By BOB GROTZ
Journal Register News Service
PHILADELPHIA -- Feelings aren't facts but facts are facts, and there were simply too many to dismiss on this sunny Sunday.
First and foremost the Eagles' 38-3 blowout of the St. Louis Rams at Lincoln Financial Field was the most lopsided opening day win in the 76-year history of the franchise.
With 9:01 left it looked a lot like the Eagles would register their first season-opening shutout since 1949. Or, if you prefer, their first such blanking since they last won an NFL championship.
Finally, on the day three Eagles had 100 receiving yards in the same game, the first time that's happened since 1960, one of the old guys who did it was at the game - Pete Retzlaff. The others were Timmy Brown and Tommy McDonald.
The Eagles who matched them Sunday are rookie DeSean Jackson, Hank Baskett and Greg Lewis. Just four wide receivers dressed as Reggie Brown (hamstring) and Kevin Curtis (sports hernia) both were scratched. This isn't the way it used to be for Andy Reid.
"It was a good way to start the season," Reid said. "There were some good things. And there are going to be a lot of things that we can work on for next week."
Quarterback Donovan McNabb and his offensive line can't do much better, as he almost effortlessly completed 21 of 33 attempts for 361 yards, three touchdowns, no sacks and a 131.0 passer rating.
Reid was only half-kidding when he said the offensive line was the reason three Birds went over that century mark in receiving yardage. Brian Westbrook seconded the motion after rushing for a very quiet 91 yards and scoring two TD's.
"They provided holes in the running game and Donovan had all the time in the world to pick out his receivers back there," Westbrook said. "And he did a great job of throwing the ball around."
The Eagles dressed just seven offensive linemen for the game, which is about as few as Reid feels comfortable with.
Defensively the numbers were great for the Eagles. They allowed just 166 yards and prevented the Rams from converting any third down situations, the visitors going 0-for-11.
"It's huge but we got off the field last year," cornerback Sheldon Brown said. "We want to focus on trying to get some of those balls and catching the momentum and let people know if you do throw it we're going to catch it. If you're not catching it they're still going to be comfortable taking chances on third down."
That segues into the 'needs improvement' category Reid spoke of.
Free agent pickup Asante Samuel, the celebrated interception machine, blew three chances to pick the ball off, one of which would have left him with an easy jog into the end zone.
"Man, I should have had that won," Samuel said. "If I did you all would be loving me right now."
Veteran safety Brian Dawkins also came up empty trying to pick off Rams quarterback Marc Bulger, who seemed to be trying to turn the ball over rather than take all of the hits from a determined pass rush.
Eagles linebacker Stewart Bradley (nine tackles), safety Quintin Mikell (nine stops) and tackle Dan Klecko sacked Bulger, and Darren Howard and Mike Patterson split a sack.
The Delaware County-born Klecko also supplied the lead block at fullback that enabled Tony Hunt, who started the game at fullback, to score from one yard out. It gave the Eagles a 28-0 lead with 5:45 left in the third quarter.
The Eagles played all of their new toys.
Jackson caught six passes for 106 yards and almost broke a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown. In his mind he should have gotten away from Donnie Jones, the punter who got the angle and one-handed him out of bounds at the Rams' nine-yard line. Jackson returned eight punts for 97 yards (12.1 yard average).
"I felt I should have went the other way," Jackson said. "But when you are out there playing you just have to do what your instincts tell you and unfortunately I didn't get it in the end zone."
Scoring obviously wasn't a problem for the Eagles.
The Eagles used every formation known to the coaching staff on the first series, the exclamation point McNabb's misdirection pitch to Westbrook at the one-yard line to make it 7-0.
Rookie Jackson turned a stunning catch - the first of his career - into a 47-yard gain, and the Rams gave up 15 more yards when their over-exuberant security guard was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Jackson followed McNabb's pass into his hands through one of the armpits of defender Tye Hill, who seemed to be a step behind most of the game.
"It was very important to set the tone early," McNabb said. "In previous years we weren't able to do that. We had big plays on the drive. We were able to bounce back again in the second drive and pretty much do the same thing and do it consistently throughout the whole game."
The Eagles gave up a couple of first downs defensively on the ensuing possession but made just one of the two big plays defensive coordinator Jim Johnson wants this year.
Samuel dropped a Bulger throw that hit him in the hands and should have been an interception. Bulger also completed an 18-yard pass to tight end McMichael when Samuel was a day late on a blitz.
But the Eagles got off the field when Howard and Patterson sacked Bulger for a nine-yard loss back to the Rams 44-yard line.
With the offensive line pass protecting, the Eagles picked the Rams apart the next time they got the ball.
Blending Westbrook runs, the longest an 18-yarder, with passes including a 31-yard completion to Avant, the Eagles marched 82 yards in 11 plays for a 14-0 bulge. McNabb capped it with a five-yard dart in the back of the end zone to tight end L.J. Smith.
McNabb completed 10 of 12 attempts for 113 yards, the two scores and a 145.5 passer rating in the first quarter.
The Eagles really didn't want to be 0-1 going into Dallas next week.
"This is the first game and there is a lot of emphasis on the first game," Reid said. "But it is the most overrated game that there is in the league. We're very happy to have this one, we're going to enjoy it but it's one of 16 games. We've got to keep focused on that."
Reid now is 4-6 on opening day.