Winning Without Westbrook

Katelyn CurranContributor IOctober 11, 2008

On Sunday, Oct. 12 at 4:15 p.m. the Philadelphia Eagles (2-3) will take on the San Francisco 49ers (2-3) in an away game without their leading rusher and receiver, Brian Westbrook.

Westbrook, who signed a lucrative 5-year contract in 2005 that will keep him in Philadelphia through 2010, will not be playing because he suffered two broken ribs in last week’s game against the Washington Redskins.  Westbrook also sat against the Chicago Bears in week 4 due to a sprained ankle.

“He’s in the mindset that he wants to play, but it’s a decision I’ve got to make,” Eagles' head coach Andy Reid said of Westbrook. “I’ve got to do what I think is best for him and the football team down the road.  I think the bye week will help him.  If he were to get hit on it this week, it would slow down the process of healing.  It buys him some time so when we get back, the ankle and ribs are ready to go.”

Everything is set up around Westbrook, the key to the Eagles’ offense, and he has the ability to get the offense moving.  He has power, speed, raw talent, and heart.  Since becoming the Eagles’ primary running back, the team is 36-23 with him in the lineup, and 3-7 when he is out with an injury.  Westbrook’s injury poses a huge threat to the Philadelphia team, but victory is not out of reach.

The Eagles’ quarterback Donovan McNabb will have to step up his game just as much as the receivers.  Knowing that they do not have Westbrook to worry about, the 49ers will be attacking McNabb.  Correll Buckhalter and Lorenzo Booker, both running backs, need a big game as well.

Kevin Curtis, the Eagles’ number one wide receiver, is back from injury and will be a huge asset.  Curtis will help McNabb be more effective in the passing game.  With more passing, however, the Eagles’ allow opportunity for former Eagle Michael Lewis, secondary for the 49ers, to cause turnovers and disrupt the game plan.

The Eagles’ humongous offensive line has been looking vulnerable in the last couple games.  In this week’s game, the line that exceeds 300 pounds across the board needs to wear down the 49ers’ defense.

Patrick Willis is the best player on the 49ers’ defense, and is most likely one of the best in the entire league.  He is capable of wreaking havoc on the Eagles.  The running backs need to pick him up on blitzes, McNabb needs to keep an eye on him in coverage, and someone needs to get a body on him when they run the ball.

The Eagles’ rush defense is one of the best in the league, and with a talented running back in 49er Frank Gore, they must stop him.  The Eagles must also keep in mind that San Francisco’s inexperienced quarterback, J.T. O’Sullivan has trouble protecting the football and often holds onto the ball too long in attempts to make something happen.  In his four starts, he has been sacked 19 times, lost 3 fumbles, and has thrown 3 interceptions.  If Philadelphia’s defense provides tremendous pressure against O’Sullivan, they will undoubtedly cause him to make similar mistakes.

In regards to Westbrook’s absence, San Francisco’s head coach Mike Nolan said, “No one likes to lose their better players. It’d be kind of like us without Frank Gore, but by no stretch are we going to take Philadelphia lightly.”