It’s very difficult to pick five plays for the 2008 Philadelphia Eagles because, much like Stu Scott’s eyes, they were all over the place.
The Eagles had a hard time finding consistency, especially in the red zone. In fact, it may be easier to name the plays that consistently DIDN’T work.
The play that arguably saved the season was run by quarterback coach Pat Shurmur, who informed Donovan he was benched.
It use to be that Birds depended heavily on the screen pass. In fact, they ran multiple variations of the play throughout the game and were effective with it. Today, although they are still considered one of the top screen teams in the league, they’re living off their reputation like Brett Favre.
Despite the fact that the Eagles seemed predictable at times and lacked any threat of a short yardage running game (you have to sneak McNabb in that Bears game!), their offense did produce a high number of big plays.
According to NFL.com, they were sixth in the league in points per game with 26 and 9th in the league in yards per game by accumulating 350.5.
In fact, the Eagles ran 59 plays of over 20 yards or more from the line of scrimmage in 2008.
Not too shabby.
Let’s review the biggest ones.
Birds, already up 14-0, come out in a single back formation for a 3rd-and-8. With Westbrook in the backfield, McNabb has Baskett lined up off the line on his far left with Avant in the slot on the same side. Jackson is lined up wide right.
With L.J. Smith in motion from left to right, McNabb snaps the ball and runs a little play-action fake to Westbrook. With Westbrook picking up a blitzing Ron Bartell and Avant running down the seam, Baskett runs a stop and go down the sideline.
McNabb hits him in stride and the Eagles expose a blown coverage in which Cory Chavous was forced to cover two receivers. It put the Birds up 21-0 nothing in a game they dominated.
The play was successful because Westbrook picked up the corner blitz and McNabb recognized that Chavous was left on an island with a decision to make.
It set the tone for the big play ability the Eagles would display throughout the rest of the season.
The 90-yard strike marks the second longest touchdown in McNabb’s career (he had a 91 yarder to Owens) and the sixth longest pass in team history.
The Eagles visited New York facing a must win situation if they had any hope of going to the playoffs. With the ball spotted at the New York 40 and needing 11 yards to move the chains, the Birds came out on third down in a single back shotgun formation.
With Westbrook to his left, McNabb has L.J. Smith bunched off the line to his right and DeSean Jackson wide to the same side.
Jackson goes in motion and McNabb snaps the ball. Jackson runs a crossing pattern to the left, which clears out the entire right side. McNabb waits just long enough for middle linebacker Antonio Pierce to be isolated on Westbrook coming full speed ahead.
Westbrook curls out of the backfield, catches McNabb’s throw up the middle, and blows by Pierce in a dash for the end zone. The play is successful because Reid creates a mismatch between Westbrook and Pierce.
That score puts the Eagles up 17-7 with 13 minutes and change remaining.
They survive, and still have a shot at the playoffs.
With a playoff berth on the line, the Cowboys and Eagles began the second quarter dead-locked at three. The Eagles, facing a 3rd-and-7 from their own 35 yard line, came out in a spread offense with McNabb in the shotgun.
With Reggie Brown (that’s NOT a typo) wide to the left, Brent Celek lined up wide right with DeSean Jackson on the line in the slot. Correll Buckhalter lined up to the right in the tight end slot.
McNabb snapped the ball and faced a heavy pass rush. He began to scramble to his right when Buckhalter released off of his block and snuck out of the flats.
McNabb dumped off to the back-up running back, who dashed across the field for a 59 yard pick-up before being dropped at the Dallas six.
The Eagles would go on to score a touchdown, and the route was on.
The play was successful because it basically worked out as a screen pass. McNabb got pressured and the play turned into a scramble drill. Buckhalter released, picked up McNabb, and outran the defense.
That play began the Birds run to the NFC Championship Game.
Holding a two-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, the Eagles were looking for some breathing room. On 1st-and-10, starting at their own 29, Andy Reid’s troops lined up in the I-formation with Brian Westbrook behind Correll Buckhalter.
Kevin Curtis is wide to the left, DeSean Jackson wide right and Jason Avant in the slot to the right.
McNabb drops back and the Eagles quickly set the screen up. Nick Cole gets out in front as Westbrook sneaks into the right flat. McNabb dumps the ball off to him and Westbrook darts outside to set up his downfield blocking.
Blocks from Jackson and Curtis spring Westbrook for the game clinching score.
The play is successful because Westbrook is patient enough to set up his blocking inside, then bounce outside. After being held to 32 yards on 16 touches, Westbrook sends the Eagles to New York on a perfectly executed screen pass.
Playing in their fifth championship game in eight years, the Eagles stormed back from a 24-6 halftime deficit to trail by only five with 11 minutes remaining.
On 1st-and-10 from their own 38, McNabb lines his squad up in the I formation with Westbrook behind Dan Klecko. Wide to McNabb’s right is Kevin Curtis and wide to his left is DeSean Jackson.
Tight end Brent Celek goes in motion from McNabb’s left to right and McNabb’s snaps the ball. Both backs, and the entire line, pull left while McNabb play action fakes and bootlegs to his right.
Looking deep, and with plenty of time, McNabb spots Jackson running a streak with a step on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. McNabb bombs away, leading Jackson away from the sideline and towards the middle of the field.
As the ball comes down Rodgers-Cromartie dives and gets a hand on it, forcing Jackson to make a great juggling catch while he waltzes into the end zone. The Eagles are unsuccessful on the ensuing two-point conversion, but still lead 25-24.
If the defense had held the Cardinals for the rest of the game, that play would have been remembered as the most exciting of the season.