Eagles 27, Vikings 16
The Philadelphia Eagles got one timely catch by Terrell Owens and rode the steady play of quarterback Donovan McNabb and their defense to make an early-season case for NFC supremacy by beating the Minnesota Vikings, 27-16, here Monday night.
Owens didn't necessarily outshine Randy Moss in their wide receiver duel, but his team won and he played a part in it. A crowd of 67,676 at Lincoln Financial Field and a national television audience had to wait for most of the evening for one of the sport's two most controversial -- and perhaps two best -- receivers to have an impact on this highly anticipated game.
It finally happened when Owens hauled in a throw from McNabb for a 45-yard touchdown with 7 minutes 40 seconds to go to increase Philadelphia's lead to 24-9. Owens was juggling the ball and might not have made a legal catch, but the Vikings did not challenge the call.
"They can say he's the best and all that other stuff," Owens said. "But all I know is I'm the best for the Eagles."
McNabb also threw a first-quarter touchdown pass to tight end L.J. Smith and ran for a third-quarter touchdown as the Eagles improved to 2-0.
Philadelphia got significant contributions from tailback Brian Westbrook, and its defense toughened twice in the first half when backed up to its own goal line to limit the Vikings (1-1) to one field goal and force a fumble by Minnesota quarterback Daunte Culpepper.
Culpepper threw for 343 yards, and Moss had eight catches to Owens's four. But the Vikings also had a touchdown negated by a third-quarter holding call and mustered only three field goals before finally getting into the end zone on a four-yard pass from Culpepper to Moss with 3:32 left. That got the Vikings to within 24-16, but David Akers sealed the outcome with a 47-yard field goal for the Eagles with 1:11 remaining.
"That's how games at this level should be played," Eagles Coach Andy Reid said. "Both teams got after each other. . . . . We didn't want to give up any big plays on defense. Our guys tackled well and kept people in front of them. All in all, it was a nice win."
Culpepper got Moss involved in the game immediately, firing a quick screen pass to him on the game's second play and zipping a throw into his chest on a crossing pattern for a 22-yard gain on the fourth play. But the Vikings had to settle for a 42-yard field goal by Morten Andersen.
The Eagles featured Westbrook early on, and the tailback was the centerpiece of a 72-yard touchdown march on Philadelphia's opening drive.
His 13-yard gain on a dump-off pass from McNabb gave the Eagles a first down at the Minnesota 11-yard line. On first down, Smith grabbed a short throw from McNabb on a crossing pattern and dove into the end zone to give the Eagles the lead.
The Vikings moved easily down the field again and had a first down at the Eagles 2. But the Philadelphia defense bottled up tailback Onterrio Smith on two rushing attempts. Safeties Brian Dawkins and Michael Lewis stopped Culpepper a yard shy of the goal line on a third-down quarterback draw from the 2, and Andersen's field goal got the Vikings to within 7-6.
Owens's first catch of the night began a drive that led to Akers's 37-yard field goal for the Eagles. The Philadelphia defense forced the first punt of the evening but Westbrook's fumble gave the ball right back to the Vikings, who got 18 yards on a fourth-and-one pass from Culpepper to tight end Richard Owens for another first down at the Eagles 2.
Culpepper tried to bull his way into the end zone on a first-down scramble, but the 264-pound quarterback was held up by Nate Wayne and then spun around on a hit by fellow linebacker Mark Simoneau. The ball came free and Dawkins fell on it, and the officials awarded possession to the Eagles even as Culpepper and other Vikings players signaled that Culpepper had gotten the ball across the plane of the goal line for a touchdown. Replays appeared to show that the Vikings were wrong about that.
Eagles rookie J.R. Reed broke free on the second-half kickoff for a 46-yard return that set up McNabb's touchdown on a 20-yard scramble. The Vikings moved to within striking distance yet again, and Culpepper coasted into the end zone on an 11-yard scramble. But center Matt Birk was called for grabbing defensive tackle Darwin Walker to nullify the touchdown and push the Vikings back. Moss dropped a pass and Culpepper was tripped up on a third-down scramble to bring on Andersen once more, this time for a 39-yarder.
The Minnesota defense forced the Eagles' first punt, and the Vikings advanced to the Philadelphia 14. But Moss drew an offensive pass-interference penalty for shoving cornerback Roderick Hood. Tight end Jeff Dugan, a rookie from Maryland, followed with a false-start infraction, and Andersen left a 44-yard field goal try short with just more than nine minutes left in the game. Owens got a step on cornerback Antoine Winfield, who stumbled as the ball arrived, and hauled in McNabb's pass for his fourth touchdown catch in two games as an Eagle.