49ers are the perfect fit for Westbrook

The NFL can be a cruel place for running backs who are at, near or past the age of 30. At an age where most guys are still living out what’s left of their college juices, running backs are told they are too old, too slow and no longer relevant.

This was the reality for Brian Westbrook. Despite nearly a decade of hard work, production and at times excellence with the Philadelphia Eagles, Westbrook, 31, was sent packing after last season. His body worn down by injuries, Westbrook no longer had a place in the Eagles plans — and for a few months there was no place for him anywhere in the league.

Rumors were persistent for the better part of two months that the helpless St. Louis Rams were interested in bringing in the aging back. This was sad news to say the least. The Rams aren’t going anywhere anytime soon and Westbrook only has so much mileage left on his legs and shoulders. If he joined the Rams he would get a job and paycheck, but I doubt any real sense of enjoyment or accomplishment.

Then came news yesterday that Westbrook had signed – not with the Rams, but rather the San Francisco 49ers. He will compete for the backup job which was vacated when 23-year old running back Glen Coffee shockingly announced his retirement last week after just one NFL season. With a hole in their lineup the 49ers reached out and gave the veteran a chance – and it is a chance I believe he will thrive in.

Unlike the Rams, the 49ers figure very much to be in contention this season. They have one of the best coaches in the business and a tough S.O.B in Mike Singletary. Singletary demands that his team run the football and with Frank Gore leading the way that is the obvious direction to go. With the 49ers Westbrook should be more than serviceable. Gore will take the bulk of the carries, attention and glory. Westbrook will be fine with that.

Westbrook didn’t go to San Fran for glory or money – he making just $1.25 million this season – he went for a chance to prove that he can still produce, and do so for a winner.

In his eight seasons with the Eagles Westbrook rushed for 5,995 yards and 37 touchdowns and caught 426 passes for 3,790 yards and 29 TDs. Up until last season every time he touched the ball Eagles fans knew something big could happen. Many times it did. San Fran fans get to experience the same feeling every time Gore touches the ball. Now they can also experience that when he takes a break.

Westbrook won’t be playing in the Pro Bowl and almost certainly won’t sniff 1,000 yards rushing this season, but he doesn’t have to. Instead heshould be able to keep his body fresh, while helping the 49ers ground game get even better.

The Eagles made the right decision by moving on and almost nothing Westbrook will do can change that. The team is featuring youth and Westbrook no longer fit in their plans.

But with the 49ers, Westbrook has the perfect opportunity to show that even at 31, he can help a team win, and maybe even win big.



Full Training Camp now underway

The veterans are all in. Eagles Training Camp has officially begun.

As the Birds usher in a new era with the likes of Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and Sheldon Brown no longer on the roster, this camp has a feel unlike any other in the last decade. For the first time there is a bit of uncertainty as to what to expect from this team. Will the youth movement result in the Eagles taking a step forward or back? Is Kevin Kolb the real deal at QB? What can we expect from the Eagle’s defense in Sean McDermott’s second season?

Over the next few weeks phillysportsblogs.com will examine those questions and many more.

But for today, here is a look at some highlights from last season as football fans get pumped up for their favorite time of year.



McNabb-Westbrook together again?

Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook might still be teammates after all.

Westbrook was in Washington for a visit with the Redskins/ If the Skins decide to take a chance on Westbrook, he will be paired with McNabb, who the team acquired earlier in the offseason.

Bellow is an excerpt from an Associated Press report:

The longtime Philadelphia Eagles standout visited the Redskins on Wednesday. General manager Bruce Allen called it “a good meeting” and that he will “probably have some meetings down the road” with the 30-year-old back.

The Redskins already have plenty of experienced star power at the position. In addition to 28-year-old incumbent Clinton Portis, they’ve added 30-year-old Larry Johnson and 29-year-old Willie Parker this offseason.

While I still think Westbrook can be a great third down back I don’t see Washington would bring him on considering their depth at the position. If they do sign him, expect Portis, Johnson or Parker to be cut in training camp — maybe even two of the three.

For the Eagles sake I hope this doesn’t happen. Having McNabb come to town in a different uniform will seem strange enough without Westbrook being beside him.



Brian Westbrook says we will not retire

Brian Westbrook made one thing clear yesterday: Just because his career as an Eagle is over, doesn’t mean his career in the NFL is as well.

Westbrook said that he will not be retiring and is looking forward to the next chapter of his playing career.

“My plan is not to retire,” Westbrook told the Associated Press. “My plan is to continue to play football. I’ve already started training for next season. That doesn’t necessarily mean there are teams that will pick me up … I’m going to put all my effort into [returning]. I will make a return to the NFL. It will just not be with the Philadelphia Eagles.”

You can read all of Westbrook’s comments in this article on philly.com.

Plagued by injuries throughout his career, Westbrook suffered a pair of head injuries last season that had many wondering if he would ever play again. Even when Westbrook did play last season he wasn’t himself.

The Eagles owed the veteran running back 7.5 million, a price much too high to pay someone on the downside of his career with major injury concerns. That’s led the team to make a move tha,t although unpopular by many of the fans, is the right one from a business sense.

This goes beyond business though. Westbrook said that he may have been willing to take a pay cut to stay with the team but was never approached about doing so. He was released before the topic ever came up. That tells me that the main purpose of this deal was to move past Westbrook and put LeSean McCoy in a full-time starting role.

McCoy certainly has big shoes to fill. It will interesting to see how McCoy’s stats will compare with Westbrook’s next year – wherever he ends up.



Eagles release Brian Westbrook

The end of an era has arrived in Philadelphia. Brian Westbrook will no longer be an Eagle.

Philadelphiaeagles.com is reporting that the Eagles will release Westbrook today.

“Brian is one of the greatest Eagles of all time and he is even a better person and leader,” said head coach Andy Reid. “In my mind, there has not been a more versatile running back that the NFL has seen. I had a conversation with Brian this morning to let him know. This is by far the most difficult part of this job. We wanted to make this move now in order to maximize Brian’s chances of landing with another NFL team.”

Westbrook is the second former Pro Bowl running back to be let go in as many days as the Chargers cut ties with LaDainian Tomlinson.

Westbrook was with the Eagles for eight seasons and provided countless memories and big plays, helping his team to four NFC title games in his career.

Over the next few days Philly Sports Blogs will be bringing you some of our favorite memories of #36. In the meantime, we wish him the best. Enjoy a tatse of what 0ne of the greatest running backs in Eagles’ history provided.



Athlete of the Decade #2 Donovan McNabb

Donovan McNabb was not a popular choice when he was selected in the 1999 draft with the #2 overall pick.  He played in nearby Syracuse, but for some reason Eagles fans had their hearts set on Ricky Williams.  It is somehow fitting that since that critical pick, the Eagles have ranked near the bottom of the league in average rush attempts per game, but have also been one of the most successful franchises in the league, largely in part to McNabb’s efforts from the quarterback position.

Andy Reid made no secret of the fact that he preferred a passing offense, as was evidenced when he introduced the West Coast Offense to this traditionally smash mouth, run it up the middle NFC East brawler of a franchise that had limited success under Rhodes, Kotite, Ryan, Campbell, Vermiel, and so forth, with the normal claim to fame being a dominant defense.  This was a team that was in the top ten in scoring only 6 times over the thirty years prior to McNabb, but has been in the top ten in scoring 6 times in the 10 years WITH McNabb, including setting new records for point production in 2002, 2008 and 2009.   Reid, with the help of  defensive guru Jim Johnson did not abandon the teams defensive roots, and has ranked in the top 5 league wide in points allowed five of the past ten seasons as well while making this upgrade to the offense.

McNabb has become the franchise leader in career wins, pass attempts, pass completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns, passing notables such as Ron Jaworski and Randall Cunningham in the process.  Still, in this city, the toughest place on the planet to play professional sports, and being a starter at the toughest position, McNabb has never gotten the respect I feel he deserves.   This year may be the year he gets his revenge as he has led the Eagles to a mid season 6 game winning streak and now holds the chance to win at Dallas this wekeend and clinch the 6th NFC East division title in his 10 years behind center.

Ricky Williams ?  11,000 yards and 69 touchdowns, in 114 games rushing and receiving, certainly not bad for a running back in this league.

But McNabb ??  32,000+ yards passing with 240 touchdowns including passing and rushing, and the owner of the all time lowest interception ratio in league history. Even at 6’2″ and 240+ pounds, McNabb has been somewhat injury prone, only starting every game in 5 of his ten+ seasons, but this is not a conditioning issue, more his style of play. Simply put, McNabb leaves it all on the field.

Remember also, McNabb for the majority of his career has had little support. Until this year.  Only Terrell Owens in 2004 and Kevin Curtis in 2007, have reached 1,000 yards in a season, and only Owens had more than 10 touchdowns in a single year.  But McNabb still holds the yardage and touchdown records here.  In his draft class, he is third best behind Manning and Brady who had top receivers like Marvin Harrison and Randy Moss to throw to for years.

He rushes less now but still has over 3,000 career rushing yards and 25 touchdowns which ranks him in the top ten of quarterbacks all time.  More importantly, he led the team to 4 consecutive NFC East Championships and a Super Bowl.

He also created some of the most famous plays in Philadelphia sports history, including the now infamous 4th and 26 play against the Packers with 1:12 to play in the 2003 NFC championship game and no timeouts, when he scrambled for nearly 6 seconds before converting on a pass to Freddie Mitchell, and the nearly as famous 2002 game against the Cardinals that he finished with a broken leg and a 103.8 QB rating completing 20 of 25 for 255 yards and 4 touchdowns in the win.

McNabb has long been known to be as dangerous a passer when flushed from the pocket as anyone to play the game, and may actually be a better quarterback once he leaves the pocket, a fact that has frustrated and stymied many defenses since he arrived in the league.   He also seems to possess a 6th sense that tells him at times when a defender is appproaching, allowing him to create plays outside of the regular playbook.

Even if he never wins a Super Bowl, he will leave the team as the leader in nearly every statistic possible.

This may be the year for McNabb to finally get his ring.    He has 4 of the best recievers he has ever had playing at one time, DeSean Jackson has surpassed 1000 yards, has a league leading yards per catch average and could break the 10 touchdown barrier with one more long catch, Brent Celek is nearly as good with 875 yards and 8 touchdowns, and Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant and Reggie Brown round out a very strong recieving corps.  McNabb also has the best support on the line of scrimmage he has seen in his career, with Westbrook, McCoy and Weaver combining for a powerful 1-2-3 punch the likes of which the team has never seen.  All three backs are also available for screens, which constitutes a large part of the Eagles playbook.

If the Eagles beat the Cowboys next week, they may carry the two seed in the NFC into the playoffs, get a bye, and a home game, and have only one real contest that will challenge them before going to the Super Bowl.   This may be McNabb’s best shot to get it done.  He is sore and has some hamstring pain and tightness, but overall, he is in the best shape of his career at this stage of a season with the strongest supporting cast behind him I can remember.

One thing is certain, if McNabb acheives the ultimate, bringing a Super Bowl trophy to Philadephia, the fans will have to finally accept his greatness and give him that respect he has sought since he entered the league.  And maybe then we can forget about Ricky Williams, and Michael Vick and the wildcat, and all the other distractions, and just enjoy a great champion quarterback for a change !



Athlete of the Decade #8 Brian Westbrook

Westbrook hits our list at #8.  He would be much higher but for one thing.  The guy can not stay healthy.  He was born in 1979 and came from one of my favorite local colleges, the Villanova Wildcats.   He still owns 37 school records at Villanova.

Early on in his career he got the reputation for being injury prone.  He has lived into this reputation.  In his 8 NFL seasons, he has NEVER started every game for the team.  McNabb got the reputation after getting hurt for the second time in his career, despite playing an entire game on a broken leg.  What chance does Brian have of overcoming the same rap ?

Never mind that he has 420 receptions for 3765 yards and 29 touchdowns, with 40 receptions over 20 yards and 10 over 40 yards in an 8 year career as a running back.   Forget his nearly 6000 yards rushing with a 4.6 yard average and 37 touchdowns.   Just scoring a touchdown every other game you start is not enough to endear you to Philadelphia fans.  Being the most versatile running back and leading the team in receptions 2 years, and leading the league in receptions for a running back on 4 occasions won’t do it either.  These fans want a Super Bowl and they want it bad !!

But, Westbrook is frequently mentioned as one of the top ten utility backs of all time, let alone of the past decade.    In 2007 he led all players in yards from scrimmage, first downs, and yards per touch.  He holds records too numerous to categorize in this post.

I will try to do him justice here.  Brian Westbrook IS:

the only active NFL player with 20-or-more TDs both rushing and receiving (27 rush, 23 rec.)

the owner of 52 career TDs (27 rush, 23 rec., 2 PR) 8th on the Eagles all-time list, 4th among RBs

the franchise leader in yards/carry (4.7) ,2nd in yards/touch (5.9  – min. 750 touches), yards from scrimmage (7,992) and receiving TDs (23)

the Eagles all-time single-season record holder in yards from scrimmage (2,104) and receptions (90), both set in 2007

the first Eagle to lead the league since RB Ricky Watters, who registered 1,855 yards in 1996.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 4th-fastest player in NFL history to record 20 rushing TDs and 20 receiving TDs (76 games) behind Lenny Moore (46), Chuck Foreman (55), Timmy Brown (65) and tied with John David Crow (76)

Since 2003, leads all NFL RBs in yards/touch with a 5.9 avg. on 1,306 touches (min. 500 touches)

Since 2003, leads NFL RBs in receptions(338), receiving yards (3,121) and receiving TDs (23)

Since becoming a full-time starter in 2004, has amassed 6,768 yards from scrimmage in just 55 games, the 2nd-highest total in the NFL

With 17 career 100-yd. rushing games (regular and postseason), ranks 3rd in team history behind Wilbert Montgomery (26) and Steve Van Buren (19)

The average length of his 52 career regular season TDs is 20.1 yards

In seven career playoff games, ranks 2nd in team history in career rushing yards (472), t-2nd in career rushing TDs (3), t-3rd in career total TDs (5), and 4th in career rushing attempts (79)

Owns the two longest rushing TDs in Eagles playoff history (62 at NO 1/13/07, NFC-D; 49 vs. NYG 1/7/07, NFC-WC)

Has posted 12 TDs and 1,165 total yards from scrimmage in his last 9 games against the Giants

That last one may be the most important to the Eagles fan base as Westbrook has become the Amani Toomer of the Eagles when playing NFC East competitors.   If only he could suit up and play every game of the year for three or four years and achieve the desired results, I believe Westbrook could crack the top three on this list, and the top ten of all time in Philadelphia sports history.  Unfortunately, after a concussion early this season, Westbrook has been largely absent, and his replacement, the running back of the future, LeSean McCoy has performed so well that many have written the star off.  But now he looks to return next week against the Broncos and the return of Brian Dawkins (Think he is on this list further up somewhere ??)   Unfortunately, it is possible that Westbrook’s legacy in this city may very well come down to the last few games he plays here and the result of those contests, when in reality, he should be revered for what he has been able to do in his tenure here.   No matter what, it is hard to deny what he accomplished in the last eight years regarding overall productivity and it is also hard to deny the raw talent he possesses and the exuberance and sheer love for the game he displays on the field every week he suits up.  I hope the rumors are not true and his time playing is not over, but no matter what, he will always be on my list of players that were fun to watch and beneficial to my team.   When he does retire, he is sure to be missed.



Vick redeems himself in return to Atlanta

The Eagles finally broke out of their fall doldrums and thoroughly dominated todays opponent.  They only led 13-0 at halftime, largely in part to penalties that called back several scores, and their own inability to finish drives.   Only a determined goal-line stand to close out the first half and keep it from being a one score game provided them with needed momentum as they came out in the second half with the first possession.

Michael Vick was welcomed back to Atlanta with a combination of applause and boos, then proceeded to silence his detractors by scoring his first touchdown of the year on a 5 yard plunge in the third quarter to give the Eagles a 20-0 lead.   Early in the fourth quarter he followed that up with his first long completion of the year with a 43 yard pass to Reggie Brown.

After contributing a mere 55 yards of offense through the first 9 games, he had 71 yards by early in the fourth quarter and then was handed the ball as the Eagles led 27-0 and Reid decided to sit McNabb for the remainder of the contest.  Shortly after that Vick completed his first touchdown pass of the season on a 5 yard pass to Brent Celek to stretch the lead to 34-0 as McNabb cheered him on from the bench.

McNabb looked fairly sharp, buoyed by the superlative running and catching of fullback Leonard Weaver including a 4 yard touchdown he retrieved off his shoelaces and a 59 yard catch and gallop on the ensuing drive.   The Eagles still had a little trouble putting it away, with 1 touchdown and 2 field goals on their first four possessions inside the 20, with Akers both setting a record for most consecutive field goals, followed by missing a field goal to break the Eagles consecutive streak of red zone possessions with a score this year.

The Eagles defense, particularly Trent Cole, harrassed Chris Redman all day long rendering him virtually ineffective.  The majority of his balls were tipped, batted down or nearly picked off.   Sheldon Brown put questions about his sore hamstring to rest with a 83 yard interception return for a touchdown on a 4th and 2 the Falcons tried after converting 2 of their first 3 fourth down attempts.  Jones followed shortly thereafter with his own interception and tip toe down the side line to put the Eagles in scoring position once again.

McNabb ended the day going 14-25 for 238 yards and a touchdown completing passes to 6 receivers in his 3 plus quarters of play and having 2 rushes for 17 yards, earning a QB rating of just over 100.

Vick lost the chance to play nearly a full quarter as he injured a thumb on a running play and was replaced by the equally capable Kerry Kolb.   The Eagles did not seem to care who was at quarterback position, just as they seemed not to care they were playing without many key players, including running back Brian Westbrook, Kevin Curtis, and DeSean Jackson.

4 Eagles shared running duty with a 4.0 or better yard per carry average, 3 guys suited up at QB, and Jeremy Maclin and Reggie Brown subbed for DeSean and Kevin catching the long balls and converting on third downs to keep drives alive.  Macho Harris showed great promise taking on one on one pass coverage assignments against Falcons tight end  Gonzalez with good results.  McCoy did not see significant action for the first time in a few weeks, but it seems that that is the norm with these Eagles; anytime a player is down and out, another previously unsung athlete steps in to fill his shoes.  It makes the Birds a truly tough team to scout, especially as the various players all bring a decidedly different playing style to the field.

I believe this all starts with the coaching staff, evident when McDonough stepped in to replace Jim Johnson after his unexpected and tragic death earlier this year.  The defense showed little if any disruption at the change and have gotten to be more and more asolid as a group as the season has developed.   The Eagles showed they understand the value in this coaching staff as well, announcing shortly before the game that they were very close to signing a significant contract extension with head coach Andy Reid; sources say this deal could be conclued within the week.

The Eagles defense nearly earned their first shutout of the season, before a late meaningless drive capped by a fluke double deflected pass resulted in a touchdown for the Falcons as time expired and they settled for a 34-7 victory.  This ran their record to 8-4 and put them in position to work their way into a tie with the Cowboys for the NFC East, if the Giants beat them later today.   Meanwhile the Redskins were beating the undefeated Saints with 2 minutes to go as the resiliant NFC East conference reared it’s head and showed why most years two or three of the best teams in the conference come from their ranks.  The Saints came back to tie it up, and the game was undecided at the time of this post.

It looks like the final four weeks are going to be a lot of fun to watch, and fiercely competative as well !



Wesbrook out tonight against Cowboys

Eagles running back Brian Westbrook will be inactive in tonight’s contest against the Dallas Cowboys. This is a big reversal from earlier in the week when Andy Reid said Westbrook was improving enough to start this week.

With Westbrook out, the workload will go to rookie LeSean McCoy, who has been impressive in two starts this season.  Leonard Weaver, who had a long touchdown run last week, will also see a larger role.

Not having Westbrook will be a big blow as the Eagles are facing a Cowboys team that has won three straight and is tied for first in the NCF East at 5-2.

Westbrook suffered a concussion two weeks ago in the Eagles 27-17 win over the Washington Redskins.



Westbrook ready to run wild on Cowboys

Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid announced today that running back Brian Westbrook should be able to play on Sunday when the Eagles host the Dallas Cowboys in NCF East action.

Westbrook suffered a head injury two weeks ago against the Redskins and missed the Eagles 40-17 beat down of the New York Giants last Sunday.

If he does indeed return, Westbrook will once again be the featured back meaning, LeSean McCoy goes back to being a change-of-pace runner.

McCoy played well filing in for Westbrook, breaking off a 66-yard touchdown run that helped seal the win.

The question is: Will Reid commit to the run again this week?

Sunday’s matchup is a big one as both teams are tied atop the division at 5-2. Having Westbrook healthy adds another weapon that will go against the Cowboys’ 10th ranked defense. Expect Dallas to come out firing after being eliminate from the playoffs – and embarrassed – 44-6, on the last day of the 2008 season.

Whether it is the Eagles who lead early or the Cowboys, the Birds cannot abandon the run, as they do so often.

Westbrook will be back, now he just needs Reid to call his number!



Westbrook won’t start against G-men

The Eagles are about to go up against their primary NFC East competition and they will be doing it without Brian Westbrook, who is still feeling symptoms from last weeks concussion.

I applaud this move on the part of Reid, the coaching staff and Jeff Lurie.  While the Eagles have a much better record playing with their star running back over the past decade, they have a perfectly good replacement in McCoy.  It probably didn’t hurt that commish Goodell was recently involved in hearings regarding concussions and their long term effects on NFL players but I believe this would have been the decision no matter what.  The Eagles have a reputation for being conservative both in their play calling and personnel decisions.

What that means is that today’s game will essentially rest on the performance of Donovan McNabb and his two key receivers, Jackson and Macklin.  The Eagles need this win to keep their NFC East record undefeated.  A win will say a lot about how they match up the remainder of the year.  They beat the Giants twice last year, and rarely does one NFC East team go 3-0 or 0-3 against a direct competitor.  Even when a team is down and out, this division is so tough, to win three in a row is rarely done.  Add that to the fact that the Giants have lost 2 in a row after starting the year 5-0 and it is more improbable the Eagles can pull this off.

If Donovan brings his A game, the Eagles will win a close one, in the 30-29 scoring range.  If Donovan is ineffective the Giants can blow this one out.  The Eagles traditionally start slow, so it might be the second quarter before we see how this one will play out.  I personally think McNabb will pass for 300 yards and three touchdowns, Witherspoon will have 3-4 sacks and a takeaway and Assante Samuel will pick Eli twice as the defense steps up to help the Eagles win a close one in Philadelphia to set the stage for the second game being hosted in the city of brotherly love, World Series game 4 where the Phillies NEED the victory to have any hope of defending their title.



Brian Westbrook to be game-time decision

Eagles running back Brian Westbrook will be a game-time decision for Sunday’s contest against the New York Giants, announced had coach Andy Reid on Wednesday.

Westbrook has not practiced all week after a head injury knocked him out of the Eagles 27-17 win over the Redskins on Monday Night Football.

The Eagles head trainer sad that Westbrook’s eyes cleared up soon after the play that knocked him out and that he remembers everything that happened. Right now he is still dealing with headaches, though.

If Westbrook can not go it will be LeSean McCoy that gets the start.

I think the Eagles should and will use caution on this one and give Westbrook the week off. The NFL is already taking heat from congress about concussions and other head injuries NFL players have suffered and the league, so you can bet the league will pressure teams to chose the safe-side of things.’

I think many fans would also be a little excited over the thought of McCoy starting against the Giants. The first-year back out of Pitt had an impressive preseason and has played well in spurts when Westbrook has been out. In his lone start against Kansas City, McCoy rushed for 84 yards on 20 touches with a touchdown

Facing a tough Giants defense, McCoy could make a big statement that he is in fact the Eagles future at the position.

DEPTH: The Eagles signed running back P.J. Hill off the Saints practice squad on Wednesday. Hill was signed by the Saints as a rookie free agent out of Wisconsin. He scored three touchdowns and had 128 yards on 26 touches in the preseason.



Eagles back with pack in NFC East race

The Eagles started their first MNF appearance of the season with a bang.  It came in the form of DeSean Jackson running virtually untouched for a 66 yard end around touchdown and 7-0 lead on the opening drive.  On Saturday I would have guessed this would be a close game but by gametime 8:42 EST Monday night it was obvious the Eagles had arrived in our nations capital with something to prove.

It seemed evident that Reid heard the criticisms as he came out running, with Westbrook, McCoy and Weaver all seeing action early.  Eagles fans held their collective breath when Westbrook went down early after a short gain.

Will Weatherspoon, playing in his first game after coming over from the St Louis Rams, picked off a tipped pass by Quinten Michel at the end of the first quarter and scored to make it 14-0.  On the Redskins next offensive possession the 2 defenders traded roles, with Weatherspoon stripping the ball and Michel recovering the fumble to give the Eagles offense the ball in Redskins territory.  That turnover led to an Akers field goal and a 17-0 Philadelphia lead.

The Redskins scored toward halftime, with quite a bit of help from the Eagles who committed 2 major penalties to help sustain the drive.  Then the Redskins forced the Eagles into a three and out and at 17-7 it seemed as if momentum had changed.  Then Antoine Randel El muffed the punt and the Eagles scored a quick field goal without gaining any offensive yards at all and it was back to a 20-7.

On the next drive McNabb broke two marks throwing his 200th touchdown and breaking 30,000 yards with a 58 yard bomb to DeSean Jackson for the 27-7 lead going into halftime.   This came on a 3rd and 23 and showcased exactly how capable McNabb is when he is in sync with his recievers.   DeSean became the first Eagle in 60 years to score on a 50+ yard pass and a 50+ yard rush in the same game.   Washington did recover enough to get a last second field goal and close to 27-10 going into halftime.

There was no scoring in the 2nd half until the game clock was down to 1:38 when the Redskins scored a basically meaningless touchdown after a fairly decent 78 yard drive.  The first 28 minutes of the half was the Eagles playing safe and protecting the lead, and the Redskins getting great field position but being so inept at all aspects of football they stopped themselves as frequently as the Eagles defense did.   Every few minutes another player went down and fortunately for Eagles fans most of the attrition was players in red and gold.  With the exception of Westbrook and his concussion early, the Eagles escaped tonights game relatively intact.

 Jason Campbell dropped back 48 times and got sacked 6 times and hit the ground 26 times overall.  The Redskins kept playing and trying to score til the end, but the Eagles also kept coming and harrassing Campbell like they were protecting a 3 point lead instead of a 17 point one.   The final score was 27-17 but the game was no where near that close at any time from the middle of the first quarter on. 

The win closed the NFC East front runners back into a pack, especially in light of New York’s loss yesterday.  Now the Eagles, Cowboys and Giants are all tied with 2 losses apiece, with the Giants having a half game lead overall by virtue of not having their bye week yet. 

Next Sunday the Eagles continue their quest for NFC East dominance when they face those NY Giants who now have a two game losing streak.  Next weeks game has gone from a traditional rivalry to potentially a contest to decide the NFC East leader at mid point of the season.  The Redskins may be done early as they play one of the toughest schedules in the conference for the rest of the season.

Next Sunday will be Philly/New York, in football and then in baseball as the Phillies face the Yankees after the Eagles-Giants  game 6 days from tonight.  If they both win their respective games, that will be a great night in Philadelphia sports history.



Raiders beat Eagles in sad performance

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the Eagles’ game against the Buccaneers and its importance to the team. The Eagles were big favorites going into the game against a winless Bucs team that was having all kinds of problems. My fear was that the Eagles would lose the game in the fashion that they had lost games to inferior opponents in past years.
The Eagles eased those fears by whipping the Bucs, to the tune of 33-14.
A major letdown had been avoided.
For one week.
The Eagles went out to Oakland , Cali. and laid an egg, loosing to the Raiders, 13-9, in a game that was as ugly as the final scored suggests.
The Birds  virtually ignored the running game and when left tackle Jason Peters went down with a first-quarter injury, their pass protection struggled.
The defense did play relatively way, but allowed an 80-yard touchdown to Zach Miller that gave the Raiders a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter that they did not relinquish.
With the Giants getting their lunch handed to them by the Saints earlier in the day, this was a chance for the Eagles to put some serious pressure on the New Yorkers. Instead, they find themselves with a second loss and just a half-game ahead of the Cowboys.
Donovan McNabb was average at best completing 22-of-46 for 269 yards. The question is, in a tight game why throw the ball 46 times? Westbrook had done a lot with a little (six carries, 50 yards) and the team was averaging 4.8 yards a carry.
Yet somehow Andy Reid only dialed up a run play on 14 occasions.
With the Eagles having run through the early part of their schedule so well it looked like the days of losing games to bad teams were behind them. Instead in snuck up an smashed them right in the face.
From here on out the games will only get tougher. Outside of the Redskins, who look absolutely lost on offense, there is not a single game remaining that will can be looked at as an “easy win.”
Who knows, maybe that is a good thing for the team.
The Eagles should certainly thank the Phillies for captivating the city with its World Series run, as it will take the heat off its back for the immediate future.
Games like Sunday’s shouldn’t happen. Yet, for whatever reason, at least once a year they do.



Past stars return as Eagles dominate Bucs

The Eagles started today off with a bang. Donovan McNabb came back to start and immediately ran the ball for a first down, and followed that up with a 51 yard touchdown bomb to Jeremy Maclin.  For a moment it appeared as if a rout would be underway.

Then the officials started to play a supporting role for the Buccaneers offense.  The Bucs could not gain forward yards on 3/4 of their first half plays, and Cadillac Williams actually had -3 yards rushing at one point and ended the first half with 0 yards on 7 rushes.   The Eagles did commit several fouls, but the Bucs did as well and seemed immune.  Josh Johnson threw several passes after the play clock expired, but was not flagged for delay of game and the Bucs repeatedly held the Eagles defenders as they came exploding through the non-existant Tampa Bay offensive line and no flags were thrown there either.

The Eagles stopped the Bucs twice on fourth downs.  Tampa actually had one drive with 6 negative plays where they somehow gained 40 yards in field position.  Fortunately the officials only affected the field position in the first half, not the scoreboard.   Tampa Bay was pushed back for a loss on the first fourth down and the second time the Eagles forced a fumble that was run back for a touchdown but after review, the play was called back even though I saw no CONCLUSIVE proof Johnson had secured the ball.  It was probably the right call, but that is not the way the rules are actually written or designed.  After making a bad call, there has to be conclusive proof of the error for the call to be overturned.   This was a game played on our home turf and we could not buy a call or escape any we probably deserved.  Based on talent and statistics alone, the game should have been a 35-0 first half blowout.

On the Eagles second drive of note, McNabb connected on a 38 yard pass to Celek who ended his run with a high hurdle over the Tampa defender.  He then connected to Weaver who had a masterful run up the sideline and hurtled into the end zone for touchdown number 2.  The Eagles settled for a 14-0 lead with 5 minutes to go in the first half.  Weaver got held on the ensuing kickoff, and a flag was finally thrown against the Bucs, but the referee crew decided to disregard this flag as it was not something that could be called against the Eagles.

On the next Tampa Bay possession Johnson again allowed the clock to expire, but with no flags forth coming, they drove down inside the Eagles 20 as they reached the two minute warning.  The Bucs Kellen Winslow scored on another close but not definitive play that was reviewed and NOT overturned, again favoring the Buccaneers.  Again, it was probably the right call, but it was very suspicious how no call that COULD go the Eagles way did.  So it was 14-7 just like that with 1:55 to go in the first half.

Fortunately, McNabb rose to the occasion again, taking the first play of the next drive and running for 17 yards, and following that up with another long pass to Maclin for the touchdown, this time for 40 yards.  and suddenly it was back to a 14 point lead at 21-7.   Akers then set the Philadelphia record for PAT’s with his 365th.

Josh Johnson had a number of his passes dropped but he was also under siege the entire game and hurried the majority of his throws.   Linebacker Donald Penn took advantage of one batted ball and rumbled for a first down to the Eagles eight,  Assante Samuel stopped the final Bucs offensive threat of the first half with an interception in the end zone.

After a little give and take to start the scond half, Assante Samuel picked off his second Johnson offering and secured great field position for the Eagles.  Westbrook got involved at this point and made a beautiful catch of a wobbly McNabb pass and followed it up with a slashing touchdown run through the middle reminding us of Westbrook of old to make it 28-7 and put the game all but out of reach.  The thing about  Westbrook; he may play an entire half and have no effect, but the more often he touches the ball, the more likely he will explode and then he is nearly unstoppable.  The third quarter of todays game showed there are some miles left on those tires yet !

Johnson marshalled his troops and engineered a drive in the face of constant blitzes down inside the Eagles 20 where he promptly threw another interception, his third, this time to Sheldon Brown.

On the following drive, Maclin made his fourth catch to get his first 100 yard game.  The Eagles settled for a field goal on this drive to extend thier lead to 31-7.  Tampa Bay drove back down the field on their next possession and Johnson threw a 2nd touchdown to Winslow when the score was just about meaningless.  The score stood at 31-14 with 7 minutes to play.

The Buccaneers surprised the Eagles with an onside kick and got another possession, but the Eagles defense immediately started to push them back with a sack, a short gain and a tipped pass to bring up a fourth and 18,  Tampa Bay was 2-3 on fourth downs so they punted the long one away and effectively gave up the game.  McNabb finished with a 157.2 passer rating.  Vick came in to mop up for Donovan and had a nice run or two and showed a little arm as well.  He underthrew Maclin late  or the Eagles would have had a late touchdown to increase their lead.

The only real issue I saw the Eagles as having was the 100+ penalty yards they gave up, but I also put some of the responsibility for that on the officiating. This just means the Birds will have to play as near perfect as possible the rest of the season since they know the tendency to throw flags against them on every opportunity exists.  The special teams were solid and the defense supercharged.  The Eagles ran their record to 3-1 and kept pace with the rest of the NFC East as the Giants, and Cowboys won their games as well. A late safety concluded the scoring for the 33-14 win.  Next up the Oakland Raiders, another weak opponent the Eagles need to be sure not to dismiss too lightly.