It certainly wasn't his best ever statistical game, but Donovan McNabb would have to consider his return home a successful one as his Washington Redskins did just enough to escape Lincoln Financial Field with a 17-12 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
The home loss left the Eagles tied with the Redskins at the top of a mediocre-looking NFC East at 2-2. The idle Cowboys, a prohibitive division favorite, are 1-2, and the 1-2 Giants were hosting the Bears as this went to press. Although the season is only four weeks old, the Skins own a tiebreaker of sorts with a 2-0 division record.
The game, of course, had many points of intrigue as this was McNabb's first game against the Eagles since the infamous Easter Day trade sent him about 140 miles down 1-95. The first question was, "How would Eagles fans react to McNabb as he was introduced in enemy colors?"
In a scene that may have surprised many—from both within and outside the Delaware Valley—the former face of the franchise received a warm standing ovation which he acknowledged with waves to the crowd, and a thank-you to the fans after the game.
On to the game. Let the record show that the division showdown was contested on a crisp. blustery day where many players were adorned with pink accessories to honor Breast Cancer Awareness.
Two thoughts here: All of the pink on display belied the fact that this was quite a hard-hitting affair which claimed many injuries, including that of Eagles starting quarterback Michael Vick. And given some of the game's oddities and poor clock management, perhaps players and coaches should have worn patches of timepieces to honor "Game Management Awareness Day."
After stopping the Eagles on their first series, the Redskins took advantage of a short field set up by a long punt return to the Eagles 39. Three runs later, McNabb and company had a 7-0 lead without his having to throw a pass.
Starting from their own 22 after another ineffective series by the Eagles, McNabb led the Redskins on a second consecutive touchdown drive that culminated with a beautiful 32-yard strike to tight end Chris Cooley who had a half-step of daylight behind middle linebacker Stewart Bradley.
The tone of the game, and one of the story lines, changed on the Eagles third possession. Down 14-0, Mike Vick, trying to make something happen, rumbled out of the pocket on a 23-yard scramble that got him close to the goal line. He was sandwiched by defensive backs DeAngelo Hall and Kareem Moore, and appeared to sustain injuries to his ribs and cheats. To add insult to injury, the play was nullified by one of the Eagles eight penalties.
With Vick now sidelined, once-and-future starting quarterback Kevin Kolb was able to lead the Eagles on two field goal drives before halftime. Well, perhaps, it would've been a field goal and a touchdown, if not for some interesting clock mismanagement.
Trailing 17-6,Kevin Kolb led the Birds on a 16-yard drive that ate up almost nine minutes, mostly featuring the exploits of second-year running back LeSean McCoy. Shortly before halftime, McCoy (who had 174 combined rushing and receiving yards on an amazing 28 touches) barreled inside the tackles and was downed close to the end zone. Did he get in? The officials ruled that McCoy's knee touched down before he reached across the goal line.
On fourth-and-goal, and after an interminable booth review that upheld the spot at roughly the one yard line, the Eagles sent their offense onto the field only to be whistled for a delay of game penalty. With the ball now placed on the six yard line, the Eagles played the percentages, and elected to have David Akers kick his second field goal of the delay. The Eagles jogged off the field on the short end of a 17-6 score.
The second half was a bit of an eyesore to watch. On three third quarter possessions, the Redskins moved the ball a total of 55 yards, and gave the ball away on an ill-advised McNabb throw that was intercepted by impressive rookie safety Nate Allen--his third on the young season.
The Eagles did not do much better, moving the ball a total of 54 yards, and turning the ball over on a fumble by McCoy. In all fairness, "Shady" McCoy—arguably the best player on the field—was fighting for extra yardage with a great second effort.
With McNabb and the Redskins struggling mightily, it was still questionable that the Kolb-led offense could do anything. Whether due to the Redskins playing a prevent defense, or Kolb gaining confidence, the Eagles started to move the ball midway through the fourth quarter. Kolb hit Celek on a five-yard strike to cut the lead to 17-12 with 4:10 left to play.
After the two-point conversion failed, the Redskins started on their own 16 yard line, with four minutes left. Needing three first downs to kill the clock, the Redskins got two of them, but stalled at the Eagles 41 yard line. Punter Josh Bidwell, in easy position to pin the Eagles deep inside their own 20, shanked a punt badly. All of a sudden, the Eagles had the ball at their own 26 with 1:07 on the clock and no timeouts to work with.
Kolb—74 yards away from being an improbable hero once again—threw a pass right into the breadbasket of Redskins corner Carlos Rogers who inexplicably (other than his being a Redskin) dropped it. Given new life, the Eagles somehow completed a fourth-down hook-and-double-lateral of sorts that got them a final shot at the end zone from the Redskins 32.
To Kolb's credit, his almost game-winning throw hit the hands of Jason Avant, probably the team's most sure-handed receiver. While it would have taken a great catch, it was not to be: The ball was deflected into the hands of DeAngelo Hall to ice the game for the visitors.
The near-miss made a winner of McNabb, who may have played the worst second-half of his career. To be fair, the longtime Eagles star played a terrific first half, and did escape the pocket when he needed to, while racking up 39 yards on 5 carries. He was only sacked once for about a one-yard loss, and was hurried into several incompletions.
McNabb would not boast great passing statistics on the day (only 8 for 19, for 125 yards, with one TD and one INT for a 60.2 passer rating), but the game was about one thing--or was it two?
Priority number one was captaining his team to a much needed win and a tie for the division lead. And as a bonus, he could leave The Linc with a sense that he was appreciated by their notoriously tough fans, and the sensation of the warm pregame ovation he was greeted with.
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