Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook may have missed time against the Steelers on Sunday, but it sure didn't matter much. The Eagles' defense dominated throughout and helped Philadelphia earn a 15-6 win Sunday.
Philadelphia's defense came up big with nine sacks and held the vaunted Pittsburgh offense to just 180 yards.
"Defensively, it was a phenomenal job," head coach Andy Reid said. "They were coming off a game they were disappointed in their performance. To rebound like that, I'm proud of them."
Thanks to constant pressure from the Eagles' front seven, Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was never able to find his rhythm. Six Eagles registered at least one sack over the course of the game.
Grasping to a 10-6 lead in the fourth quarter, the Eagles pressure got to Roethlisberger in the end zone, drawing an intentional grounding penalty which was enforced as a safety.
Philadelphia was coming off of a heartbreaking 41-37 loss to the Cowboys on Monday night, and few thought the Eagles would be able to get over the loss in time to win against a physical team Pittsburgh team.
Clearly, those doubters had not talked to Eagles' defensive end Juqua Parker.
"I got offended by a couple things, but I knew we were going to come back and bounce back after last week's game against Dallas." Parker said after the game. "I knew we had to come out and get the job done."
Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins was in vintage form, registering a sack and a forced fumble. Dawkins was criticized following a poor showing on Monday night against Dallas.
At 34, critics said Dawkins did not have enough left in him to play at the level the NFL has come to expect of him.
"I play the way I play," Dawkins said. "I don't know what a 34-year old is supposed to feel like or play like. I just know that I had to get to Ben, he was scrambling, and I had to make the play to do it."
While the defense was executing to near perfection, the same was not true for the Philadelphia offense.
The Eagles offense was unable to move down the field for the majority of the game. McNabb went 24 of 35 for 196 yards with a touchdown and an interception. During McNabb's absence, backup Kevin Kolb went two for three with an interception.
"We couldn't really get the ball down the field with the run game and then we had some breakdowns in pass protection." said veteran offensive tackle Tra Thomas. "There are a lot of things that we are going to have to correct, but we're glad that we hung in to get this win."
The offensive woes were not limited to the Eagles' side. The longest pass play of the entire game was a 21-yard hookup between Roethliberger and tight end Heath Miller.
"We didn't have all 11 guys on the same page." Steelers' receiver Hines Ward said. "They had our whole offense confused at times."
Still, the lone touchdown of the game belonged to the Eagles' backup runner Correll Buckhalter, whose dazzling 20-yard pass reception helped the Eagles pull away in the second quarter. With the pass, McNabb passed Ron Jaworski for first on the Eagles all-time touchdown list with 176 scores.
Brian Westbrook went out in the first quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. McNabb also took time out with a chest injury. Neither injury is expected to be serious, although Westbrook is scheduled to have a precautionary MRI on Monday.
The game was a classic old-school match between cross-state rivals.
"It was a slugfest." Eagles receiver Hank Baskett said. "We knew that this was a physical, physical team and we were going to have to come out because it was going to go down to the end. Thankfully we got the last punch in and we were able to give them a knockout blow and come out with the victory."
The Eagles will need to recover quickly. Next week the team travels to Chicago for a Sunday night match against a Bears team that is known for its punishing defense. Meanwhile, the Steelers go back home to face their division rival Baltimore Ravens.