NEW ORLEANS - Two days before Christmas, the Eagles got a huge gift. They got to play against the New Orleans Saints' secondary.
To their credit, the Eagles took advantage and shredded one of the league's worst pass defenses, with wide receivers Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown both having big days in the Eagles' 38-23 victory. Each caught six passes, with Brown scoring on a 31-yard strike and Curtis scoring on a 7-yard slant from Donovan McNabb, as well as on a touchdown recovery of McNabb's first-quarter fumble in the end zone.
Indianapolis roasted Saints cornerback Jason David on the opening night of the regular season, and the Saints' pass defense has been under fire ever since. New Orleans entered yesterday's game 30th in the league against the pass, giving up almost 250 yards through the air per game.
And when the Saints' only solid cornerback, veteran Mike McKenzie, suffered a knee injury during Curtis' touchdown recovery, the Eagles zeroed in on the lackluster replacements. The Eagles had seven pass plays of 15 yards or more against the Saints, averaging 11 yards per catch, with seven different receivers catching at least one pass.
"Looking at film, they've been hurt this year down the field on some double moves and some plays down the field," Curtis said. "Obviously, we were looking for some opportunities."
With 78 yards receiving Sunday, Curtis surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in receiving yards. In a season that's had more than its share of disappointments on offense, Curtis hasn't been one of them, backing up the Eagles' six-year, $32 million free-agent investment in him.
"Just having him here this season has really made me a believer in Kevin Curtis," Eagles back Brian Westbrook said.
Said McNabb: "Kevin's a guy you definitely have the confidence in. You put it anywhere around him, he'll catch it. . . . He's a guy that's getting comfortable in the offense. We've kind of benefited from this off-season of spending time together working, and look forward to getting better and better as this thing goes on. Same with Reggie."
Curtis' hustle put the Eagles on the board, after McNabb had the ball popped out of his hands following a 40-yard scramble. The ball bounced into the end zone and Curtis somehow came up with it amid a sea of Saints' jerseys.
"I was blocking my guy, but I think I'd seen on the screen that the ball popped up," Curtis said. "It seemed like they had a bunch of guys back there, but it seemed like they all went for the ball at the same time. I was just kind of following the play in case the ball sprung out of there, which it did. I just tried to get down on it. Kind of lucky."
With McNabb making plays with his feet, and Westbrook having another 100-yard rushing day, the Eagles were as complete offensively as they've been all season.
"Our big concern today was protecting Donovan, and we thought we could do some things if we could protect," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "I thought our offensive line stepped up. They blitzed a lot. I thought Thomas Tapeh did a nice job of picking up some key blitzes in there off of the weakside. We handled the pressure well."