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Resistant Reid says McNabb is starting

The Eagles' coach has no plans to make a change at the position and continues to talk about his 5-8 team making the postseason.

The Eagles won't be making a quarterback change. Not this weekend against the NFC's best team, the Dallas Cowboys. Not next weekend, when the team could officially be eliminated from playoff contention. And not in the season finale against Buffalo.

Donovan McNabb is the starter, and no one else is going to get a chance. Not this season. Not if Andy Reid is to be believed.

To the reporter who asked the coach yesterday whether he would make a change, Reid offered a curt answer, then a lengthy stare.

"Donovan's the quarterback right now," he said.

Does that mean for the rest of the season?

"Yes," he said.

And so it is. Barring injury or an atypical change of heart, Reid is going to stick with his franchise quarterback, even if there is nothing else for which to play other than pride. McNabb is it. Kevin Kolb's education will have to continue from the sideline. If Joe Banner is to be believed, McNabb will be back next year, too.

A day after the Eagles' third consecutive loss, to the New York Giants, Reid again made the players come in for a 1 o'clock team meeting. He said he doesn't think he has players who will "hang their heads," but instead will stick together and try to make the playoffs, however grim that prospect looks with the team sitting at 5-8.

Technically, the Birds are still alive for the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC. But they are two games behind front-runner Minnesota, which has won four straight, with three to play. The Eagles do own a tiebreaker over the Vikings because of their 23-16 win on Oct. 28.

"One of the great things about this is we are still within striking distance," Reid said. "With three games left, as we all know, anything is possible in the National Football League. If we get that answered right there, then we can take care of these three games."

While he is correct that McNabb isn't solely responsible for the Eagles' problems, the quarterback has been unable to get the football into the end zone effectively enough.

Blame the protection or the receivers or the play-calling, or credit the opposing defenses, but McNabb has thrown multiple touchdown passes in only two of the 11 games in which he's played. Against the Giants, his longest completion was for 19 yards, and that came only when the Eagles were scrambling on their last-minute drive.

Playing for the first time since injuring his thumb and ankle against Miami on Nov. 18, McNabb was crisp on the first drive, completing all three passes and driving the Eagles downfield for an opening touchdown. He finished a respectable 20 of 30 for 179 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, but the Eagles managed only two field goals in their 11 possessions after taking a 7-0 lead.

McNabb was cautious, for sure. He scrambled a couple of times, taking sacks instead of throwing the ball away. He was trying to make something happen, he said, but it wasn't working. And rarely did the Eagles look downfield, even though they were facing two rookie safeties. McNabb said the Giants were taking away the deep ball by playing a Cover Two defense.

Until the final desperation drive, during which McNabb completed passes for 19, 18 and 13 yards, the Eagles were averaging just 4.7 yards per completion.

"I think what they were trying to do was trying to eliminate that" big play, McNabb said after the defeat.

"At times, they were just trying to play us too shallow, or at times they would play man when we were running the ball or we'd have some intermediate passing game going. And we tried to take shots, just try to check it down or make a play underneath when I could. But just credit them. It was a great job on their part of just trying to eliminate that big play, which led up to us just trying to move the chains and trying to come out with points for the drive."

None of this, apparently, matters to Reid, who is either admirably loyal to McNabb or letting the quarterback audition for other teams. It's likely that McNabb will be better next season once his knee is fully healed, but the fact remains that since leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl in 2004, he is 14-14 in games he has completed.

And there is this: With A.J. Feeley at quarterback, the Eagles scored nine touchdowns and two field goals and averaged 23 points in three games. In the six losses with McNabb at quarterback, they averaged just 11.8 points.

Asked why the offense was able to score consistently with Feeley - against the best team in the league, and a division leader - Reid said: "That's just the way it worked out. You can play that a couple different ways. I'm not going to get into comparing the two."

Feeley also threw eight interceptions in 101/2 quarters, while McNabb has thrown just six all year, none against the Giants.

"He's being smart with the football," Reid said. "Obviously, he's not throwing the interceptions that could have been devastating yesterday. He tried to get the ball to the quick throws as fast as he could get it to them, and go from there."

As for the overall psyche of the team, Reid said he would try to keep the players upbeat. It could be a hard sell, given the recent results.

"Do I think the players are frustrated and the coaches are frustrated? Sure, absolutely," Reid said.

"On the other hand, you still have a chance. So I don't see where the frustration would overrule your opportunity to achieve this week. I can tell you how I feel; I don't know about the team yet, but I will.

"I don't think that I have a room full of guys that would hang their heads. This seems like a group that plays very hard and very aggressive, and for the first week this season had an opportunity to play together. They'll have another opportunity to go out this week and get even better than what they were last week. I think that's a pretty positive thing to have going for you with three games left."