Philadelphia (CBS)—It still took some getting used to, watching him there scrambling away, doing all the things he used to do for 11 years wearing a Philadelphia Eagles’ uniform. Donovan McNabb’s return to Philadelphia came with a dose of early anxiety, with many wondering how the Eagles’ fans would react, along with a heavy volume of, well … Donovan McNabb.
It meant a few passes thrown into the ground, and a few ill-advised throws. It also included McNabb’s cannon arm, which can stretch a field and apply pressure to a defense from anywhere, and an ability to scramble at this late stage of his career. The Philadelphia homecoming also came with something else McNabb frequently did while an Eagle—winning.
McNabb took round one from his former team in a sloppy, penalty-plagued 17-12 victory, which could come with an added Eagles subplot—the loss of Michael Vick, who left the game on the next to last play of the first quarter with an injury to his ribs and chest. No, the Redskins’ win can’t be defined as pretty. But McNabb did all the things he needed to do—including an 18-yard fourth-quarter scramble from the Washington 22-yard line with just under four minutes left to play that helped seal his former team’s fate.
McNabb’s game-deciding play came with a little panache, raising his left hand as he neared the Eagles’ sideline wearing a grin on his face as wide as the Grand Canyon.
The Redskins and Eagles are both now 2-2. Thanks to McNabb.
“It felt great,” McNabb said. “The thing about it is that it’s about winning ballgames and that is one thing that I take pride in and we were able to do as a team tonight, as a total team. Offensively, defensively, and special teams played a major factor in what we were able to do today. I’m excited that we’re 2-0 in the division [with victories over the Cowboys and Eagles]. We are 2-2 right now and hopefully we can feed off this going into our next week’s opponent.
“I said all week that I wasn’t going to let any of the hoopla affect what the mindset was and the mindset was for all of us to be focused and ready to go, to come out here and win the game. I was overwhelmed a little bit with the standing ovation and the reception that I got, but again, when you’re down there and everything, you have to buckle your chin strap and win the game.”
McNabb finished with rather pedestrian numbers, completing 8-of-19 for 125 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. But the number that counted most were the 17 first-half points Washington posted, which held up.
The Eagles did have a last chance to go win, with 1:14 left to play and no timeouts. Philadelphia moved the ball to the Redskins’ 32-yard line with :04 left to play when Kevin Kolb launched a desperation pass that went in and out of the hands of Jason Avant in the corner of the end zone.
Philadelphia managed a single touchdown against the NFL’s worst defense entering the game. What didn’t help was how difficult the Eagles made things on themselves. They had their problems moving the ball early, with their first series going three-and-out and their second drive stalled at the Philadelphia 39. The Eagles didn’t cross midfield until their third possession, with less than four minutes left in the first half. It was during this drive when Vick was hurt, when he scrambled free and got sandwiched by the Redskins’ DeAngelo Hall and Kareem Moore at the Redskins’ 1.
Kolb (22-35, for 203 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT) came on to replace Vick, and the Eagles did manage to boot two field goals—one on a flubbed timeout situation that concluded the first half. Kolb also directed a fourth-quarter score, connecting with Brent Celek on a 5-yard pass with 4:10 left to play.
There was, however, a lot of cleaning up to do. The Eagles were flagged with four holding calls, two against left tackle Jason Peters. Philadelphia was also stung by two costly defensive penalties that extended a third-quarter Washington drive, and Quintin Mikell’s horse-collar penalty in the first quarter pushed the Redskins into prime scoring position.
“When Vick went down, we weren’t worried, but we knew [Washington] would blitz more,” Peters said. “We just made a lot of mistakes, too many penalties, I had two myself. We weren’t focused. I don’t know what it is, but we started off bad and we couldn’t get going. [On the fourth-and-goal play at the Washington 1], we were going to go with a quarterback sneak, and I don’t know what play was called after the timeout. At least we got three points out of it. We thought we corrected a lot of things last week, apparently we didn’t. Scoring six points isn’t enough to win games in the National Football League.”
LeSean McCoy concurred with Peters. He, too, was baffled by the Eagles’ slow start offensively.
“I really can’t pinpoint what it is, but it’s there, it is a lack of focus, I think that’s it, we’re all making mistakes and I know I can do a better job,” said McCoy, who finished with a team-high 64 yards rushing and thought he scored a touchdown in the waning seconds of the first half.
McCoy coming up just short of the goal line is what possibly cost the Eagles the game, wasting a precious scoring opportunity in the last 30 seconds of the half. Trailing 17-3, the Eagles had the ball on fourth-and-one at the Washington 1 after a one-yard run. The referees challenged the play as to whether or not McCoy scored. That’s when Eagles’ coach Andy Reid called a timeout and thought about going for it. Someone apparently didn’t tell Reid the timeout was over and the play clock began running. Consequently, the Eagles were flagged for delay-of-game and the ball walked back to the Washington 6–which forced Philadelphia into a David Akers’ 23-yard field goal.
“I take full responsibility, in particular for what happened at the end of the first half,” Reid said. “I thought the initially started out as a fourth-and-inches, but after the review, the play we had for inches ended up being a yard, and the clock was well into it when we were aware of that. That is my responsibility, and there are no excuses for it all. Obviously, we have to start off faster than we did both offensively , defensively and on special teams. Again, that is my responsibility.”
The Redskins scored on their first three drives, resulting in a 17-6 halftime lead. Washington needed just three plays to score on its first possession, when Ryan Torain plowed through the Eagles defense for a 12-yard touchdown run. The score was set up by a 53-yard punt return from recent free-agent pickup Brandon Banks, who returned it to the Eagles’ 39. The drive was further nudged along by Mikell’s personal foul, bringing the ball to the 19. Two plays later, Torain scored.
Washington added to that advantage on its next series, when McNabb hit Chris Cooley with a 31-yard TD strike, giving the Redskins a commanding 14-0 lead with 4:53 left in the first quarter.
Reported by: Joseph Santoliquito