Redskins' Donovan McNabb is the homecoming king in Philadelphia, but he wasn't alone

Donovan McNabb faced his former team for the first time since becoming a Redskin.
By Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 4, 2010; 12:17 AM


Who were those guys with Donovan McNabb? Were they the Redskins? Will they be back next week? And if they do show up on a fairly regular basis, especially the gentlemen playing defense, would that constitute a glimpse of the future?

When one of the better quarterbacks of his generation plays decently in an emotional return to the town where he was a star, it's heartwarming. Especially seeing Philly fans break from character and give him a standing ovation. But it's hardly a shock.

However, when the Redskins, one year removed from 4-12 and one week after a two-touchdown loss to the Rams, beat the Eagles, previously presumed to be potent, that is fairly stunning.

And when it's the defense, ranked last in the NFL in yards allowed after three awful weeks in a new scheme, which provides the backbone of the 17-12 victory - knocking out quarterback Michael Vick in the first quarter, then frustrating his young replacement, Kevin Kolb - that's a development that can change a season.

"We definitely had Donovan's back, that's for sure," said linebacker London Fletcher. "You always play this game with a chip on your shoulder, but some chips are bigger than others. We all understood how he felt. [The Eagles] basically said: 'Thanks for the memories. But here's the door.' "

Coach Mike Shanahan said, "Anybody who has ever been fired or let go - everybody understands those emotions." Just as Shanahan was let go by Denver after he won two Super Bowls.

McNabb changes the Redskins' whole sense of their team, now and probably for the next several seasons. "You don't just let a quality quarterback get away, especially in the same division," said defensive end Phillip Daniels. "We're going to love having him and they're probably going to hate it."

Every Redskin knows that McNabb elevates the team at the game's most important position. But his arrival will only have its maximum effect if the Redskins make sure that McNabb holds his own against the Eagles. If his old team has his number, then he'll lose some of his aura. So, they rallied around him. This wasn't the game McNabb won; it was the game the Redskins won for him.

The offensive line and running game, so putrid the first three weeks, pounded out 169 yards on 35 carries, led by Ryan Torain, with 70 yards, including a touchdown run. He's quickly establishing himself as a blunt-instrument runner in the red zone and a shifty back in the middle of the field.

"Ryan's obviously got a lot of ability. He didn't surprise me. . . . I think he'll get better and better as time goes on," Shanahan said. Normally, that's coach-speak pabulum. Except when Shanahan gives a little-known back praise, 1,200-yard seasons sometimes arrive fairly soon.

"For the first time we stuck with the running game," said Clinton Portis, who is day-to-day with a groin injury.

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