Much of the Delaware Valley, and maybe much of the NFL, found itself peering under the video review hood last night, reassessing its opinion of the now-5-1 Eagles.
Hey, maybe this team is pretty darned good, after all.
Who saw this 27-0 walloping of the NFC East rival New York Giants coming? The Eagles' first shutout since Dec. 1, 1996? Five sacks in the first half? A 20-0 halftime lead over Eli Manning and the G-men, who came in on a three-game win streak in which they'd won by an average margin of 18?
"The big difference (from) our other games we've played this year is we executed, in all phases … it wasn't a spurt here and a spurt there," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "It was a consistent football game from start to finish."
That missing Eagles running game? Pretty sure they found it. With Nick Foles frequently operating from under center, LeSean McCoy had 149 yards on 22 carries. Center David Molk said putting Foles under center foiled the "nut stunt" with the nose guard that the Giants used so effectively against the Eagles a year ago – made it harder to read the positioning of the running back.
The only two clouds visible in the all-black sky were Foles' two foolish interceptions, and the left knee injury that took Darren Sproles out of the game late in the third quarter, after he'd gained 39 yards on 7 carries, including the crisp 15-yard touchdown that gave the Birds a 27-0 lead. Obviously, a serious injury to Sproles, the Eagles' early season catalyst, would take quite a bit of shine off last night's result.
Overall, though, it was almost as if the Eagles saw Dallas go into Seattle Sunday afternoon and win, and said, "OK, here's what we have."
Put Bill Davis's defense in black uniforms and suddenly it's a machine. During the week, several Eagles defenders promised an approach pretty much the opposite of the previous Sunday's fourth-quarter foldup, in which the Birds sat back in a zone and nearly blew a 27-point third-quarter lead.
Turns out, they meant it.
Malcolm Jenkins noted that in the Giants' win streak, Manning was basically running a 7-on-7 drill, not getting pressured.
"He's had clean windows," Jenkins said Thursday. "He hasn't really gotten hit in the pocket. He's gotten rid of the ball really, really quickly, so that eliminates any rushes or pressures that come. It's definitely going to be about trying to get him to get to his second or third read."
In last night's first half, Manning was getting smothered by the time he got to a second or third read. He had been sacked only seven times in the first five games; the Eagles did it three times in one series, which spanned the end of the first quarter and the start of the second. And they really didn't blitz much.
Connor Barwin sacked Manning twice in the first half, another time early in the fourth quarter, giving Barwin six sacks in the last three games.
"I think Billy Davis called a great game, because (Manning) obviously was confused," Barwin said. "Our secondary did a tremendous job in jamming the receivers, giving (Manning) different looks."
Middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans played with that groin problem that bothered him all week and looked downright spry. But then, who didn't, in the most dominating Eagles defensive effort of the Kelly-Davis era?
"Absolutely," Davis said, when asked if this is the best his defense has played in his 24 games here, including last season's playoff appearance. "It's very hard to do in the NFL. It's rare. It's a team shutout, it takes everybody to get those. The guys did a great job stopping the run early. We took away some quick throwing lanes, and that kind of got Eli holding the ball a little bit.
"The pass rush was really on their game today. They rushed well as a group. We moved it around a little bit, who was rushing, who wasn't, just got 'em looking at the rush. That helped the coverages."
"Very, very poor performance," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin. "I take full responsibility for it. And there's not a lot to say about it. Not a lot to say ... We were excited about coming down here and playing a meaningful football game. But we don't have anything to show for it."
It's hard to pick a turning point in a game the Eagles led 10-0 at the end of the first quarter, an evening when they went into halftime with a 274-89 yardage edge. There was, however, a point when everyone knew the Giants weren't going to make a game of it. That point came after Foles' second on-the-run interception, which gave New York the ball at the Birds' 21a couple minutes into the third quarter.
The Giants got a touchdown called back on a hold, but overcame that to move to the 7, first and goal. A Peyton Hillis run gained a yard. Manning threw incomplete to tight end Larry Donnell, with Jenkins covering. Then Manning dumped to Victor Cruz, who was tackled at the 3 by Nate Allen and Brandon Boykin.
Fourth and goal. Manning had Cruz in the back of the end zone, but this was the kind of night it was for the Giants: As Cruz went up for the high throw, extending over Boykin, he tore his right patellar tendon. The ball went past his hands, and Cruz crumpled.
"Oh it's incredible," Coughlin said, when asked about losing Cruz. "Huge loss."
Then Foles and the Eagles drove 97 yards in eight plays for the Sproles touchdown, and it seemed safe for the Lincoln Financial Field crowd to spend the rest of the evening figuring out ways to hector disconsolate Giants fan.
The Eagles' front seven really had been playing pretty well all season, but not this well. Right tackle Justin Pugh, the Giants' best o-lineman before last night, a guy who grew up an Eagles fan in Bucks County, repeatedly was turned inside out.
"It's probably the worst game I've ever played, hands down," Pugh said. "It's not even close."
The Giants couldn't run on the Eagles (rushing yardage was 199-81 when Casey Matthews recovered a Daniel Fells fumble with 3:20 left), and they couldn't buy Manning enough time to test the Eagles' secondary deep.
"The defense was dominant for us," tight end Zach Ertz said. "(Offensively), the running game was the key. We've said all year long, 'We need to get the running game going, we need to get the running game going.' Tonight, we did that."
Fellow tight end James Casey scored his first touchdown as an Eagle, Casey left uncovered with 9:10 left in the second quarter, from a three-tight-end set.
"I really can't take a lot of credit for the touchdown; it was a great play design by coach Kelly and (offensive coordinator Pat) Shurmur. I was running wide open. Nick just made a great play and saw me," Casey said.
"We want to start faster, and we did that today," said Foles, who finished 21 for 34 for 248 yards, two touchdowns and the two interceptions.
"The guys up front just blew 'em off the line all game," said McCoy, whose average of 6.8 yards per carry against New York was just a tad better than the 2.9 he'd been averaging coming into the night. "As a running back, you start getting in your groove, you start picking them apart," when the holes are that big. "The guys up front just totally dominated."
The Eagles head into their bye week tied for the best record in the NFL, at 5-1, with Dallas and San Diego. Unlike a week ago, nobody is questioning whether they belong in that company.
Birdseed: After Darren Sproles left with a knee injury late in the third quarter, tight end and emergency running back Trey Burton got his first NFL carries (5, for 10 yards). If Sproles is seriously injured, we'll probably see a running back move, perhaps Matthew Tucker from the practice squad. Chris Polk could be back from his hamstring reinjury after the bye; Polk told NJ.com last night that he expects to be … The Giants were 2 for 14 on third down … Casey Matthews and Emmanuel Acho again alternated at inside linebacker in place of Mychal Kendricks (calf strain) … Bradley Fletcher forced the fumble, recovered by Matthews, that kept the Eagles' takeaway streak alive. It's now 19 games ... Chris Maragos won't be credited with the Eagles' third blocked punt in the last three games, because the punt still went 34 yards, but he definitely got a finger on a Steve Weatherford offering with 2:39 left in the first half ... The Giants took 10 penalties for 74 yards, including a Will Beatty hold that called back a touchdown.