Just how clutch has McNabb been?

Quarterback Donovan McNabb , who has helped rally his Eagles with some memorable fourth-quarter comebacks, couldn't pull it off against the Raiders last Sunday in a 13-9 loss.
Quarterback Donovan McNabb , who has helped rally his Eagles with some memorable fourth-quarter comebacks, couldn't pull it off against the Raiders last Sunday in a 13-9 loss.
Posted: October 25, 2009

They were the kind of games that champions win, and the city's baseball team won two of them in the span of a week with the stakes elevated to postseason proportion.

Down to their last out, the Phillies staged scintillating rallies to eliminate the Colorado Rockies from the National League division series, and then to take Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against Los Angeles.

In Colorado, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth delivered the knockout blows. Against the Dodgers, Jimmy Rollins' aplomb allowed him to scorch a game-winning double into right-center field.

You just know there were cries from the city's football fans charging Donovan McNabb and company with being unable to come through in similar clutch situations.

Are McNabb and the Eagles guilty as charged, or are the accusations unfair, based more on perception than reality?

There really are two answers.

Earlier in his career, visions of McNabb leading the Eagles to fourth-quarter comebacks weren't rare.

From 2000 through 2004, McNabb led the Eagles to nine fourth-quarter comeback victories. You'll probably remember some of them.

There was that 2001 game at the Meadowlands when McNabb found James Thrash for a game-winning touchdown in the final two minutes, shifting the balance of power in the NFC East from the New York Giants to the Eagles.

There was that Monday Night Football game in 2003 when the quarterback connected with Todd Pinkston in the bone-chilling cold at Lambeau Field to rally his team for a win over the Green Bay Packers.

Two months later, McNabb staged the greatest comeback of his career by finding Freddie Mitchell on a fourth-and-26 play that led to an overtime victory, also against the Packers, in the playoffs. That's the only fourth-quarter comeback McNabb has had in the postseason, and it's the only playoff game he has won that was decided by seven points or fewer. McNabb is 1-3 in those games.

Since the 2004 season, McNabb has led the Eagles to just four comeback victories. His latest attempt came up short Sunday at Oakland when a fourth-and-4 pass to DeSean Jackson fell incomplete.

Another measure of performing in the clutch is how the Eagles have fared in close games. During the 2003 and 2004 seasons, the Eagles were 12-3 in games decided by seven points or fewer. Since then, they are 7-18-1, including a 1-7-1 record last year.

"In games, things happen and sometimes they go your way and sometimes they don't," McNabb said. "Everyone seemed to be having a good time when we went to the NFC championship. I've done enough to win games around here, and some games we've lost. You have to learn from the experience and bounce back. That's my mind-set."

In fairness to McNabb, fourth-quarter comebacks and failures are not determined solely by what the quarterback does at crunch time. Dropped passes, missed blocks, and defensive failures to get stops all have contributed to losses in close games for the Eagles.

The Phillies' rise to the top of the baseball world hasn't been entirely about Howard or Rollins, Chase Utley or Shane Victorino. Rollins made the point at last year's parade that the Phillies' strength is that they are a close-knit team that picks each other up.

That's true of champions in every sport. Think about the last two Super Bowl winners. Ben Roethlisberger might have thrown the game-winning touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes, but none of that was possible without the amazing 100-yard touchdown return by linebacker James Harrison at the end of the first half. Eli Manning was the Super Bowl MVP the year before, but only because David Tyree was inexplicably able to grasp a football against his helmet.

When McNabb had his brightest moment in postseason history, he needed Mitchell to make a sensational catch and David Akers to hit two field goals.

"You need help, but obviously it starts with the quarterback and ends with the quarterback," McNabb said. "That's the brutal part, but you have to be able to handle it. It's a pressure that is there at that position, and I enjoy it."

He'd enjoy it much more if he could have one of those incredible moments the Phillies have pulled off this postseason.


 

Read Bob Brookover's Eagles blog,

Birds' Eye View, at http://go.philly.com/sports.

Blog response of the week

RE: Jamaal Jackson

Posted by hobbit at 10:05 p.m. Friday

You can usually pick up a high-quality center in the second or third round of the draft. There were two or three excellent prospects last year. We should plan to draft one this year. Jackson is OK, but 'OK' isn't good enough.


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.

 

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