Brian Westbrook returns.
It was an odd sort of day, with a Phillies hangover from the night before and Phillies anticipation for the night ahead. The Eagles were sandwiched into the middle, not their customary position. It felt a little different, and there was a ramshackle quality to parts of the game -- like the fourth-quarter goal line series where the Eagles were stopped first on one of their tired shovel passes, and then stopped again on a quarterback sneak. Donovan McNabb was misfiring high for much of the first half, and the overall engine was not exactly smooth at times. But they had Westbrook, and that was enough to beat the Atlanta Falcons, 27-14.
Still nursing ribs that he broke three weeks ago, there were times early on when Westbrook looked as if he wasn't that sure about what the contact would feel like. There were other times when he would get up after a hit and walk around a bit as if trying to convince himself that it really didn't hurt that much. But in an offense built around his multifaceted skills, Westbrook again offered this team a lifeline of stability.
The final numbers: 22 carries, 167 yards and two touchdowns, and six catches for 42 yards. He was explosive sometimes and simply good at other times. His second TD, on a 39-yard run with 1:51 left, offered the final punctuation -- and left Falcons defensive end John Abraham to remove his helmet and throw it violently, 20 yards or so toward his dejected sideline.
But the explosive big plays are part of it but not all of it. Because what he does more than anything is offer a sense of calming security to an offense that has had injury issues all season, and to a team still struggling to discover its identity after seven games.
It will be weeks before that defining is done, and everyone knows it. And the Eagles did catch a big officiating break at the end, when it was incorrectly ruled that the Falcons muffed a punt that they never touched, robbing them of a final attempt at trying for the go-ahead score (before Westbrook's last touchdown). So nothing is really secure and they all know it.
In the meantime, the Eagles are 4-3, Andy Reid is 10-0 in the week after the bye, the franchise won its 500th game, and the fans at Lincoln Financial Field spent part of the final minutes of the game chanting, "Let's go Phillies."