2-2 Equals 4th For Eagles in Tough NFC East

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A 2-2 record usually isn't a cause for early-season alarm in the NFL, particularly when the team involved has looked like one of the better clubs.

But for the Philadelphia Eagles, that break-even mark one-quarter through their regular season has them in last place in the imposing NFC East, and it's unclear if they will have tailback Brian Westbrook back in their lineup for Sunday's home game against the Washington Redskins.

Coach Andy Reid said during a news conference yesterday at the Eagles' training complex he wasn't certain if Westbrook will be able to practice tomorrow. The running back sat out Sunday night's loss at Chicago after hurting his right ankle a week earlier during a triumph over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Reid has called Westbrook's ankle ailment a strain.

"We'll have to see how he does here these [next] two days," Reid said. "If we had to practice [yesterday], he wouldn't be able to do it."

The 24-20 loss to the Bears underscored just how valuable Westbrook is to the Eagles. He has missed eight games with injuries since becoming a starter in the 2004 season, and the Eagles are 3-5 in those games. When the Eagles, minus Westbrook, needed a big play against the Bears, they couldn't get it done, getting stopped near the goal line on a crucial series late in the game.

"There were opportunities," Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb said during his postgame news conference. "We just didn't capitalize on it. . . . You tip your hat off to them. They did a great job with the four-down stand. Their defense did a good job at the right time, I guess."

Reid was left having to defend his team's play-calling yesterday. The Eagles, trailing by four points in the game's final minutes, had a first down at the Bears 4-yard line and a second down at the 1. But Reid, criticized over the years for abandoning the running game and throwing nearly nonstop, never allowed McNabb to pass, and the Eagles were stopped on fourth down at the 1 after three runs by fill-in tailback Correll Buckhalter and one by Tony Hunt.

"I thought we had them on their heels a little bit," Reid said yesterday. "Their defensive line had played basically that whole game because of the injuries they had. You know, we were running the ball effectively that last series. I thought we had a chance to pound it in there. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20 here."

The Eagles opted to hand the ball to their running backs in the shadow of the goal line instead of having McNabb attempt a quarterback sneak. McNabb was playing with a bruised chest that forced him out of the Steelers game briefly, but he said late Sunday his injury wasn't a factor in the play-calling decisions.

"If the sneak would have been called, I would have been more than willing to do it as well," McNabb said. "When you get to that situation, no matter what play is called, we've got to execute. And we didn't."

McNabb has thrown the ball crisply all season and seems to be moving confidently in the pocket. He said after the game his chest injury hadn't bothered him.

"I didn't feel bad at all," McNabb said. "But at this particular point with the loss, I'm upset."

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