That huddled group above was what you expected early in the season, but were conditioned not to shortly after. Who they are now? Who knows?
Colin Cowherd didn't understand.
He knew what Herman Edwards was saying when he explained the root of the Eagles' demolition of the Cowboys Sunday night, equal parts Philly's mid-range passing game and clear running lanes, both opened up by a lax Cover 2 shell look, neither shut down by adjustments Dallas didn't make.
But Herd just couldn't get over one detail.
"Yeah," he said this morning on The Herd. "But I thought (Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan) was a smart guy."
Rob Ryan is that smart, as much or more than anyone the Eagles will see this season.
But Sunday night against the Eagles, Ryan couldn't bail on zone coverage, because forcing linebackers and corners into "Turn And Run" like they would in man would be tolling his own death knell. Even if he wanted to, or thought he had to, Ryan had to wonder whether anybody on his roster—or anyone's—could run with Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, individually or collectively.
That's the point, and the problem for opposing coordinators on their remaining schedule: The Eagles are this frighteningly tough to defend. Right?
Well, they were supposed to be.
It was supposed to start with personnel and the dynamism of the pieces in play. Between Vick's legs and Jackson's quicks, McCoy's vision and Maclin's reliability—hell, even Brent Celek seems useful these days—drafting a defensive gameplan should've been a pretty winless exercise.
Do you think the Eagle offense we saw Sunday will be the one we see throughout the season?
Except for the four times it wasn't.
Then was supposed to come scheme, just not this pleasant, run-centric surprise. Who'd have thought: After getting only 20 carries over two weeks (against San Francisco and Buffalo, both losses), McCoy logged career highs in carries the Eagles' next two times out (against Washington and Dallas). In the Birds' booming two-game win streak, it's been 58 carries, 311 yards and—some Eagles fans would argue—no coincidence.
A step further: It seems the Eagles have adapted, acknowledging that a creaky offensive line doesn't jive with the backyard football, "Blow the Top of Your Defense Off" vertical game—captured on any first play of Games 5-16 last year, and Games 1-5 in 2011—and adjusting.
The 700 Level noted today what we've been watching and thinking throughout this team's midseason rebirth, tapping shorter drops and quicker reads for the Eagles' recent success.
Still, those are tweaks. And even if tinkering can make that big a difference, it can't account for a few $250 million (the Eagles offseason spending total) questions:
What's taken so long?
If we're looking at sustainability, and the odds that the Eagles' Sunday night showing wasn't a fluke, you have to start there. You have to start with what changed Sunday.
Tough to say.
Based on the consistency you expect of the offense, project how the Eagles will finish the regular season:
It could be the Cowboys, battered and bludgeoned in countless ways. Whether you start with their shoddy secondary—an injury Mike Jenkins suffered Sunday has him shelved for three to four weeks, and Terence Newman has been hurt throughout training camp—or the physical/emotional draining New England's last-second win levied, it's not hard to see a team in tatters.
It could be the Eagles, rested and coordinated off a bye week. Jason Babin recognized how the break helped.
Said Babin after the game Sunday: "(Reid) could see the writing on the wall. He knew we were banged up. He said, 'Get some rest guys. Get away from here.'"
And every writer and talk radio head dropped Reid's "Then-12-0 Record After Time Off" factoid.
It could be a little of both.
But, in theory, it should be from now on what it was supposed to have been all along: all Eagles.
At least that's how you have to look at it today.
All that matters is who they're playing. And, if you peep the Eagles' upcoming schedule, who they're presumably beating. A combined 27-36 record. Four (New England, Chicago, Arizona and Miami) bottom 10 defenses. Three (Chicago, New York and Seattle) prime time tilts, of which the Eagles have won five of their last six. Two (Washington and Dallas) against teams they've already beaten.
It's a pretty perilous path, holding on-paper thoughts against practical hopes. The Eagles could always go all Boston Red Sox on us, rattling off the greatest middle of any season ever, bookended by all-time worsts.
But this—now—is all we have to go on.
Can't get over that?