They're still knocking on the door, seeking entry into the "on any given Sunday" middle class of the NFL, which in this case stands for Need Frontal Lobotomy if you thought the Lions were further along in their push toward respectability than their 2-0 start suggested.
"We saw how a team of a higher caliber than us performs," said veteran offensive lineman Damien Woody. "And you don't look at it as either disappointing or educational. You want the younger guys to look at it as both. But this reminds you of how far we need to go."
And the most glaring disparity was at quarterback.
McNabb coolly dissected the Lions' soft coverage, conveying a comfort that comes with six years' experience. His 80 percent third-down efficiency through the first half no doubt weighed heavily in Steve Mariucci's third-quarter decision to decline an Eagles holding penalty that would have created a third-and-13 situation at the Lions' 39, knocking Philadelphia out of field goal range if ...
There's always an "if" with these guys, isn't there?
Mariucci's decision to pretty much give the Eagles three points indicated a lack of faith in his defense's ability to stop McNabb on a crucial play.
Isn't it nice to have a quarterback who inspires such resignation on the opposing sideline?
"I was watching them from the sidelines," Woody added, "and it's a beautiful thing to see when a quarterback is in perfect sync with what everybody wants to do. I saw that in New England with (Tom) Brady and you see that with Donovan. But it's something that comes with time and experience."
McNabb has three years on Joey in the maturation process. He should be the more polished, more precise West Coast offense practitioner right now.
But it was Year 3 when the early glimpses of greatness emerged with McNabb. It was Year 3 when McNabb found himself in a comparable situation as Harrington's on Sunday, lining up against a more formidable opponent. He remained unrefined, but he nonetheless found a way to win and established himself in that locker room as the Eagles' leader.
It's still too soon to expect consistent brilliance from Harrington, but it isn't too early to demand the occasional effort that rises to the level of anticipation.
This was arguably the Lions' first "meaningful" game since ... since ... since ... don't tell me, I'll remember.
There was a fair amount of national media attention, and a Lions victory might have earned them the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated.
Few honestly expected a Lions victory, but Harrington nonetheless could have silenced much of the skepticism regarding his development with a respectable performance.
But he fumbled away that opportunity. Escaping from a collapsing pocket, Harrington tried to switch hands with the ball but it popped free and Philadelphia recovered deep in the Lions' territory in the first quarter.
One play later, McNabb found his new best friend, Terrell Owens, for a 29-yard scoring strike.
"That was my fault," Harrington said. "Then to see it turn around so quickly. I obviously felt responsible. I felt terrible because I put the defense in that situation."
The West Coast offense is about efficiency and distribution. McNabb calmly spread the wealth, exposing the Lions' defensive weakness of his choosing. But unless Harrington got the ball to prized rookie Roy Williams, he might as well have thrown it into the stands.
The Eagles scored on three of their first four possessions while the Lions generated only two first downs on their first four chances.
That's why the Eagles are who they are and the Lions are who they are.
"I think the guys can really challenge themselves this year, including myself," McNabb said.
Watching McNabb work this offense like a symphony conductor reminds you that there's still room in this league of sixth-round wonders like Brady, European league exports like Jake Delhomme and former grocery store stock boys like Kurt Warner for that highly drafted franchise quarterback.
"Donovan McNabb, Brett Favre, Jeff Garcia, Matt Hasselbeck -- those are the guys who run this offense very well," Harrington said. "They control the game very well and we couldn't."
And that's why the Lions remain on the outside of respectability, still looking for a way to sneak through the cracks.
McNabb passed for 356 yards and two touchdowns and Owens had another big day as the Philadelphia Eagles coasted to a 30-13 victory over the Lions.
After going just 5-11 last season, the Lions entered the contest 2-0 for the first time since 2000. Mariucci stated earlier in the week that he wanted to see how his team would stack up against one of the NFL's best teams.
"If it was a measuring stick, we know we have a ways to go," Mariucci said. "We know they're a heck of a team. We know we're in development and we're building a team here. It adds to our experience level. A game like this, even if you lose 30-13, it adds to our experience level. We know what it's like to play against a blitzing team in a very potent offense with weapons galore. We can only benefit from it."
McNabb and Owens echoed Mariucci's conclusion that his team still has a long way to go. McNabb passed for two touchdowns, including a 29-yard strike to Owens, and ran for a score in the first half when the Eagles (3-0) built a 21-7 lead.
"The thing that we take pride in over here is that we put other guys in position to be successful," McNabb said. "And in doing that, that opens up a lot of plays for T.O. That's when you see him getting touchdown passes or deep balls. But you've got guys like L. J. Smith and Chad Lewis, Todd Pinkston, Freddie Mitchell, Brian Westbrook, Reno Mahe came in and made some big plays, so it's something exciting for this offense. We haven't played our best game so it's exciting to know that as well."
In the first half, McNabb completed 17-of-23 passes for 211 yards. He finished 29-of-42 en route to his second 300-yard game of the season and the seventh of his career. It was a fitting end to a week that saw him celebrate the birth of his first child.
"My first main focus is obviously to make sure my family's healthy," McNabb said. "Secondly, I have a job to do. It's an exciting event for my family. I checked to make sure everyone was healthy and then I was able to go to work and focus in on what I needed to do."
On the season, McNabb has eight touchdown passes without an interception while also rushing for two scores.
Owens, who clashed with Mariucci at times when he played for him in San Francisco, had six catches for 107 yards. He has five TDs in three games, matching the total for the Eagles' wide receivers from all of last season.
"From day one, I knew we could be explosive and we're being a great offense right now," Owens said. "We're trying to weather the storm of everybody saying we haven't really played anybody, but amongst ourselves, we know what type of team we have."
Sparked by McNabb and Owens, the Eagles are 3-0 for the first time since winning their first four contests in 1993. Last year, the Eagles started 0-2 but still reached the NFC championship game for the third straight season.
"I'll take it," Eagles safety Brian Dawkins said. "I'd rather be 3-0 than 0-3 or 1-2 any day. But at the same time, defensively, there's a lot where we can still get better. I think that's what's scary as I think about it is the fact that we can get better."
It was another big day for Lions first-round pick Roy Williams, who had nine catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns. He has four touchdowns this season.
"It's going pretty good," Williams said of his rookie campaign. "I wish we were 3-0. We're 2-1, we played a great team and all we can do is go through this bye week and get ready for the week after."
Lions rookie running back Kevin Jones left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury.
Scott's Game Commentary:
Defense: --- D. Giving up 402 is pitiful! But, when you face one of thte best offenses in the NFL, that is what you can expect. McNabb shredded the defense and had several long passing plays. Terrell Owens lit up the Lions for 106 yards and a touchdown. The secondary had a tough time containing Phily's passing attack. The Defeense played better in the 2nd half, only giving up three field goals, but it did not matter as the game was out of hand. Hopefully Dre Bly will be ready to come back for the Atlanta game as the Defense sorely misses him.
Special Teams: --- B. Eddie Drummond had a 73 yard kickoff return that setup the Lions second touchdown. Special team coverage was OK. Nick Harris had some decent punts for a change.
Coaching: --- D. It was strange seeing Marty Mornhinweig on the Eagles sideline. He had the last laugh as his offense had a field day on the honolulu blue and silver. Maricucci said after the game that this was a test to see how the Lions stacked up to the NFL elite. At least admitted they have a long way to go.
Overall: --- C. It would have been nice to see a closer game, but it was over soon as the Eagles turned Harrington's fumble into a touchdown. The honolulu blue and silver have a long way to go before they can play with the big boys in the NFL. At 2-1 heading into the bye week, they have nothing to be ashamed of. They won the games they were suppose to win and lost to a great football team. Up next after the bye week will be the Atlanta Falcons. They are, in my opinion, one of the most overrated teams in the NFL. They barely beat San Franciso, got blown out to St. Louis and got lucky to beat Arizona. I truly think the Lions have a good chance of pulling out a victory against the Falcons in Atlanta, if they can contain Vick. It would be great to be 3-1 heading home to play Farve and the Packers. The bye week could not of come at a better time as the injures continue to mount as they do year after year.
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