When it comes to the Eagles, it's apparently a time of the season for leaving impressions.

Pam Oliver, a sideline reporter during Sunday's telecast of the Eagles' 10-6 win over Dallas, said Donovan McNabb left her the impression that the Eagles' brass has distanced itself from him and that his playing days in Philly are numbered.

After the game, McNabb said he didn't feel that way.

Yesterday, coach Andy Reid left the impression that the 6-8 Eagles would be looking forward to the playoffs if they had remained healthy and if the coach had done a better job of play-calling in the red zone.

In turn, he also left the impression that he would like his chances with basically the same team next season, which means McNabb at quarterback.

First, the McNabb issue. Reid was as forceful and about as animated as the taciturn coach has been at a news conference when asked about the report by Oliver, who said she had spoken to McNabb before the game.

"I know what he [McNabb] thinks. I don't worry about all that," Reid said. "To be honest about it, I'm so tired of talking about it. Every week I'm asked the same thing, and there's nothing that changes from week to week. Everybody in our organization said it, and I don't know what else needs to be said on it. It's been said. It's out there and, hey, let it ride. Let's go play.

"I'm really tired of talking about it. I've answered it and answered it and answered it. I mean, I can't tell you any more than I already have."

Eagles president Joe Banner recently said on the show of WIP's Howard Eskin that he couldn't envision a scenario in which McNabb is not the quarterback next season. That doesn't mean a scenario won't develop to change the minds of Reid and Banner. Yet, they may be inclined to keep McNabb if they believe they are closer to becoming a Super Bowl contender next season than they appear to be.

For the Eagles in general, Sunday's surprising win provided a respite for a season that defies logic. They are the only NFL team with a losing record that has outscored its opponents, and they rank fourth in the NFC in both total offense and total defense.

But the Eagles will miss the playoffs for just the third time since Reid became coach in 1999 because of their failure to win close games. They are 1-5 in games decided by four or fewer points. Three of those losses came in succession leading into the Dallas game.

To Reid, a big play here or there would have made a huge difference. He pointed out yesterday that two of the key playmakers on defense, Lito Sheppard and Brian Dawkins, had been banged up for much of the season. Sheppard, who held Terrell Owens to two catches, and Dawkins made key interceptions to help beat the Cowboys.

"I think I know what we are," Reid said. "We've been coming together here the last month. We've come up a little short, I know. . . . [Sunday] was just kind of a culmination of guys having the opportunity to get back. You look at Lito and Dawk, both of them had turnovers and played their tails off. They're getting healthier. I think I know what we are. We're just doing it a little bit late."

Reid took blame for the red-zone offense, which ranks 25th in the NFL.

"We're moving the ball very well until we get to that red zone," he said. "You'd like to say it's all about the execution of the play and all that, but it's also what [plays] you dial up. I can do a better job there."

Reid also took time to lobby for Brian Westbrook to make the Pro Bowl for the first time. The team will be announced today.

"I have a hard time believing anybody's doing it better than he's doing it right now at the running-back position," Reid said. "I mean, this guy blocks, he catches, he runs - you know, he can think on the field. He's a valuable guy in a lot of areas, and he's not just OK in those areas. He's special in those areas. I have a hard time seeing him not making that team."

Westbrook leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,896. He is fifth in rushing - second in the NFC - with 1,191 yards and tied for fourth in the NFC in receiving with 83 catches.

Westbrook passed up a chance to score a touchdown late in the Cowboys game when he fell at the 1-yard line, assuring that Dallas would not get the ball back. Westbrook said tackle Jon Runyan told him to take a knee before going into the end zone.

"We had an opportunity to see how smart he is and how unselfish he is," Reid said. "Whether he says Jon Runyan - which I don't question. Jon's a smart guy, too - was making the call or not, for a running back to execute it is a sign of something else. Sometimes it's hard to get guards and tackles to communicate, let alone get someone who's running 15 yards downfield to listen to his offensive tackle. But it was a heck of a job, Brian taking a knee there."

What did you think of Brian Westbrook's detour at the 1-yard line on Sunday? Vote at http://go.philly.



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Pam Oliver vehemently defends her report.