PHILADELPHIA -- There's something about December that brings out the best in the Philadelphia Eagles.
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.
"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.
If the season ended today...
"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 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.
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 Peters 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.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press