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Can Westbrok Help Eagles Turn Corner Against Cowboys?

Scott EisenlohrAnalyst IJanuary 8, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 27:  Brian Westbrook #36 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs the ball against the Denver Broncos on December 27, 2009 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Broncos 30-27.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Who could ever forget the Oct. 19, 2003 clash between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants?

Brian Westbrook scored on an 84-yard punt return with 1:16 to play, leading the Eagles to a come-from-behind 14-10 victory.

The Eagles need the old Westbrook back.

In a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately NFL, Saturday’s opening-round playoff matchup of the Philadelphia Eagles against the Dallas Cowboys could signal a changing of the guard.

Philadelphia was riding a six-game win streak coming into last week’s season-ending match against Cowboys.

A win would've guaranteed the Eagles sole possession of NFC East and the second seed, meaning at least one home playoff game.

A loss meant the sixth seed and playing all games on the road.

As well as know by now, the Eagles got smoked, 24-0 in the big D, and with the loss, they now face the NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys in Dallas on Saturday night.

In their last meeting, the Eagles two best scoring drives came on a first-quarter muffed fumble in the Dallas red zone, and a David Akers missed 53-yard field goal attempt in the third-quarter when the game was well in hand.

If you are the Eagles, how do you set up your game plan following such a horrible loss?

They need to have a short memory.

They must also get out of the gate fast, score first, and gain confidence.

The run game seemed off-kilter as the Birds tried to get twice-concussed running back Brian Westbrook back in the swing. Results were mixed and Westbrook seemed better catching balls in the flat than breaking off big gains from the backfield.

He just did not look to have the second burst of speed that he had in his prime; turning the corner and breaking the first tackle to get into the secondary.

The Eagles’ best receiver, DeSean Jackson, was largely shut down.

The Eagles, under Reid, seem to be a largely pass-first, run-second team.

That might work early in the season, but not down the stretch, where the ball has to be taken care of in cold conditions of the Northeast and Midwest regions.

A run-first, pass-second philosophy has proven to be a more effective system when heading into the playoffs.

Cowboys’ running back Marion Barber was a beast against the Eagles, his long chunks of yardage setting up quarterback Tony Romo's passing game all day long.

For the Eagles to have the same success on the run/pass ration, an effective Westbrook would ease the workload from rookie LeSean McCoy, and get the offense moving.

“Westbrook up the middle for five yards. First down to Jason Avant over the middle. Screen pass to Westbrook for eight yards…” I can hear Merrill Reese say.

You get the picture.

If the Cowboys were to respect the Eagles underneath game, eventually, the long plays to Jackson would open up top.

How did Donovan McNabb win the Denver game a couple of weeks ago?  Facing a third and long, McNabb pulled off a 20-yard first-down scramble to keep the drive alive.

At this point, Michael Vick may be more of a viable weapon.

In Week 13's 34-7 win over Atlanta, Vick outran the coverage on a five-yard touchdown run to the corner of the end zone.

That is just something I don’t see Westbrook doing at this point of his career.

McCoy has been the Eagles’ primary runner this year, with 637 yards on 155 carries and four touchdowns, good for a 4.1 rushing average.  His longest rush of the season was a  66-yard scamper in Week 8.

Westbrook type of numbers.

Let’s face it: It well could be the last game for Donovan McNabb, Westbrook and most certainly defensive back Sheldon Brown, who wants a new contract for next season.

McNabb was given a raise before the season, but his contract is not extended past 2010. An early playoff exit could signal a change in quarterback for the Eagles—and possibly the Michael Vick era.

Are the Eagles ready to start a new era with Kevin Kolb at quarterback? Kolb is capable, but is McNabb's tank empty?

A healthy Westbrook would answer a lot of questions.

I can hear it now: “Westbrook at the 40, cuts back at the 35, has one man to beat, stiff arms the defender…touchdown!!!”

It could be the Eagles' best and last shot at a Super Bowl title.

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