Nnamdi Asomugha (above) pulled in his second interception of the season in the Eagles' 34-7 win over Dallas. Better: His defense pulled off its second-straight scintillating performance -- enough to make you wonder who's pulling the strings.
Neither player said who fathered the Eagles' latest and greatest brainchild. Hell, when they described it -- of the defense that bore a 34-7 blowout over Dallas last night -- you didn't know whose they were alluding to.
"We played a lot of disguising (sic), we did a lot of different things internally with the DBs on the back end," safety Kurt Coleman.
"That's the main thing: We wanted to disguise everything. If (Tony Romo) gets a beat on what you're in, and who's guarding who ... he's gonna pick you apart," said corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
"If you can disguise and confuse (the coverages), it makes them hard to read."
What's that? Disguises? Complexity? Confusion? From a 2011 Eagle defense?
Any other night of the year, the Eagles would've been kidding themselves. But last night -- Mischief Night and 24 hours before Halloween -- they weren't laughing.
Not when they flipped the script on Dallas' 34-7 win over the Rams the week before. Not when they held the league's then-sixth-best passing attack under 200 yards. Not when they capped Oct. 23 hero DeMarco Murray at 74 yards on eight meaningless carries, and go-to tight end Jason Witten to only four catches on 12 targets for a harmless 28 yards.
They were dead serious then, when they breathed life into their season.
And no more need for a costume. What they proved they are last night -- a legitimate NFL defense -- they shouldn't hide.
Who do you credit most for last night's defensive showing?
That’s you saw with these Eagles (3-4) yesterday, more than you ever saw from the late and great Jim Johnson. Granted, he brought the heat with the best of ‘em, and pressure-cooked the better half of the league’s best teams for a decade-plus.
Maybe a little Bill Belichick, Johnson was never a David Blaine.
Last night gleaned a little of both, and brilliantly so.
That's what you saw with these Eagles yesterday, who rattled and bedazzled Tony Romo to the tune of a forgettable 18 for 35 moment that the Birds will love to live in. It seemed similar to what played out against Washington two weeks back, but it’s better.
It’s their second straight.
And with every one that follows, the likelihood of it being a fluke withers. With every one that follows, trust and credibility and longevity—none of which you thought you'd see this season—bloom.
Note that, in the quotes above, no mention was made of Juan Castillo, Jim Washburn, Andy Reid -- or "defensive consultants" rumored to have bye week invites waiting. No mention of who the performance came because of, or in spite of.
That complicates giving credit for last night, and lashes to whoever deserved them for the preceding five-week fiasco.
But it simplifies their prospects moving forward:
It means they can game plan. It means they can evolve. It means they won’t be a man down in NFL coordinator’s perpetual game of one-upmanship.
That means everything.
Those were the biggest concerns entering the season, more than Castillo’s promotion in and of itself. More than unconventional defensive line alignments and shoddy second lines and safeties that had you reaching to break the glass: Could Castillo adjust?
After last night, it seems someone can.
True: August gave us other ulcers.
But yesterday gave us relief.
However briefly, you didn’t worry about whether the defense would be so bad that the offense couldn’t overcome it. You didn’t worry about what would happen when the Eagle season passed cupcake aisle, and broached its meatiest months.
Watching last night, you wonder how you ever worried at all.
After two games of lights-out play, has this Eagle defense proven it's for real?
How that translates? Can the Eagles parlay a two-game win streak into a run worth remembering?
It's impossible to say. For all the promise of a win like this, it’s not enough to wipe away the skittishness of an erratic five weeks.
But it's a start.
And best of all, physicality was what finished the Cowboys (3-4). They bodied the Dallas up and down the field—much more than their four sacks let on—and made for the second half of a one-two punch of brains and brawn that makes the Eagles as imposing as anybody.
That will come in handy down the stretch, against the Patriots (Week 12) and Jets, Cowboys and Redskins (Weeks 15-17), against a team that can't take it, and three that will give it. That will come in handy down the stretch, against a stratified slew of opponents with haves (Chicago, New England, New York Giants, New York Jets and Dallas) as strong as its have-nots (Arizona, Seattle, Miami and Washington) aren't.
Even against opponents that have only scraped together a 27-36 mark, the Eagles will have their trails.
But last night they proved, finally, they'll have an NFL defense worth trotting out.