PHILADELPHIA—When the Philadelphia Eagles play mistake-free football, they can be an elite team.
The Eagles didn't commit a turnover for the first time this season Sunday night. The result was a convincing 34-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys that suddenly thrust Philadelphia back into the mix in a jumbled NFC East.
"Turnovers kill in the National Football League," coach Andy Reid said Monday. "It's hard to win when you have the number of turnovers that we had had."
Sloppy ball security and poor fundamentals contributed significantly to a 1-4 start that had fans and media calling for Reid's job in Philadelphia. One fumble, one interception and one dropped pass were the difference in three of those four losses.
That's history now.
The Eagles (3-4) are just two games behind the division-leading New York Giants (5-2) and coming on real strong. Their dominating victory over the Cowboys (3-4) in front of a national audience certainly got plenty of attention around the league.
"Maybe this sleeping giant just woke up," former San Francisco and Detroit coach Steve Mariucci said on NFL network.
Tons of hype surrounded the Eagles after they added six former Pro Bowl players in the shortened offseason. It took time for the new guys to get acclimated and returning players also had to adjust to a new defensive coordinator and new offensive line coach without benefit of minicamps because of the lockout.
During training camp, many predicted this would be a much better team in the second half. They have to be to overcome that awful start and repeat as division champions.
"We don't have a winning record right now," Reid said. "We have to keep playing and doing well."
Next up for the Eagles is a Monday night matchup against the Chicago Bears (4-3) at Lincoln Financial Field. Then they'll host Kevin Kolb and Arizona (1-6) before a rematch at the Giants on Nov. 20.
It's no time to look ahead, though. That one-game-at-a-time cliche certainly applies to the Eagles this year.
"We still have a lot of work to do," quarterback Michael Vick said. "This is a win to be proud about and there should be jubilation throughout the locker room. We acknowledge the fact that we work hard each and every week and so we deserve to take a moment to reflect and enjoy this, but at the same time understand our position. We've got game two next week. The start of our new season."
Vick and Co. are clicking on offense. He was outstanding against Dallas, and LeSean McCoy ran for a career-best 186 yards as he continues to establish himself as one of the premier backs in the league. The Eagles scored on their first six possessions and went 4 for 6 inside the red zone.
"I think in the games that we lost, the offense looked pretty much the way we did (against Dallas)," Vick said. "Turnovers are things that happen. It's inevitable. You can't control them sometimes. They're going to happen. We catch good breaks, we catch bad breaks. We just have to keep rolling with the punches and I think that as an offense, we've shown that we're capable of getting it done week in and week out. You see what happens when you don't turn the ball over.
"We all know what happens."
A maligned defense didn't allow a touchdown until Tony Romo threw a deep pass to Laurent Robinson after the game was way out of reach. That's the second straight game in which the Eagles allowed just one touchdown.
Juan Castillo took a lot of criticism early on in his first season as coordinator after coaching the offensive line for several years. He made some adjustments, and has seemingly found the right way to use the new guys.
"We made tremendous strides to where we wanted to be and this week it just showed how hard we worked during the bye week as well as this week to get prepared," linebacker Brian Rolle said. "I feel like we'll continue to get better and better and we'll be a force to be reckoned with."