Score one for the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.
If Jerry Jones' shrine to consumerism was meant to distract an opponent, then the spanking, brand new Cowboys Stadium worked like a charm on the Eagles last season.
The Eagles were blindsided by Dallas, 24-0, on their maiden voyage to Jones' palace and then six days later, 34-14, for good measure. With Sunday night's return trip to Arlington, Texas, upon the Eagles, some players are conceding that the sideshow may have had something to do with getting blown out.
"Maybe it was the whole Jerry's World thing," Eagles safety Quintin Mikell said. "I know that had something to do with it, especially the first game. Before the game, I'll never forget I was like, 'What the hell's going on? They got girls dancing on top of the thing.' It was crazy."
Eleven months have passed and Mikell and other Eagles said that Cowboys Stadium's scantily clad, gyrating cheerleaders and other bells and whistles won't distract them from the task at hand. A more important break, however, may have been the nine days the Eagles had to prepare for Dallas.
Under Andy Reid, the Eagles are 18-1 when they've had as much time or more to prepare for an in-season opponent. The one loss: to the Patriots in the 2004 Super Bowl. The last time the Eagles were coming off a Thursday night victory, they had beaten the Cardinals on Thanksgiving and were heading on the road for a December divisional matchup. They upset the New York Giants, 20-14.
For all the twists and turns, the preseason prediction that the Eagles would have to outscore opponents to win has pretty much remained true. They average an NFL second-best 28.7 points per game and are tops in the league in yards per game (400.7).
Quarterback Michael Vick has taken the reins from Kevin Kolb and is having an MVP-worthy season. Despite taking an increasing number of hits in the last month, Vick has thrown for more than 300 yards in three of his last four games.
Vick's top target is LeSean McCoy, who leads all NFL running backs with 67 receptions. The second-year player has gained more than 100 yards from scrimmage in eight of nine games and is a constant threat in the screen game. McCoy is just one of five Eagles receivers with 30 or more catches, which is tied for first in the league.
Sean McDermott's defense doesn't allow a particularly large amount of yards, but when it does it breaks inside the red zone. Opposing offenses have scored touchdowns on 26 out of 33 trips inside the Eagles' 20-yard line, which is by far the worst in the NFL.
Missed tackling and execution are just two causes for this trend. The unit may receive a boost if defensive end Juqua Parker returns after missing two games. Samuel (knee sprain) will be missed. Backups Joselio Hanson and Trevard Lindley have been shaky filling in for the NFL's leader in interceptions.
Parker appears likely to play and should aid his counterpart, Trent Cole, who has only two sacks in his last four games.
Under Wade Phillips, the Cowboys strayed from their bread-and-butter running game, and the result was a dreadfully unbalanced offense.
In Phillips' last four games, Dallas ran the ball just 19 times per game and gained 2.9 yards a carry. Since Jason Garrett took over, the former offensive coordinator is calling run plays 34 times a game and his running backs are responding with 4.4 yards a tote.
Felix Jones has benefited most from the rededication to the run (60 carries for 229 yards in the last four) but Tashard Choice exploded for 100 yards on 19 carries in Dallas' overtime win over the Colts last week.
A year after allowing just 15.6 points a game, Dallas is surrendering a whopping 28 points, which is second-to-last in the league.
Dallas' pass rushers aren't getting to the quarterback and the Cowboys' secondary can't sustain coverage when opposing passers have extra time to throw. Defensive end DeMarcus Ware (91/2 sacks) is still a force, but pass-rushing linebacker Anthony Spencer (three sacks) has been a huge disappointment.