It was more than the bright blue-and-yellow helmets and jerseys that made you wonder exactly what you were watching. The men inside those retro uniforms yesterday at Lincoln Financial Field left us all shaking our heads, too.
Dressed in their circa 1933 attire meant to honor their 75-year history, the Eagles spent the afternoon making some history while simultaneously erasing the miserable offensive memories of Weeks 1 and 2.
Thanks to a quarterback who was booed in pregame introductions, a running back who barely practiced during the week, and a wide receiver who had the second-best single-game performance in franchise history, the previously winless Eagles rolled to a stunning 56-21 rout of the previously unbeaten Detroit Lions.
The only Eagles team to score more points in a regular-season game was the 1934 Eagles, who also had on the blue-and-yellow uniforms - helmets were optional - when they posted 64 points in a shutout victory over the Cincinnati Reds. (The 1995 Eagles registered a 58-37 playoff win over the Lions.)
After scoring just one touchdown en route to losing their first two games, the 2007 Eagles scored touchdowns on their first five possessions against the Lions and put up a franchise-record 42 first-half points while scoring on six of their first seven possessions.
"Well, it was definitely needed," quarterback Donovan McNabb said after shedding the bulky brace on his surgically repaired right knee and delivering perhaps the best performance of his nine-year career.
McNabb completed 21 of 26 passes for 381 yards and four touchdowns, compiling a perfect passer rating of 158.3 for the first time in his career. His 80.8 percent completion percentage was a career best, and his 18 straight completions from the 8-minute, 12-second mark of the first quarter to the 3:08 mark of the third quarter were a single-game best.
"Coming off two losses where we just weren't playing as ourselves, we had to come out here and really make an explosion," McNabb said.
The quarterback, after making some controversial remarks during an HBO interview that aired Tuesday, was the target of some boos as he came through the inflatable helmet on the field during pregame introductions.
"I didn't pay much attention to that . . . so I didn't feed off that," McNabb said. "It didn't bother me at all because the majority of those boos turned to cheers as the game continued on."
Crowd reaction changed quickly as McNabb, Brian Westbrook and Kevin Curtis proved to be the explosive concoction the Eagles' offense was missing in the team's first two games.
After second-year defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley got the defense started on the right track with a 7-yard sack of Jon Kitna to start the game, the Eagles' offense took the field and went 56 yards on four plays.
Westbrook had a career-high 221 yards of total offense before leaving with sore ribs in the third quarter. He scored on runs of 25 and 5 yards in the opening quarter after practicing just one day because of a sore left knee.
"Coming into this game, Donovan knew his deficiencies in the last couple weeks and the rest of us were not getting it done," Westbrook said. "All of us pointed at ourselves. We didn't go around saying that the offensive line wasn't doing their job and Donovan did the same thing. He worked his butt off in practice, and we didn't even have too many incomplete passes. Donovan was putting the ball in the right spot for the receiver all week, and that just rolled over into the game."
Curtis was unquestionably the primary beneficiary of McNabb's accurate passing, catching a career-high 11 passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns. When he scored on a 68-yard pass with 3:04 left in the first quarter, the Eagles went up by 21-7.
McNabb and Curtis teamed up two more times in the second quarter on touchdowns of 12 and 43 yards as the Eagles took a 35-7 lead with 11:32 left in the second quarter. Even Curtis was stunned when nobody covered him on the 43-yard score down the left sideline.
"I thought by the cornerback's reaction that the ball had been thrown to the middle of the field," Curtis said. "I thought it was in the air somewhere else. When I turned and looked back to the ball, I was kind of surprised to see it, to tell you the truth."
The Lions roared briefly in the second quarter with consecutive touchdowns, including a 91-yard connection from Kitna to Roy Williams that cut the Eagles' lead to 35-21 with 5:01 left in the half.
The Eagles had an immediate answer in the form of a 43-yard screen pass from McNabb to Westbrook for a touchdown. Westbrook broke three tackles and the Lions' will on that play.
"We sure didn't contain [Westbrook]," Williams said after catching nine passes for 204 yards in a losing effort. "Thirty-six had a monster day. I've never seen anything like it. He's all-pro. I wasn't a believer in him at first, but I'm a Brian Westbrook fan now."
Williams also admired how the Eagles played when they absolutely needed to win.
"I think they just came out, and they had a chip on their shoulder," the star receiver said. "They were 0-2. They're upset, mad about everything, and they've got a lot of people doubting their quarterback and doubting their defense, especially with [Brian] Dawkins and [Lito] Sheppard out. I felt we could have taken advantage of that."
Instead, the Eagles' defense had a deceivingly good day even though they gave up some huge plays, including 446 passing yards. Sean Considine came up with a big interception at the end of the first half, and the Eagles sacked Kitna nine times, which was tied for the second-highest sack total in franchise history.
"Like I've said before, you're never as good as you think and never as bad as you think in the NFL," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "Things get carried away, and they snowball."
At least on this historic day, the giant snowball of concern heading straight for the Eagles' season melted away just a little bit.