DENVER -- From blowout to embarrassment to blowout again, the Denver Broncos put a unique twist on the art of the four-touchdown victory.
Little-known receiver Todd Devoe caught a 43-yard touchdown pass and Tatum Bell ran for 67- and 6-yard touchdowns in the fourth quarter Sunday to help the Broncos hold off, then run away from the Philadelphia Eagles for a 49-21 victory.
The Broncos (6-2) came one point and 3 yards short of setting franchise records for offense. But the gaudy stats (564 yards, 28 first downs) and the 28-point margin don't begin to tell how scary this one was for a while.
"An old-fashioned butt-whupping," is what Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter called it. "What can you say? When you dig a hole too deep, you think you can come back, but then they came right back and made some more big plays."
Jake Plummer, who finished with a season-high 309 yards and no interceptions for the sixth consecutive game, threw three of his four touchdown passes over the first 23 minutes to give Denver a 28-0 lead.
But the Broncos allowed Philly (4-3) to get within seven points and a mere 24 yards of the tying score early in the fourth.
Donovan McNabb had running back Lamar Gordon wide open on a third-and-5 from the Denver 24, but went to the end zone instead and was picked off by rookie Domonique Foxworth, who was covering Reggie Brown. When asked about the play, McNabb didn't mention Gordon.
"I thought I could get it in to Reggie, but the corner undercut and got there," McNabb said.
Five plays later, Devoe ran a short slant to the inside, caught the pass from Plummer, then spun outside and had free sailing after cornerback Roderick Hood fell on the rain-soaked turf.
"The feeling was not the best," Devoe said of the mood on the Denver sideline with the lead slipping away. "We knew we had to do something to slow their momentum down."
Devoe's touchdown did it, then a few minutes later, Bell broke loose on the sideline for his 67-yard run, yet another in a long list of big plays he has made this year.
Bell, who added his second touchdown in the last minute, finished with 107 yards and Mike Anderson had 126 more, keeping them on pace to become only the fourth pair of running backs in NFL history to reach 1,000 yards each in the same season.
Before Devoe's big catch, it looked very much like McNabb and Terrell Owens might match the NFL's biggest regular-season comeback.
Trailing 28-7, McNabb opened the third quarter by hitting Owens on a short pass on the sideline. Owens juked Champ Bailey, then ran free for a 91-yard score -- the longest of either player's career.
"Ten out of 10 cornerbacks don't make that tackle. Period," Broncos defensive end Trevor Pryce said in defense of Bailey.
Owens beat Bailey again for a 43-yard gain to set up a 14-yard touchdown pass to Brian Westbrook to pull the Eagles within 28-21 late in the third.
It gave the Broncos that familiar, sinking feeling.
The last three weeks, they led big against the Redskins, Patriots and Giants, only to let them all back into game. Last week, it finally bit them in a 24-23 loss at the New York Giants after they held a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter.
"You know you're not going to beat a team like the Philadelphia Eagles 35-0. It's just not in the cards," Pryce said. "But we ended up with the win, so who really cares?"
Indeed, Denver won in a runaway and heads into its bye week having avoided turning a 5-1 start into a 5-3 record at the halfway point for the third year in a row.
The Eagles, meanwhile, can be proud of their valiant comeback, but they have to look at their slow starts. They've been outscored 62-14 in the first quarter this year. Their first 15 minutes of this one were downright awful.
Facing a defense that, at times, rushed 10 men, McNabb threw 11 incompletions and one interception over his first 12 attempts to compile a passer rating of 1.7.
"We tried to spread them out and when you go through a game, you have to make adjustments quickly," McNabb said. "We did that with a couple of different looks, but we didn't start doing that until later."
Owens, meanwhile was held without a catch in the first half.
He finished with three catches for 154 yards and McNabb went 12-for-34 for 283 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
- Anderson and Bell became the first two Broncos to surpass 100 yards rushing in the same regular-season game since 1976, when Otis Armstrong and quarterback Norris Weese did it.
- Eagles DE Jevon Kearse left the game in the first quarter with a hurt right shoulder and did not return.