Eagles kick off their favorite month with a win

There’s something about December that brings out the best in the

Philadelphia Eagles.

After two straight comeback wins in the fourth quarter, the

Eagles kicked off their favorite month by routing the undermanned

Atlanta Falcons 34-7 on Sunday.

The Eagles improved to 8-4 with their third straight victory and

are tied with Dallas for first place in the NFC East heading down

the stretch.

The Cowboys hold the tiebreaker because they already won in

Philadelphia, but the division title could be at stake when the

teams meet in Dallas on Jan. 3.

While the Cowboys have struggled in recent Decembers – 5-9 since

2006 – the Eagles have owned the month. They’re 28-11 in December

this decade, including 12-3 since ’06. Maybe it’s the cold air or

the anticipation of Santa’s arrival. Whatever the reason, the

Eagles seem to click when it counts.

“It’s that time of the year, that last quarter,” coach Andy

Reid said Monday. “If you’re still in the hunt, things get a

little faster, guys play a little faster and so on. That’s the

nature of the game. That’s where we’re at. It’s important that we

keep practicing the way we’ve been practicing and preparing the way

we’ve been preparing. The guys have been very focused the last few

weeks.”

Under Reid, the Eagles have always been a strong second-half

team. Overall, they’re 58-30-1 in November and December during

Reid’s tenure. That includes a 2-5 mark during his first season in

1999 when he inherited a wretched team and quickly turned the

franchise into a perennial winner.

Late-season success usually can catapult teams into the

playoffs. The Eagles have used their December dominance to reach

the postseason seven times in Reid’s first 10 years in Philly.

They’ve reached the NFC championship game five times and the Super

Bowl once.

“This is something that has been happening for us for years,”

quarterback Donovan McNabb said of the second-half success. “You

go through the first part of the year where you are getting that

chemistry and getting that timing and things going. This is the

time of the year that people remember. You never remember

September, October. You always keep your mind on November, December

and January because, if you have that opportunity, you want to go

into the playoffs and hit it rolling.”

The Eagles certainly are streaking right now. They had no

trouble dominating the short-handed Falcons. Despite missing star

running back Brian Westbrook and dynamic wide receiver DeSean

Jackson, the offense racked up 380 yards and scored 27 points.

The defense shut down Atlanta’s depleted offense and chipped in

with a score on Sheldon Brown’s interception return.

McNabb threw for 238 yards and a touchdown, continuing his

strong season. McNabb has thrown for 2,427 yards, 16 TDs and only

six interceptions. His QB rating (94.7) and completion percentage

(61.0) are both the third-highest of his career.

Even Michael Vick contributed in his return to Atlanta. Playing

in the stadium where he once starred, Vick reached the end zone for

the first time in three years. He had a 5-yard TD run and later

tossed a 5-yard TD pass.

The Eagles now shift their focus to an important game at the New

York Giants (7-5) next Sunday night. The Giants beat the Cowboys

31-24 to jump back in the division race.

Of the three teams, the Cowboys have the toughest remaining

schedule. They play home against San Diego (9-3) and the Eagles and

on the road against New Orleans (12-0) and Washington (3-9).

The Giants are home against the Eagles and Carolina (5-7) and at

Washington and Minnesota (11-2).

After visiting New York, the Eagles host San Francisco (5-7) and

Denver (8-4) before finishing at Dallas.

Notes: Reid said both Jackson and Westbrook could return to

practice this week and neither has been ruled out for Sunday’s

game. Westbrook has missed three straight games after suffering his

second concussion in a three-week span. Reid said Westbrook hasn’t

had any headaches and will be tested before practicing. Jackson sat

out the win over the Falcons because of a concussion. Reid said

he’s doing well and has to meet with doctors. … LT Jason Peters

bruised his shoulder and suffered a possible stinger against

Atlanta. He left the game, but Reid said he kept pestering him to

return. … CB Ellis Hobbs, already on injured reserve, had surgery

for a herniated disk on Monday. … WR Jordan Norwood was released.

CB Joselio Hanson is eligible to come off the suspended list and

likely will take his roster spot.