- The Washington Times - Monday, September 8, 2008

PHILADELPHIA | Just like a preseason game, Donovan McNabb finished this one early. By the time he went to the sideline, though, he had turned in performance reminiscent of his prime.

McNabb threw for 361 yards and three touchdowns, rookie DeSean Jackson had an impressive debut and the Philadelphia Eagles routed the St. Louis Rams 38-3 on Sunday.

Entering a season healthier than he has been in years, McNabb played like the quarterback who went to five straight Pro Bowls and took the Eagles to the NFC championship four years in a row from 2001 to 2004. He was 21-for-33, including a 90-yard touchdown pass to Hank Baskett.

“He’s healthy. That’s the difference,” said Brian Westbrook, who ran for 91 yards and had two touchdowns. “Now he can do his thing.”

Jackson, the first Eagles rookie wide receiver to start the season opener in 18 years, had six catches for 106 yards and returned a punt 60 yards to set up a field goal. Greg Lewis had five receptions for 104 yards, Baskett caught two passes for 102 yards and each of the four wideouts had a catch longer than 30 yards.

It was the first time the Eagles had three 100-yard receivers since Timmy Brown, Tommy McDonald and Pete Retzlaff did it against the Washington Redskins on Dec. 18, 1960.

Not bad for a group missing injured starters Kevin Curtis (sports hernia) and Reggie Brown (hamstring).

“They work hard,” McNabb said. “In order for the guys to be successful, you have to call plays for them. We spread the ball around. When things are rolling like that, you’re going to look good.”

Coming off their second last-place finish in three years, the Eagles played like a team that expects to make a championship run. The offense racked up 522 total yards, and the defense was dominant.

The Rams, 3-13 last season, were downright awful again.

Marc Bulger didn’t have much time to throw and Steven Jackson hardly had any room to run against Philadelphia’s stifling defense. St. Louis had 109 total yards through three quarters.

“It was not very good,” Bulger said. “They played great. We didn’t. Give them credit, but that’s about as bad as you can get beat in the NFL.”

McNabb hasn’t played an injury-free season since leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl in 2004. He missed the final seven games in 2005 because of a sports hernia and sat out the last six games in 2006 with a knee injury. McNabb started slow last season after returning quickly following surgery to repair a torn knee ligament. But he finished strong after ankle and thumb injuries cost him two games late in the season.

“He’s worked so hard to get himself back to this point,” coach Andy Reid said. “For once, he didn’t have to rehab in the offseason. He showed this the last three games last year, and he picked up where he left off.”

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