Local fans of the Philadelphia Eagles have their rituals after driving up to Lincoln Financial Field. At the rest stops along the Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway, fans clad in Eagles gear high-fived and celebrated as only Eagles fans can do.
Yesterday the mood was beyond upbeat after the Birds totally dismantled the Arizona Cardinals, 34-7. They were talking about the career day of quarterback Carson Wentz, and generally showing excitement as much for what is to come as for what they had just seen.
“We have the (NFC East) Division in a stranglehold,” one guy wearing a Ron Jaworski throwback jersey said at the Hap Farley Service Plaza in Mays Landing. “There is no reason we can’t make the playoffs and make some noise when we get there.”
And this was even before the Dallas Cowboys, who had been tied for second place in the division, and the New York Giants, who many had picked to win the NFC East, both lost to fall to 2-3 and 0-5 respectively.
Nobody could blame the giddy Eagles supporters for their enthusiasm. After going 7-9 and missing the playoffs last year, they are off to a 4-1 start, sit atop the NFC East and the entire Conference.
It wasn’t just the third straight win that got everyone so fired up. It was the way the home team completely dismantled the Cardinals.
Wentz, the second year quarterback, had one of his best days as a professional, throwing four touchdown passes, including three in the first quarter on the way to a 21-0 lead.
The Eagles, who lead pro football in third down efficiency scored on a 59-yard Wentz-to-Torrey Smith pass after a third-and-eleven conversion to Zach Ertz kept the drive going. Another third-and-eleven to Alshon Jeffrey proceeded a TD pass to Ertz; and a spectacular 72-yard TD pass to Nelson Agholor in the third quarter came on third-and-19.
“We know we are a special team, we just have to show it each week”, Wentz told reporters after going 21-for-30 passing for 304 yards.
The Eagles defense also came up big, holding the high-powered Arizona offense to 279 total yards. All-Pro Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald extended his streak of games played with at least one reception to 200, the third-longest streak in NFL history. The Cardinals, whose record dropped to 2-3 with the loss, were never seriously in the game.
The Birds won’t have long to enjoy the triumph. On Thursday night they face a Carolina Panthers team that is just two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance and is also 4-1.
But on Sunday afternoon, the Eagles fans heading back to their South Jersey homes would have none of it.
“Super Bowl!!! Why not?” said one.
Yes, its only October, and the injury-riddled Birds suffered another potentially big loss when offensive lineman Lane Johnson went down with a head injury and will most likely miss the Carolina game. But given the Eagles’ performance yesterday, it was hard to argue against the sentiment.