September 28, 2007

Eagles Face Giant Task

Donovan McNabb quieted critics with a spectacular performance in leading the Philadelphia Eagles to their first win of the season last week. He'll look to follow it up against a New York Giants defense that lifted the team to its first victory of 2007.

The NFC East archrivals meet Sunday night at Giants Stadium in a matchup of clubs looking to put rough starts behind them.

McNabb has been limited to 19 games the last two seasons, missing the final six games of 2006 with a torn ACL and sitting out the last seven contests in '05 due to a sports hernia. The five-time Pro Bowl quarterback struggled in his first two games this season after returning from surgery on the torn knee ligament, throwing for one touchdown and one interception while completing just 54.4 percent of his passes.

McNabb bounced back from the two sub-par performances in electrifying fashion, going 21-of-26 for 381 yards and four touchdowns Sunday to lead Philadelphia (1-2) to a 56-21 victory over Detroit. McNabb recorded the third-best passing yardage total of his career and his most since Dec. 5, 2004 against Green Bay, when he threw for a career-high 464 yards.

"When you're a great quarterback, you're going to have days where things aren't working," coach Andy Reid said. "He knows that. He knows that if he keeps firing, good things will happen."

McNabb was also dogged last week by questions about his comments in an interview that black NFL quarterbacks face greater scrutiny than their white counterparts - inquiries that had him defensive and led to him walking off the podium during a media session Wednesday.

"That wasn't part of my mind-set," McNabb said of his tumultuous week. "With everything that happened, we still have to play football."

A healthy and focused McNabb has the Eagles optimistic they can move beyond their 0-2 start and compete for the division title. Philadelphia, though, may have to overcome a key injury this week, as top running back Brian Westbrook is day to day with an abdominal sprain.

Westbrook, however, sat out all but one of last week's practices with a knee injury and turned in an outstanding all-around effort against the Lions, rushing for 110 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, and making five catches for 111 yards and a TD.

"Right now he's pretty sore," Reid said Wednesday.

The Giants (1-2) are also dealing with injury concerns. Receiver Plaxico Burress, who missed two practices last week because of an ankle problem, left the team Wednesday to visit noted orthopedist Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C.

Burress had five catches for 86 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in New York's 24-17 win over Washington on Sunday. With five TD receptions, he's tied with New England's Randy Moss for the league lead.

"Hopefully (there will be) some further recommendation as to what can be done to relieve the issue," coach Tom Coughlin said. "Plaxico actually the other day said to us that he has to practice. He has got to practice. He is not practicing and he is coming into the games. To his credit he knows his assignments, but obviously he is not as sharp as he could be."

Burress' right ankle has been bothering him since he injured it in training camp, but his teammates aren't too concerned about him being ready Sunday.

"Plax, we call him 'Game Day,'" middle linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "On game day he shows up regardless of what anyone wants to say about him during the week. The guy has been in the league long enough, eight years, and he knows how to take care of himself."

The Giants badly want Burress on the field Sunday, but they may be able to rely on a resurgent defense that preserved the badly needed victory over the Redskins.

New York gave up 80 points and more than 600 yards in losing its first two games, but shut out Washington and allowed only 81 total yards in the second half in rallying from a 17-3 deficit at the break.

The Giants capped the effort by stopping the Redskins after Washington had first-and-goal at the 1 with 58 seconds left.

"Just the jubilation you feel when you're running off the field after making a big stop like that, in the division, on the road," defensive tackle Barry Cofield said. "I'll never forget it."

Cofield and the defense will look to carry over the effort against another division foe as the Giants hope to get a strong effort on both sides of the ball. Eli Manning threw for 232 yards against Washington, although he had two interceptions and one touchdown. The TD, however, came on a 33-yard pass to Burress that proved to be the winning score with 2:01 left.

Derrick Ward ran for 94 yards on 26 carries and had six catches for 26 yards, while Reuben Droughns scored on a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs - the Giants' first rushing TDs of the season.

The Eagles and Giants split last year's two meetings, with each team winning on the road.


Biggest thing to look for in this game, is the running game for both teams. Pain in the rear Tiki Barber is no longer an issue, but will Derrick Ward be a new problem?

Then there is Westbrook's injury. How bad is it? If he is limited, or misses the game, It would obviously be a huge blow to the Eagles offense.

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