Paul Domowitch: Eagles' Westbrook sore, but sure didn't hurt

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Brian Westbrook had four touchdowns in the Eagles' 48-20 win over the Cardinals at the Linc Thursday night. (Staff Photographer)

A BUM KNEE that has robbed him of his explosiveness. A taking-forever-to-heal sore ankle that won't let him make those stop-on-a-dime cuts we're so accustomed to seeing him make.

A short week to recover from the beating he took in Sunday's loss to the Ravens and get ready for last night's game against the Cardinals.

When he hobbled into the auditorium at the NovaCare Complex Tuesday for his weekly news conference, it was even money whether Brian Westbrook would make it back to the locker room without assistance, let alone suit up and play 2 days later.

After averaging just 3.5 yards per touch in the previous four games, Westbrook was asked if he - and the Eagles - might be better off if he just sat this one out.

"I don't think we're at the point where he [coach Andy Reid] would take me out completely, especially with our injury situation," he said. "I still think I can help out this team, whether it's picking up the blitz or running and catching the ball. That's what I'm trying to do."

Somehow, some way, Westbrook managed to get his aching body ready to play last night. And somehow, some way, he managed to turn in one of his best performances of the season in a game the Eagles absolutely had to win to keep their ever-so-slim playoff hopes alive.

Just 4 days after the Ravens held him to 34 rushing and receiving yards, Westbrook scored a career-high four touchdowns and rushed for 110 yards on 22 carries in the Eagles' 48-20 win over the Cardinals.

It was just the eighth time an Eagles player has scored four TDs in a game. Westbrook also became the first NFL player to rush for 100 yards and score two rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns in a game since the Baltimore Colts' Lydell Mitchell in 1975.

After leading the NFL in rushing and receiving yards last season, this has been a frustrating season for Westbrook. Last night was only his second 100-yard rushing performance of the season. He rushed for 167 yards in the Eagles' 27-14 Week 8 win over Atlanta. But in the four games after that, he averaged just 3.0 yards per carry. The last 2 weeks, he hasn't even been able to practice during the week.

"All glory is to God," Westbrook said after the game. "He blessed me. He allowed me to heal in a short week. It was tough, but we made it to the gate. Once you get to the gate, you have to run."

My, how he did run.

The Eagles, who had scored just seven points in the first quarter of the last five games, scored on three of their first four possessions against the Cardinals, with Westbrook notching all three touchdowns.

He gave the Eagles an early 7-0 lead when he scored on a 5-yard shovel pass from quarterback Donovan McNabb.

After getting the ball back on a Joselio Hanson interception, the first of three against Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, the Eagles rode Westbrook 41 yards for another touchdown. Westbrook carried the ball all four times on the drive. He gained 5 yards on a run up the middle, 16 on a toss play to the left, 17 on a run out of a spread formation, and then the final 2 up the middle for the score to make it 14-0.

By the end of the first quarter, Westbrook had 61 rushing yards. He caught a second TD pass from McNabb early in the second quarter when an Arizona blitz by safety Adrian Wilson left him wide open for a 2-yard touchdown catch. Completed his scoring late in the third quarter with a 9-yard touchdown run that gave the Eagles a 31-7 lead.

"We needed this game," Westbrook said. "It was a little vindication for my offensive line. We did a great job. My fullback [played well]. The wide receivers went downfield and made some plays, made some blocks. Those guys have been dogged. We've been dogged all week long. Now we did what we needed to do to handle business."

The Eagles' 185 rushing yards were their second-most of the season, exceeded only by the 192 they put up against the Falcons. For the first time this season, the Eagles had more rushing attempts (40) than passing attempts (39). Ran the ball 20 times in the first half and 20 in the second half.

"The run game worked," coach Andy Reid said. "That was the thing that was important there. We were gaining good, positive yards on it. Any time you can get that mix going, between the run and the pass, that's important, and it makes the defense have to play both and honor both."

 

Did you notice?

 

* The Eagles wisely introduced the starting defense before the game to spare Donovan McNabb a booing before he threw his first pass.

* The Lincoln Financial Field crowd gave the Eagles a standing ovation when Kyle Eckel converted a third-and-1 on their first possession. The Eagles had converted just eight of 20 third-and-1 chances prior to that, and only four of their last 15.

* When the Eagles used their dime package (six defensive backs), which wasn't very often, rookie safety Quintin Demps was the sixth DB rather than Sean Considine.

* With Asante Samuel out, Joselio Hanson started at left cornerback rather than Lito Sheppard.

* Sheppard, who got beat on a slant for a 53-yard touchdown last week by the Ravens' Mark Clayton, got beat on a slant by Larry Fitzgerald for a 1-yard score in the second quarter last night.

* The two nice catches in the first half by wide receiver Hank Baskett. He had a diving 20-yard catch in the second quarter on the Eagles' third scoring drive, and he hauled in a low pass from McNabb for a 6-yard gain on a third-and-2 play that kept another scoring drive alive.

 

Thumbs up

 

To the Eagles' secondary. Forced to go against the Cardinals' lethal passing game without injured cornerback Asante Samuel, they played aggressively against Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and the rest of the Arizona receiving corps. They intercepted three passes, and while they gave up two TD passes to Fitzgerald, they held Boldin and him to a combined 128 yards on 10 catches.

 

By the numbers

 

* With last night's win, the Eagles now are 15-14-1 in November and December since 2005. They were 34-8 in November-December from '00 through '04.

* The Eagles' 14 first-quarter points last night were seven more than they scored in the first quarter of their previous five games. They had 10 first downs in the first quarter, five more than they had in the first quarter of the last five games.

* For just the fifth time this season, the Eagles scored on their first possession.

* DeSean Jackson's 5-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter was just his second TD reception of the season. The scoring catches by Jackson and Jason Avant gave Eagles wideouts nine TDs this season.

* Brian Westbrook had gone four games without a touchdown before scoring four last night. He has 12 touchdowns this season in just 10 games (he missed two with injuries), just one shy of his single-season best of 13 (2003).

* Donovan McNabb completed 11 of his first 12 passes.

* The Eagles have allowed at least one passing TD in six straight games. They've given up 11 touchdown passes in those six games, including three last night.

* David Akers, who was just 2-for-10 from 40-plus yards last season, is 6-for-10 this season. He converted 41- and 42-yard field goals and has made his last 14 attempts.

* The Eagles are averaging 4.1 yards per carry this season. Through 12 games last year, they were averaging 4.5. Their 13 rushing first downs against the Cardinals were just three fewer than their total in the previous five games.

* McNabb's 121.7 passer rating was his highest since Week 1, a 131.0 rating, against the Rams.

* Kurt Warner's three interceptions were one more than he had in his previous four starts.

* McNabb, who was sacked just once last night, has been sacked only 18 times in 439 attempts this season. That's once every 24.4 attempts.

* Prior to picking off three passes last night, the Eagles had just one interception in the previous four games.