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Eagles' McNabb a study in contrasts

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Nov 14, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    By Chris Jenkins
    Saturday, November 14, 2009

    The replay was rerun and rerun so often, you started to think the quarterback trying to quarterback-sneak his way past the Dallas Cowboys was Bart Starr, not Donovan McNabb.
    The fact that it was McNabb holding the ball — and the notion that he was correctly or incorrectly ruled to have been stopped an inch or so short of a first down on the crucial fourth-quarter play Sunday night, a home game the Philadelphia Eagles lost to Dallas — gave the dive play greater significance as metaphor for a five-time Pro Bowl quarterback's entire career.
    That is, just not quite.
    Just as folks can watch the replays and still debate forever whether McNabb's elbow did or didn't touch turf shy of the imaginary yellow line, they'll be torn as to how to measure his accomplishments over more than a decade as quarterback of the Eagles.
    “All he does is win,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “He's been in Philadelphia for many years now and continues to win football games, make big plays, and you always see them battling into postseason as well. Last year they were a few plays away from the Super Bowl.”
    Therein is the rub. Behind some tremendous play and leadership by McNabb, the Eagles have reached the NFC Championship Game five of the past eight seasons. But they won only one, and when they did get to the Super Bowl, they lost to the New England Patriots. Barely.
    Consequently, if you go back a few months, a matchup between the Eagles and Chargers might've been hyped as a possible preview of the next Super Bowl, and perhaps it still could turn out that way. Both are 5-3, having taken quite different paths to that mark, with both a game back in their respective division standings. But while Rivers is being hailed for his performance in getting the Chargers back in contention, the griddle's heating up under McNabb yet again.
    “Five and three is not a bad record,” McNabb said “Obviously, everyone would like it 8-0.”
    Like Rivers, McNabb has been working with a big-time playmaking receiver named Jackson (DeSean), but without the most impressive of running games. Injuries have limited Brian Westbrook — McNabb's most frequent passing target as one of the premier running backs in the league — to just 41 carries and more missed practice time over the past week.
    Simply for sake of perspective, of the two quarterbacks tomorrow at Qualcomm Stadium, Rivers will have completed more passes (166) than McNabb has attempted (163), though their completion percentages, passer ratings and number of times sacked are quite close. Rivers has thrown for more than a thousand yards more, 2,245 to 1,235.
    Perhaps a more interesting matchup tomorrow — certainly more relevant on an offense-vs.-defense basis — is the one between McNabb and a guy on the home team's sideline. The Chargers' defensive coordinator is Ron Rivera, who was linebackers coach with the Eagles for three straight seasons that Philadelphia wound up in the conference title game.
    Rivera clearly absorbed much from Jim Johnson, the defensive coordinator who died less than four months ago at the age of 68. Johnson was a legend of the blitz, a master of disguising the assaults of his linebackers and safeties. Over their winning streak of the past three weeks, the Chargers have racked up 15 sacks, most of those coming on blitzes from all over the place.
    “Knowing Ron for a while now, you can definitely see his print on things,” McNabb said. “That's how Ron likes it, showing different looks to quarterbacks. He's big on putting pressure on the passer.”
    Conversely, the Eagles have a not-so-secret weapon for the Chargers to watch, and it's one of McNabb's backups. Coming out of prison after a 23-month stretch and not finding many teams willing to help him re-enter the NFL, Michael Vick found that team in the Eagles and a friend in McNabb, who helped persuade the franchise to sign the pariah player who once was the game's most exciting quarterback.
    “I thought it would be good for not just him, but for our team, to give someone a second chance,” McNabb said. “Everyone deserves a second chance in life, to change things and become an inspiration to others. He definitely can help us out. People will begin to see that. They haven't seen what they expected early, but believe me, it's definitely coming.”

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