IRVING, Texas - Donovan McNabb was feeling the pressure. He deked one way and then turned and headed the other. He kept looking for a way to escape.
This was about 90 minutes after McNabb endured a physical pounding to lead the Eagles to an improbable 10-6 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. He was in his street clothes, surrounded by reporters trying to pin him down on a report by Fox sideline reporter Pam Oliver. During the game, Oliver said she spoke with McNabb Saturday and came away convinced that he believed he was being phased out of Philadelphia and would be a "winner" wherever he played next.
"I didn't say that," an exasperated McNabb said after a game right out of his 2002 highlight reel. "I don't feel that way. I've said I want to be here eight more, nine more years. If that's possible, we'll see."
McNabb said Oliver's comments were conclusions she drew, not anything he said himself. But it isn't hard to see how she might have reached those conclusions since, within moments, McNabb was laughing and rolling his eyes at a question about whether he felt he would be welcomed back in Philadelphia in 2008.
"I don't know, are you going to welcome me?" McNabb said.
Yesterday's win accomplished at least one thing. It put to rest any idea that rookie Kevin Kolb should or could start in New Orleans this Sunday. The Eagles are mathematically alive for a playoff berth and that means McNabb continues to play.
"I don't even want to say the word 'playoffs,' " McNabb said. "We just want to win these last three games and see where we stand. All I'm thinking about is going and coming out with a win in New Orleans."
If he plays the way he did against the Cowboys, the Eagles will have a chance. That will mean no more than a .500 record, hardly anything to brag about. But it will also mean that McNabb finishes this season playing more like the quarterback he was before the knee injury that ended his 2006 season.
"Donovan played a fantastic game today," running back Brian Westbrook said. "He ran the ball well and he threw it well in the clutch. That's who he is, a clutch performer. Our running game wasn't where we needed it to be all day and he carried us."
It wasn't easy, either. At one point in the fourth quarter, Fox posted a graphic showing that McNabb dropped back to pass 42 times. He was sacked four times, hit 11 times and hurried 17 times. Still, he managed to hang in, move the team effectively most of the game and make some key throws when he absolutely had to.
"If he didn't show you today," Andy Reid said, "he'll never show you. If you can't love him for what he did today . . . then, I don't know. He has been doing it for nine stinking years and he just keeps playing. You're never going to make everyone happy. I think 90 percent of the people love him to death and the 10 percent that don't - those are the [ones] people listen to."
Reid added, with a little vinegar in his voice, "I'm glad you guys don't listen to that 10 percent."
If you look at it closely, the idea that McNabb is on his way out is based mostly on thin air and a lot of speculation. Yes, the Eagles drafted Kolb in the second round. That means they felt compelled to have a young quarterback ready to play at a high level if McNabb got injured again. It doesn't mean Kolb has to be playing in 2008 or 2009. Look at Green Bay. The Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers in the first round in 2005 - Brett Favre's presumed successor is still on the sideline.
It's a mistake to assume Reid doesn't have a lot of respect and affection for the guy he chose to build his team around in 1999. From the beginning, these Eagles have always played hard for Reid. McNabb embodies that. No matter how many hits he takes, he plays until he physically can't go on.
This has been a very disappointing season, the worst of Reid and McNabb's tenure here. It would be a calamitous season, though, if these Eagles showed any signs of quitting. They came to Texas Stadium and beat a very good team in a very, very physical game.
And still the talk was about McNabb's future, as if he already had one foot in Chicago or Carolina or Atlanta.
"I'm a human being," McNabb said. "I get tired of answering the same questions. But I stand up here like a professional and do it. We have two weeks left in the season. I'm going to go out there and give it everything I have in those games."
He always has. Whatever happens next, McNabb has always given everything.