"I don't know about that," center Jamaal Jackson said. "We have a game plan intact where we're going to try to establish the run early."
Ah, but if last Sunday is any guide, should those early attempts to run not work, Reid and Mornhinweg might forget their plan very quickly.
"Each week, we try to go in with a balanced game plan. I don't think the coaches plan on throwing so many times a game," left guard Todd Herremans said.
Herremans had a little fun with the no-run premise.
"Is it possible? No," he said. "Is it probable? [Pause, smile]. Nah, it's not probable, either."
Mornhinweg agreed with a questioner that five runs for 5 yards in the first half, as the Birds had in Cincinnati, is "not enough" to conclude that the run isn't going to work.
"But it sure does help," Mornhinweg quipped.
All joking aside, running and stopping the run sure look to be important Sunday in Baltimore. The Ravens will really tee off on Donovan McNabb if they don't have to worry about a running game. And McNabb will never have the ball - much like 2 weeks ago, at home against the Giants - if the Eagles can't stop the league's third-ranked rushing offense.
Audubon, N.J.'s Joe Flacco is an outstanding rookie quarterback; Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said yesterday he'd never seen anyone with a better arm. But Flacco is a rookie, and the Ravens don't usually ask him to win the game with his arm - they rank 29th in NFL passing.
Last week, the Eagles held Cincinnati to 56 rushing yards on 30 carries, which is as good as it gets. Cincinnati did come into the game ranked 30th in rushing, however. Baltimore, with Willis McGahee (481 yards on 134 carries), Ray Rice (375 yards on 85 carries), and Le'Ron McClain (371 yards on 99 carries), would seem to mount a challenge closer to that of the Giants or the Redskins, both of whom ran all over the Eagles for more than 200 yards in beating them.
"We've got to redeem ourselves" against a good running team, after the Giants embarrassment, defensive end Trent Cole said. The Eagles rank 11th against the rush.
Cole noted that Flacco, who is 6-6, "can see downfield . . . I think we've got to keep him contained, keep pressure on him."
But the top priority, Cole said, "is to stop that run and get him passing." The Eagles have faith in their pass rush; they were tied for the league lead with 36 sacks before last night's Steelers-Bengals game.
Johnson put it this way: "I think, right now, we're saying, 'Hey, we've got to get this team to third down-and-long.' With that being said, you want to make sure that you stop the running game, which is a good running game. This quarterback is very good - a lot of quarterbacks are - when it's third-and-3, third-and-4 or third-and-5 - and they're doing a good job. That's why they're one of the top teams in the NFL right now on third-down conversions . . . We've got to force them into third-and-long situations and, a lot of times, that means stopping the run."
Strong safety Quintin Mikell said: "If you look at the games where our defense has played well, we've played well against the run. That's our main focus, and that's what we're going to go into this game doing."
As far as the Eagles' rushing attack is concerned, it sure seems that Westbrook will be even more limited than he has been the past few weeks, if he plays at all - though Westbrook walked without a limp in the locker room yesterday. The last game Westbrook missed, Oct. 12 at San Francisco, Correll Buckhalter ran for 93 yards on 18 carries and caught seven passes for 85 more yards. Since that day, Buckhalter has nine carries and four catches.
"That's my responsibility," Mornhinweg said yesterday. "You've got to get him in there. And again, as I've explained it before, Brian Westbrook is so good - now he's banged up a little bit, but if he's fresh and ready to go, it's harder to sub."
Mornhinweg said the Eagles "need to run the ball better. We need to run it earlier, and in our short-yard situation," which saw three incomplete passes on third-and-1 in Cincinnati.
"I think we're sixth [in the NFL] in offense and sixth in scoring, as well," Mornhinweg said. "So we are doing some very good things offensively, make no mistake about that. However, we are doing some things situationally very poor, and so, we've got to get better situationally. We've gotten better in some aspects, some situations, and we haven't in others, and that bothers me. It bothers the players . . . We're working hard and preparing hard to get better at some of those situations."
Blowing in the wind
Sav Rocca, the Eagles' rock all season long, was alarmingly bad punting into the wind late in Sunday's game at Cincinnati, creating a field-position deficit that added to a lengthy list of offensive problems in the Birds' 13-13 tie. Special-teams coordinator Rory Segrest said yesterday he'll continue to work with Rocca on bad-weather punting, which was a problem down the stretch last season.
"We got away from the directional punts because of the wind factor," Segrest said. "He did have one of the toughest winds he is going to have to punt with. The wind was at his face, and coming across to his left. It kept pushing the ball down and inside and making him cut across the ball, and obviously, he kept pulling it. We just have to continue to work those conditions. We can't go out and create the weather conditions to be the way we want them all the time. That's probably the toughest kick he'll have to make. We just have to make sure we are getting that corrected and getting those punts down the field when we get back in that situation again."
Brian Dawkins (groin) was a limited practice participant yesterday . . . Jim Johnson is getting Joselio Hanson on the field more by moving Sheldon Brown to a sort of linebacker role in the dime package . . . The Ravens have 93 rushing first downs this season and have allowed only 31 . . . They have scored three times on returns, but have allowed four return TDs . . . Wilbert Montgomery coaches Baltimore's running backs . . . The Ravens are 3-1 at home and have allowed 43 points in those games. *
For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.