While the Eagle's defense continued its strong play in a 23-16 win over the Vikings on Sunday, Donovan McNabb and the offense showed that they might be one step closer to regaining their form as serious competitors in the NFC.
Jim Johnson's unit did its part in the game by shutting down rookie Adrian Peterson, as they held the league's leading rusher to 70 yards on 20 carriers and kept him away from the end zone, but McNabb and his receivers took center stage and connected on big plays all day.
Reggie Brown, who finished the game with a career high 8 receptions for 105 yards, had the first highlight reel catch of the game in the second quarter, when on third-and-twelve he caught a pass over his shoulder in tight coverage and managed to drag his toe to stay inbounds. Brown's acrobatic catch kept the drive going and the Eagle's responded by capitalizing in the red zone, as McNabb hit Brian Westbrook with a 6-yard touchdown pass.
On the next Philadelphia drive, Kevin Curtis caught a short slant on the first play and turned it into a 33-yard gain before getting caught. The catch put the Eagles inside the twenty and once again they took advantage of the opportunity, as Westbrook scored on a 1-yard run. Curtis also had a spectacular one-handed catch over Cedric Griffin that went for 31-yards.
“We needed those big plays down the field to kind of soften the linebackers up and make them play honest,” said Westbrook, who finished the game with two touchdowns and 92 total yards.
Even Greg Lewis, who came into the game with one catch this season, showed signs that the old Eagles offense might be on its way back. On Philadelphia's first scoring drive, Lewis had a 50-yard catch on third down that put the Eagles inside the red zone.
“Its kind of been a staple of our offense in the last two years, being able to establish that big play, and we haven't had that in the past couple weeks,” said McNabb, who completed 23 out of 36 passing attempts and finished the game with 333 yards passing and a touchdown. “To get it back definitely helped in so many ways.”
Although they started the game in a rhythm, the Viking's offense could not keep pace with Philadelphia's passing attack.
With starter Tavaris Jackson on the bench with an injury, former-Eagle Kelly Holcomb threw a touchdown to Visanthe Shiancoe on Minnesota's first drive, but he found the yards were hard to come by afterwards. Holcomb was replaced by Brooks Bollinger in the third quarter following a punishing sack from Juqua Thomas, and Bollinger struggled against the Eagle's talented defense also. Combined, the two quarterbacks finished the game with 14 completions on 26 attempts for 182 yards.
Trent Cole was also a big reason that Minnesota's offense could not get on track. Cole continued to be a terror at defensive end and racked up eight tackles along with two sacks, giving him a career-high nine quarterback take-downs on the year.
Andy Reid took note of how well Cole, Thomas and the rest of the front seven played.
“Defensively, any time you can hold two good running backs down to the yardage that we did, I think that's a tribute to the guys and the way they played up front,” Reid said.
With his team holding a record of 3-4 after the win, Reid made sure in the post-game press conference that the most important aspect of the game was not forgotten.
“Big plays are important no matter how you look at them, in particular down the stretch, in a close game.”
Andrew Pluta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.