Les Bowen | FURTHER REVIEW: The bottom line: Best back in NFL might play in Philly

Posted: September 25, 2007

ANDY REID noted yesterday that the abdominal strain Brian Westbrook suffered against the Detroit Lions Sunday "wasn't even from a hit.''

This comes as news to no one who saw the game. When did the Lions manage to hit Westbrook?

Certainly not on that 43-yard scamper with a screen pass that closed the books on the highest-scoring half in Eagles history, six touchdowns for 42 points. On the replay, Westbrook actually gets the ball about 3 yards behind the line, makes a corner miss just inside the 40, then changes direction in a way that causes linebacker Ernie Sims to fall down without ever touching him, runs out of Stanley Wilson's tackle, as Paris Lenon dives at him to no avail, and is all by himself by the time he gets to the 25.

"As you can see on that screen play, people tend to get their hands on him, but he gives that extra effort, man,'' Westbrook's backup, Correll Buckhalter, said yesterday. "Seems like he's sprayed down with some [slippery] spray, and nobody can keep their hands on him. The guy's just a great back, man.''

Without seeming too boosterish, the question today, after Sunday's 110 yards on 14 carries and 111 receiving yards on five catches, is, "How great?'' Around here, we're used to Westbrook not making the Pro Bowl, because, well, he doesn't quite post the carries and yards of the big boys, and receiving yards somehow don't quite count as much for running backs, and besides, he's a great back for this offense, but it's not like he's as good as ...

Hmm. Right now, it's hard to find anyone Westbrook isn't as good as, in the overall NFL firmament. LaDainian Tomlinson? He's averaging 2.3 yards per carry so far this season. Shaun Alexander? Fifteen more carries and 16 fewer yards than Westbrook. Larry Johnson? He's averaging 2.8 yards per carry.

Westbrook's 291 rushing yards on just 51 carries leads the NFC. That total places him fifth overall in the NFL, behind four guys who all have more carries. Only Cleveland's Jamal Lewis, at 5.8 yards per carry (307 yards, 53 carries), exceeds Westbrook's 5.7 yards per carry. But no NFL running back has Westbrook's 19 catches for 223 yards; he leads the league in total yards from scrimmage, with 514, an amazing 7.3 yards per touch.

"I put him, this year, probably the best, right now,'' Buckhalter said. "Once that little guy gets the ball in his hands, he can do a lot of things for the team ... He's a tough little guy. He plays with a lot of heart.''

There was no hint yesterday of how Westbrook's injury - originally thought to be a rib bruise - might affect his availability for this week's visit with the Giants. Last week, he was unable to practice until Friday, because of knee swelling; he didn't seem too far off his game when time came to play. In fact, for all the concerns about his durability, Westbrook has played in 73 of a possible 83 regular-season games since the Eagles drafted him in the third round out of Villanova; that's a very respectable tally at a high-impact position.

"We'll know better in the next day or two,'' coach Andy Reid said when asked about Westbrook's status for the Giants. "Right now he's pretty sore.''

Reid said Westbrook's injury "is near the rib but it's not the rib ... It was from a move that he made and it was kind of a freak thing. It just popped on him.''

Reid, not know for effusiveness, acknowledged that Westbrook's vision and his tackle-breaking ability are rare. "There are not a lot of those guys in the National Football League,'' Reid said.

There might be just the one.

Developing story lines

-- With L.J. Smith still recovering from additional groin surgery performed last Friday, and Smith unlikely to play this week, the Eagles seem poorly positioned to take advantage of the trouble the Giants have had covering opposing tight ends. In Smith's absence Sunday, Matt Schobel caught just two passes for 17 yards, and rookie Brent Celek is still waiting to have an NFL pass aimed his way. Celek did have a very nice block on linebacker Paris Lenon in aid of Brian Westbrook's first TD run Sunday.

-- With L.J. Smith still recovering from additional groin surgery performed last Friday, and Smith unlikely to play this week, the Eagles seem poorly positioned to take advantage of the trouble the Giants have had covering opposing tight ends. In Smith's absence Sunday, Matt Schobel caught just two passes for 17 yards, and rookie Brent Celek is still waiting to have an NFL pass aimed his way. Celek did have a very nice block on linebacker Paris Lenon in aid of Brian Westbrook's first TD run Sunday.

-- The Eagles got three carries for 14 yards from fullback Thom-as Tapeh Sunday; Tapeh caught three passes in the first two games, for 22 yards. As Andy Reid acknowledged yesterday, with Correll Buckhalter sometimes lining up at fullback, the team is getting more touches from the position than in previous seasons, particulary in short-yardage situations. The Eagles also seem to be using the two-back set a little more, though Reid didn't want to talk about that yesterday.

-- Don't look now, but the Eagles' defense ranked third in the NFL against the rush going into last night's action.

-- In one week, Donovan's McNabb's passer rating for the 2007 season went from 68.8 to 96.7. He now ranks ahead of the two QBs he's lost to this year, Brett Favre (93.5) and Jason Campbell (69.6). Also behind McNabb is this week's opponent, Eli Manning (86.0).

Who knew?

That you could give up the most gross passing yards in 41 years and still win by five touchdowns?

That you could give up the most gross passing yards in 41 years and still win by five touchdowns?

Obscure stat

This game had more than a few. Most of them had to do with passing, which makes this one even more curious: As the Burlington County Times noted yesterday, the Eagles scored four rushing touchdowns for the first time since 1993. Furthermore, this was the first time three Eagles running backs (Brian Westbrook, Correll Buckhalter and Tony Hunt) have run for touchdowns in the same game since Dec. 12 1965, vs. Pittsburgh. The three backs that day were Ollie Matson, Earl Gros and Izzy Lang, of course.

This game had more than a few. Most of them had to do with passing, which makes this one even more curious: As the noted yesterday, the Eagles scored four rushing touchdowns for the first time since 1993. Furthermore, this was the first time three Eagles running backs (Brian Westbrook, Correll Buckhalter and Tony Hunt) have run for touchdowns in the same game since Dec. 12 1965, vs. Pittsburgh. The three backs that day were Ollie Matson, Earl Gros and Izzy Lang, of course.

Extra point

The Eagles' bye week comes after this Sunday's trip to play the Giants. It must be noted that while Andy Reid's teams are 8-0 the week after the bye, they are just 3-5 in the game leading into it, and have won in that situation just once in the last 6 years.

The Eagles' bye week comes after this Sunday's trip to play the Giants. It must be noted that while Andy Reid's teams are 8-0 the week after the bye, they are just 3-5 in the game leading into it, and have won in that situation just once in the last 6 years.

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