Garcia, Westbrook Have Sparked Eagles' Resurgence
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.--The competitive portion of the Philadelphia Eagles' season widely was regarded as being over when they were crushed at Indianapolis, 45-21, on Nov. 26.
The Eagles, at that point, had lost five of six games to drop their record to 5-6. They were playing without injured quarterback Donovan McNabb and he'd been replaced by supposed has-been Jeff Garcia. There were questions about whether the franchise could continue to rely on McNabb as its centerpiece player, and about whether Coach Andy Reid's message had grown stale.
But now, three weeks later, the Eagles are in the NFC wild-card lead. They won their third straight game by beating the New York Giants, 36-22, here Sunday. They'll play the Dallas Cowboys on Christmas at Texas Stadium with first place in the NFC East on the line.
"It's been that way for us all year, ups and downs," middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said late Sunday. "We've just continued to fight. Right now we're in a pretty good position."
Reid thought back to the Colts game and said, "You're going to have games like that in the NFL. Everybody has one. I guess that was ours.... You lose maybe the best player in the NFL at that particular time--everybody has taken it up a notch, players and coaches, and good things have happened."
Garcia has sparked the resurgence. The former Pro Bowl quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers has revived his career after failed stints with the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions. He didn't have his best game Sunday, even picking up a costly 15-yard penalty for spiking the ball next to a fallen Giants defender after a scramble that ended in a sideline collision. But he regrouped to throw a 19-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Reggie Brown and a two-point conversion toss to tight end L.J. Smith to give the Eagles the lead for good with just less than three minutes to play.
"He's a competitive little son of a gun," Reid said. "I'm glad he has that much energy at 36. But that can be trouble at times.... He's done very well. We had him at the Pro Bowl one year so we knew a little bit about him. We knew he was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL at that time. Our thought process was that Marty [Mornhinweg, the Eagles' offensive coordinator who formerly held the same job with the 49ers] was here and some of Jeff's best years were with Marty."
The leadership void left by McNabb's absence has been filled, in part, by tailback Brian Westbrook, who encouraged his teammates even when the midseason outlook seemed bleak.
"The guys on this team never gave up," the running back said Sunday. "Coach always said, 'You never know what can happen. Stay strong. Stay together. Stay focused.' We did that, and now we're fighting for a playoff spot.... Donovan was a leader, a guy we depended on for that. Now it's been an opportunity for me to step up a little more."
By Mark Maske |
December 18, 2006; 10:00 AM ET
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