It's a Bittersweet Homecoming

By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 12, 2007

In a season dominated by off-field headlines about Coach Andy Reid's family problems and the future of franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles running back Brian Westbrook has been quietly putting together another outstanding season. Entering the Eagles' game against the Washington Redskins, he had accounted for more than 70 percent of the offensive production and ranked second in the league in yards from scrimmage with 1,036.

And with his team trailing the Redskins by five points late in the fourth quarter yesterday, Westbrook's continued on-field mastery may have saved the Eagles more off-field scrutiny.

Westbrook took a screen pass from McNabb with 3 minutes 29 seconds left in the game and, following monster blocks from offensive linemen Shawn Andrews and Jon Runyan, darted 57 yards downfield for the game-winning touchdown -- perhaps saving the Eagles' season along the way.

Westbrook, a DeMatha graduate, dedicated the game to his uncle William Torney, who died Nov. 3 and whose funeral was Saturday. "I came into the game with a heavy heart," Westbrook said. "He was a big part of my life and my early development as a young kid. It's always good to get a win here in Washington, in my home town, but it's a little bit sweeter because of my uncle."

Westbrook finished with 183 total yards and three touchdowns, but no play was bigger than the screen.

Asked if he felt the play would turn around the team's season, Westbrook was optimistic.

"I hope so," he said. "We're at a point now where we have to go seven games in a row and that's what we want to do to get where we want to go. We have the guys that are capable of doing it, and we're going to go to work every day this week and try to get things turned around."

On the pivotal play, McNabb recognized the Redskins would be blitzing and shouted out to Westbrook and his offensive line to adjust accordingly. After taking the snap, he sold the screen and bought time for Westbrook to turn around before delivering the pass. Westbrook turned and headed to the right as Redskins linebacker Rocky McIntosh pursued. But Andrews heard center Jamaal Jackson shout his name and turned to deliver a devastating block on McIntosh that freed Westbrook to the outside.

As Westbrook continued to move, Runyan crushed defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, and Westbrook sprinted down the middle of the field, with downfield blocking from wide receivers Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown clearing a path to the end zone.

Westbrook gave the Eagles the lead in the first quarter on a four-yard touchdown reception of a McNabb shovel pass. After giving the Eagles a 26-25 lead on the screen play, Westbrook extended the lead with a 10-yard touchdown run with 2:18 left. On that play, the Redskins, who had no timeouts, allowed Westbrook to score in order to get the ball quickly to the offense for a possible game-tying drive.

"Looking back, I wish I would have known that," Westbrook said, laughing. "I probably would have tried to stop at the one. But as an offensive player any time you get an opportunity to get into the end zone, you get into the end zone."

Now, the Eagles will try to make the most of Westbrook's clutch running.

"I've had an opportunity to see it firsthand for a couple years now and the guy has just continued to come into his own," McNabb said. "He's a guy that's in a class with a LaDainian Tomlinson, and the rest of those guys who can do it in the run game and in the pass game. . . . We need to feed off of this and get another win, which hopefully we can feed off of and continue on."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company