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Eagles spoil Ryan's homecoming

POSTED: October 30, 2008 5:00 a.m.
TOM MIHALEK/The Associated Press

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb (5)walks off the field with Brian Westbrook (36) and two trainers after being shaken up on a hit by Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Abraham in the second quarter Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons in Philadelphia.

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PHILADELPHIA — Brian Westbrook’s name popped up more in the Eagles’ injuries reports lately than the postgame stat sheet.

A bum ankle. Broken ribs. Two missed games that buried his numbers well below his career averages.

Tired of sitting in the training room, Westbrook was ready to run.

Westbrook returned to his All-Pro form and rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns as part of a dynamic all-around effort, and the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Atlanta Falcons 27-14 on Sunday.

“He was dialed up,” coach Andy Reid said.

Westbrook missed two of the past three games with broken ribs and had been bothered by an ankle injury. Perhaps rejuvenated by the bye week, Westbrook rushed for nearly as many yards as he had all season (194).

The injuries still nagged him throughout the game, but Westbrook said, “those are things you have to play through.”

Westbrook scored on a 16-yard run early in the third quarter that gave the Eagles (4-3) 17 points in an 8 1/4-minute span and hope that they can jump back in the NFC East race if he can stay healthy.

“We need to get on a run,” Westbrook said.

Even when he came up short, Westbrook somehow still made Atlanta pay.

The Eagles punted after Westbrook couldn’t gain 1 yard, continuing the offense’s inability to convert in crucial short-yardage situations.

But Philadelphia got a lucky break. Returner Adam Jennings muffed the punt and it was recovered by the Eagles. Replays seemed to show the ball didn’t touch Jennings, but Atlanta (4-3) was out of timeouts and couldn’t challenge.

“I feel like I played the ball the right way because I did not touch it because I could not get to it,” Jennings said. “I backed off the punt.”

That was the break the Eagles needed to put the game away. Westbrook broke off the left tackle for a 39-yard TD run with 1:59 left.

Matt Ryan was 23-for-44 for 277 yards with two interceptions. He threw two TDs to Roddy White, including an 8-yard score late in the fourth that made it 20-14. White had eight catches for 113 yards.

David Akers kicked field goals of 18 and 36 yards for the Eagles.

It wasn’t all good news for the Eagles. Tight end L.J. Smith was knocked out with a concussion on a late hit by Lawyer Milloy early in the fourth quarter.

Fans wearing red Phillies caps added some color to the usually green-and-white crowd. The packed stadium filled up a little later than normal with fans probably getting some extra zzz’s after the Phillies’ 5-4 Game 3 World Series win over Tampa Bay ended at 1:47 a.m. — only 11 hours before kickoff.

No need for those extra cups of coffee for an energy boost — Westbrook and Donovan McNabb added a jolt with their legs.

Once one of the more daring and dazzling scramblers in the league, McNabb has abandoned the running game and turned into strictly a pocket passer. A combination of age and injury has slowed the formerly fleet-footed McNabb and he entered with only 20 yards rushing this season.

When he needs to run, McNabb can still motor. He took off around the right side for a 12-yard gain, then scored three plays later on a 3-yard run up the middle that made it 7-7 late in the second quarter.

Reid took some heat earlier this season when they failed to score against Chicago on four straight shots from the 1 and never let McNabb try a sneak. Reid said then he was protecting his injured QB a week after he suffered a chest contusion. This time, McNabb wasted little time falling into the end zone.

“He’s healthy, it was there, he took it,” Reid said.

McNabb went down hard in a sandwich tackle earlier in the quarter and spent several tense moments on his knees. McNabb was poked in the eye and needed a moment for his blurred vision to return to normal.

McNabb returned for the next series and immediately connected with Brent Celek for a 20-yard gain. McNabb scored the TD, then completed passes of 11 and 20 yards on the final drive of the half, deftly setting up Akers’ 36-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead.

McNabb threw for 253 yards and rushed for 25.

“I feel like I went a couple of rounds, but I’m fine,” McNabb said.

Ryan tried to match McNabb in front of family and hometown fans. Ryan was raised just outside Philadelphia in Exton, Pa., and grew up a huge fan of all the Philly teams. At midweek, Ryan had over 50 ticket requests and counting.

“It was nice to see some family and friends, but after that it was all business,” Ryan said.

Ryan gave his faithful followers something to cheer when he zipped a pass through two defenders in traffic and connected with White on a crossing pattern for a 55-yard TD and a 7-0 lead.

Those high school highlights shown on TV were about the only ones for the rookie QB the rest of the way.



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