Eagles get lots of mileage from running game

"We're not known for running the ball," Donovan McNabb deadpanned.
"We're not known for running the ball," Donovan McNabb deadpanned.
Posted: December 08, 2008

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Were you shocked, too? You had to be. No one could have seen that coming.

Forget about the result - though the relative ease with which the Eagles beat the division-leading Giants, 20-14, was a surprise. No, the true stunner was the means that helped the Birds reach the desired end.

After the Eagles toppled New York, Donovan McNabb stood in an airless concrete bunker in the basement at Giants Stadium and said pretty much what everyone was thinking. To wit: Can you believe the Birds won by dominating on the ground and controlling the time of possession?

"We're not known for running the ball," McNabb said.

It was easily the understatement of the season. The Eagles aren't known for running the ball in the same way that Plaxico Burress isn't known for his aim.

In the most unanticipated turn since John McCain plucked Sarah Palin from the Alaskan wilderness, the Eagles went on the road and beat the Giants at their own game. They did what the media and the fans have been collectively clamoring for all year - they ran the football, then they ran some more. They ran 41 times, in fact, as opposed to just 30 passes. They never stopped running.

At some point, Andy Reid will have to explain - or, rather, he'll have to dance around and obfuscate - why this strategy wasn't employed sooner. Like, oh, I dunno, at the beginning of the year. Or, say, in the middle. Or at any point before the season became a dire, must-win or else all is doomed and heads are put on spikes equation.

In the interim, though, you and I and the players still have to get over yesterday's astonishing events. The Eagles ran the ball. A lot. How bizarre.

"We were very committed to" the run, said Brian Westbrook, who had 131 rushing yards on a career-high 33 carries. "I give a lot of credit to [Reid]. We're usually not that committed to it. We always tell him, 2 and 3 yards [per carry] isn't that bad."

They told him, but he didn't listen. He never has. Not until yesterday.

Seriously, think about that awhile and tell me you aren't floored.

Cheers

Brian Westbrook: He popped a 30-yard touchdown run in the first half, and scored on a 40-yard catch in the second half. In the process, Westbrook passed Harold Carmichael for the most yards from scrimmage in Eagles history. Amazing how much better the Birds look when Westbrook is healthy and involved, isn't it?

Mother Nature: Watching the Giants try to catch up by passing into the wind reminded me of my senior prom. I just knew nothing good was going to happen.

The defense: Jim Johnson should be commended. That was one fine performance.

Donovan McNabb: A solid game with no major mistakes. Could it be that he's come out of his midseason funk?

Trent Cole: On a day dominated by the Eagles' defense, Cole was the best of the lot.

L.J. Smith: Remember him?

Reggie Brown: The underachieving receiver was a healthy scratch from yesterday's game. Finally, the Eagles have concluded his best position isn't wideout, it's left out.

Giants program: The inside cover featured a full-page picture of wide receiver Plaxico Burress in happier, pre-gunshot/arrest/legal trouble times. That's what you call a collector's item.

Domenik Hixon: The Giants wide receiver dropped a 50-plus-yard bomb from Eli Manning. Beautiful pass. Hit him right in the hands. Might have gone for a touchdown, too. What a shame.

Boos

Field-goal cause and effect: Shortly before David Akers' 32-yard field goal try was blocked by Justin Tuck and returned for a touchdown by Kevin Dockery, a press-box joker said, "How are [the Eagles] going to mess this up?" Ask a question, get an answer.

Wide receiver reverses: The Eagles tried the end-around twice in the first quarter, both times with DeSean Jackson. They totaled minus-9 yards on the plays. Someone really ought to permanently delete that bit from the playbook.

Eli Manning: Fans at Giants Stadium were subjected to countless Toyota advertisements in which the younger Manning brother implored them to buy cars because "it's a great time to sign." Economists everywhere no doubt agree.

Former Giants defensive back Jason Sehorn - otherwise known as the guy who duped Angie Harmon into marrying him - was an honorary captain at yesterday's game. He walked around the field before the game, and nothing calamitous happened. It was one of his better performances at Giants Stadium. . . . Someone named Avant - not Jason - sang the national anthem yesterday. Supposedly, he's a "famous" R&B singer. Famous enough that he named his fifth album after his favorite artist - himself. Even Peter Gabriel would find that bold.

Rising beyond Giants Stadium is Meadowlands Xanadu, an entertainment complex and mall that features an indoor ski slope. I know New Jersey isn't known for its mountains, but does it make sense to put that anywhere on the East Coast? Next, Dubai will build a massive sandbox. . . . The Giants may lead the all-time series with the Eagles (79-67-2), but the Birds are 18-15 against New York at Giants Stadium. Too bad the Giants are building a new field . . .


Contact staff columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com

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