And so it continues.

The Eagles did what they were supposed to do last night by easily beating the listless Browns, 30-10. They'll go to Washington next week with their season still alive. When you consider where the Birds stood just four short weeks earlier, that's astounding - like watching the president duck those shoes that were hurled at his head.

The Bengals debacle feels as if it went down eons ago - doesn't it? - as if it happened to some other team in some other, long-forgotten season.

Before last night's game, I was watching Pardon the Interruption when Michael Wilbon started talking about the Eagles as if they'd already crushed Cleveland. "We all know they're going to beat the Browns," he said confidently.

A month ago, in the wake of the Cincinnati game, hearing something like that would have made Eagles fans insane. Now, the idea that the Birds can (and will) beat teams they should defeat doesn't sound so crazy.

"We're playing some pretty good ball right now," Brian Dawkins said. "We are a very, very confident group, and we're looking forward to this next game."

As well they should. When the Eagles play the ever-regressing 'Skins on Sunday, they'll enter the game as a team on a remarkable upswing.

And so, amazingly, it continues. The Eagles have life and confidence and a shot to make the playoffs. Given how this crazy, unpredictable season has gone, that's no small thing.


Opening drive:

Four runs, four passes, and a 63-yard drive that culminated in a beautiful touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb to Kevin Curtis. Forget their two front teeth. All Eagles fans want for Christmas is exactly that kind of balance.

Asante Samuel: That was an awfully impressive interception return for a touchdown. You could almost hear Lito Sheppard thinking, "That used to be me."

Donovan McNabb: The interception aside, he had another good game. He threw for two touchdowns and 290 yards. Even better, McNabb completed 74 percent of his passes. Maybe the Baltimore benching really did clear his head.

The defense: OK, so the Browns aren't so hot. Still, when you surrender only three points, you've earned those fat paychecks.

Brian Dawkins: Weapon X passed Harold Carmichael for the most games played in franchise history with 181. Whether or not he returns next season, he will be fondly remembered.

Jason Avant: He had his first career 100-yard game. Avant is quickly becoming the anti-Reggie Brown. Speaking of . . .

Reggie Brown: Street clothes are a really good look for him.


Wildcat/gimmick plays:

Um, on third and goal, they decided it was a good time to let DeSean Jackson play quarterback? Really?

End-of-the-first-half disaster: First the Eagles wasted a ton of time and nearly exhausted the clock. Then they ran the ball and failed to punch it in. Then McNabb threw an atrocious pick. And, to top it all off, they got a penalty for not having enough men on the line. Wow. That sequence was a special kind of awful.

"I've gotten my 15 minutes of fame for the last 40 years," Frank Olivo said.

And so he has. Olivo - otherwise known as the Santa Claus Philadelphia (accidentally) pelted with snowballs 40 years ago - was at the Linc last night for the anniversary of that unfortunate and over-publicized event. The game was the nightcap to Olivo's long day. He spent the morning talking to WIP-AM 610, the afternoon speaking with ESPN's Mike Tirico, and the early evening recounting the tale on NBC10.

"Every year something comes up where the media mentions it," Olivo said. "It's snowballed every year since it happened."

A perfect choice of words.

We all know that Santa was in the wrong place at the wrong time - a victim of being in proximity to a bad team in the throes of a horrible season. But if we must be subjected to the story each and every year - if people around the country insist on calling us villains for the way we treated the fat man in the red suit - the least they could do is ask some tough questions. For example, where are all the fire trucks and video games and Big Wheels that so many kids asked for but never received? And where the hell is that puppy I requested 25 years ago?

If you ask me, Kris Kringle had it coming.

Rest in peace, Arena Football League. You too, Jon Bon Jovi. . . . HBO's documentary Breaking the Huddle: The Integration of College Football premieres this evening at 10 o'clock. The program will chronicle the integration of football in the South.