Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
PHILADELPHIA -- All the talk in the offseason was about how Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb would finally have enough weapons around him to do some serious damage. But I don't recall Leonard Weaver's name coming up a lot in those conversations.
On Sunday, the former Seahawks fullback made like a seasoned tailback, racing through the Giants' once-vaunted defense. The Eagles waited exactly three plays before unleashing Weaver -- and he responded with a 41-yard touchdown run. Weaver, a non-factor in the running game for much of this season, finished with eight carries for 75 yards, helping to lead the Eagles to a 40-17 win over the Giants.
The dominating win put the Eagles in a first-place tie with the Cowboys in the NFC East -- and those two teams will meet next Sunday night at the Linc. For now, we have to consider the Giants an afterthought in the division race. Quarterback Eli Manning played his worst game of the season -- and that's saying something based on his performances against the Saints and Cardinals. It's not as if the Giants were going to keep up with the big-play Eagles anyway, but Manning's two first-half interceptions were inexcusable. He set up the Eagles for two touchdowns -- not that their offense needed much assistance.
Weaver, who signed with the Eagles during free-agency last March, was caught off-guard by his heavy involvement in the running game. He said there were no signs during practice last week that he would be an important part of the game plan.
"It was kind of a shock at first," Weaver said. "During the week, I really didn't run the ball. It felt good to know that Andy Reid and [offensive coordinator] Marty [Mornhinweg] would trust me in that way and trust me enough to give it to me a couple times."
Weaver was supposed to assume a larger role in pass protection because of the absence of Brian Westbrook (concussion), but Reid and Mornhinweg decided to turn him into a playmaker. Once again, the Eagles lost the time of possession battle -- because they kept scoring so quickly. The Saints provided the league with a blueprint for shredding the Giants' secondary two weeks ago, and the Eagles followed directions superbly.
For starters, the Giants' safeties can't cover anyone in space -- especially someone with DeSean Jackson's speed. The Giants had just trimmed the Eagles' lead to 16-7 with 1:54 left in the first half. On the next play from scrimmage, Jackson froze Giants safety C.C. Brown with a slight inside fake and then cut upfield for an easy 54-yard touchdown to put the game out of reach. The Giants didn't get any push up front on the play, allowing McNabb plenty of time to deliver a perfect pass.
"All week in practice, we knew that if they ran a Cover 2 on that play, it was going to be great for us," Jackson said. "We run that play a lot and I cross the field. So I faked the cross and rode it back out, there was nobody else there and Donovan made a great throw."
McNabb immediately pointed at Mornhinweg, who called the play. It was an afternoon where pretty much everything worked for the Eagles -- and that's why Reid singled out his offensive and defensive coordinators after the game.
"That was a heck of a call," Reid said of the touchdown pass to Jackson. "Donovan was fired up because [the Giants] played it just like we hoped they would play it. Sometimes those things work out. Marty had a good feel on it, he and Donovan had talked about it, and it was a great job on both their parts."
Perhaps the most demoralizing part of Sunday's loss for the Giants was being dominated at the line of scrimmage. The Eagles' patchwork offensive line blew open huge holes for Weaver and rookie running back LeSean McCoy. The two of them were so effective that no one missed Westbrook, a player who has had huge games against the Giants. And Eagles right tackle Winston Justice was so effective against Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Tuck that reporters may finally stop asking him about the infamous '07 game in which McNabb was sacked 12 times.
For now, the Giants are a team without an identity. They're still in the thick of the playoff race at 5-3, but they've effectively blown their margin for error during a three-game losing streak. And at least for one week, they're sitting behind both the Eagles and Cowboys in the division race. It's far too early to bury them, but they're not a good team right now.
"It's a complete embarrassment and disappointment," said linebacker Antonio Pierce after the game. "We didn't tackle, we gave up big plays, we didn't cover. We're not communicating. We all have to look at each other in the mirror and we all have to make a change, because what we're doing right now is not working."
After two subpar efforts from McNabb, he was 17-of-23 for 240 yards and three touchdowns against the Giants. For unknown reasons, the Giants used one-on-one coverage against Eagles tight end Brent Celek -- with very limited success. Celek made safety Michael Johnson think he was going to cross his face before cutting his route upfield to make a 17-yard touchdown catch early in the first quarter.
Celek, who had four catches for 61 yards, has quietly emerged as one of the top tight ends in the NFC. He'll have a hard time being voted into the Pro Bowl because of the likes of Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten, but he certainly belongs in the conversation.
Now, the Eagles will try to complete a three-game sweep of their division rivals. That loss to Oakland seems like a long time ago -- and that's a really good thing for Philly.