- The Washington Times - Monday, November 13, 2006

PHILADELPHIA — Andy Reid knew something had to change.

The Philadelphia Eagles, a team with Super Bowl aspirations, had lost three straight games by a touchdown or less to fall behind in a division they expected to win. In their most recent game, a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, they scored only six points and surrendered 209 yards rushing.

During last week’s bye, Reid thought it over and figured he knew where to start making changes — with himself.

“I did it as I was sitting on the beach in California,” Reid said of his decision to give responsibility for calling plays to Marty Mornhinweg, the Eagles’ first-year offensive coordinator. The move paid off yesterday, when the Eagles rolled up 365 yards of offense in a 27-3 rout of the Washington Redskins at rainy Lincoln Financial Field.

Brian Westbrook rushed for more than 100 yards (113 on 22 carries) for just the second time this season, and quarterback Donovan McNabb even operated at times out of a no-huddle offense. There was offensive balance across the board.

“We were in a rut offensively, and I was calling the plays,” Reid said. “I told you it starts with me, so [you] take a close look at yourself and you move on, but we weren’t moving the football. Something needed to be taken care of.”

Indeed. The Eagles began the season 4-1 with their only loss in overtime to the New York Giants. Then consecutive defeats by the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Jaguars put Philadelphia’s postseason prospects in doubt before yesterday’s win left the Eagles (5-4) right back in the playoff mix.

“This is definitely a game you want to continue to feed off as far as confidence is concerned,” said McNabb, who completed 12 of 26 passes for 222 yards and one touchdown. “We were in games that we fought back and put ourselves in a position to win, and we just weren’t able to seal the deal. This does wonders for us, and we want to continue to go into this week with the same attitude that we came in with before this game.”

Despite persistent rain at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles came out strong. By halftime, they had established a 17-3 lead and never felt threatened by a punchless Redskins offense.

“There is a ripple effect there,” Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins said. “When the offense puts any points on the board, as a defense what we are saying is, ‘Let’s get them the ball back to see if they can keep that momentum going.’ [But] even if the offense had not gone out and scored any points on that first drive, as a defense we were ready. We were ready to grind it out in a tough game or a blowout, as it turned out to be.”

The Eagles scored points in a lot of different ways. David Akers kicked field goals of 37 and 25 yards. Wide receiver Donte Stallworth caught an 84-yard bomb from McNabb in the first quarter, the longest catch of his career.

The offense even converted its own turnover into seven points in the second quarter. On third-and-15 at the Philadelphia 45, McNabb completed a 26-yard pass to Reggie Brown, who fumbled when he was hit by cornerback Shawn Springs. The ball popped into the air, and Eagles running back Correll Buckhalter, trailing the play, snagged it out of midair and ran 37 yards to make the score 17-0.

The Eagles’ defense turned the game into a rout in the third quarter when cornerback Sheldon Brown intercepted a poorly thrown pass by Mark Brunell and ran 70 yards for a touchdown that put Philadelphia up 27-3.

Does this impressive performance mean the Eagles are back?

“We’re not in any position to say that we’re back to anything,” tight end L.J. Smith said. “We’re going to take this thing real slow, be methodical about it and be efficient on offense. That’s the goal.”

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