- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 11, 2009

If Donovan McNabb was seething when he was benched at halftime of the Philadelphia Eagles‘ loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 23, he had a right to be.

The decade-long face of the franchise, McNabb could have ripped coach Andy Reid, declared his time in Philadelphia over and told his teammates the season - 5-5-1 at that point - was lost. McNabb took the opposite approach.

“When you go through tough times, it was important in our situation that I go into that locker room and begin to show the guys that none of that ever affects me,” he said. “The guys began to see that, confidence began to grow and everybody understands that none of it will ever affect you.”

Four nights after the debacle against the Ravens, Philadelphia began its improbable march to the postseason, which continues Sunday at the Meadowlands against the top-seeded New York Giants. And McNabb has been at the offensive center of things.

Entering the Thanksgiving night game against Arizona, McNabb was scuffling, with seven interceptions in the previous four games. Since that week, he has 10 touchdowns and only one interception, leading the Eagles to a 5-1 record. In his first postseason game in four years, he threw for 300 yards last week in Minnesota.

“Everybody is talking about a chip on his shoulder, and I think the guy is playing with one,” Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce said. “When you see him get benched, he just came back with a little bit more motivation. He’s been on fire ever since.”

Said Reid: “I think it had a positive effect on everybody. I think everybody stepped their game up, and I’m putting myself in that hopper. I was stinking it up.”

Now instead of possibly preparing for the Kevin Kolb era and determining McNabb’s trade value, the Eagles face the Giants in the playoffs for the third time this decade, with owner Jeffrey Lurie having publicly endorsed McNabb’s return next year.

McNabb, whose fast finish gave him a single-season team-record 3,916 passing yards, will have to be productive against the Giants’ defense because Brian Westbrook is nicked up. In two games against New York, the Eagles quarterback threw 66 times and wasn’t sacked. But Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo figures to have something cooked up.

“We expect him to bring the heat,” McNabb said.

Spagnuolo, a former Eagles assistant and a disciple of Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, tries to confuse the passer with an array of movement. He may rush only four players for an entire series, but it may be from a variety of looks. In two wins against the Washington Redskins this year, Spagnuolo blitzed Jason Campbell 22 times on 74 dropbacks - and the Giants’ five sacks all came on four-man rushes.

McNabb withstood plenty of punishment from an active Vikings defense last week, continuing his resurgence.

“He just won’t be denied,” Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “He does have that ability to, if things don’t go right one week, he typically will bounce back and play pretty well.”

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