.”
Owens’ presence has allowed other players to emerge. Tight ends L.J. Smith and Chad Lewis have combined for 22 catches for 260 yards and two TDs, and running back Brian Westbrook has run for 351 yards and has 24 receptions.
“The rhythm and the chemistry is definitely flowing to where we want it to be,” McNabb said. “Everything we’ve done in training camp and in the off-season, it seems like it’s the same thing right now. We’re all on the same page and guys are very excited about what we’re doing. Hopefully we can continue this thing going.”
While the offense is thriving, the defense has been solid. The Eagles have given up just 55 points, with 26 being scored in the fourth quarter long after the outcome was decided. They’ve allowed 1,303 yards, but much of that also has come late in games.
Kearse, in his first season with the Eagles after five years in Tennessee, is back at his Pro Bowl form. He got all three of his sacks in Week 3 against Detroit, but has consistently pressured, harassed and rushed quarterbacks into poor throws and incompletions.
Kearse also is lining up at linebacker instead of left end in certain situations, causing nightmares for opposing offensive coordinators.
Another reason for the defense’s success has been the strong performance of cornerbacks Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown, who became full-time starters when Pro Bowlers Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor left after last season.
The Eagles aren’t used to stress-free bye weeks, having lost the game before a bye the previous three seasons. But this is a different team, one that has its best shot at finally going to the Super Bowl after losing the last three NFC championship games.