NEW ORLEANS - Brian Dawkins' season of frustration continued yesterday when he was forced to leave the Eagles' 38-23 victory over the New Orleans Saints with a sprained foot late in the first half.

The six-time Pro Bowl safety did not return and was replaced in the lineup by J.R. Reed. The foot injury was the latest in a season filled with injuries for Dawkins. He missed much of the preseason with Achilles tendinitis, then suffered a serious neck injury in the second game of the regular season. The neck injury cost Dawkins five games.

Eagles coach Andy Reid said Dawkins will undergo an MRI examination today. Dawkins was unavailable for comment after the game, but it seems likely that he will miss his sixth game of the year when the Eagles close out their season Sunday against the Buffalo Bills at Lincoln Financial Field.

"I hated to see him go down," defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said. "He was playing so hard, and he wanted to play."

Dawkins left just after the two-minute warning in the first half, after briefly trying to convince trainer Rick Burkholder that he should remain on the field.

The Eagles also lost middle linebacker Omar Gaither to a bruised quadriceps on the Saints' opening drive of the third quarter. Gaither was injured when he teamed with cornerback Sheldon Brown on an open-field tackle of running back Pierre Thomas.

After Gaither left, the Eagles played the remainder of the game with three linebackers (Chris Gocong, Stewart Bradley and Akeem Jordan) who have started a combined 16 games, 15 of them by Gocong.

Winning on the road.

The Eagles finished 5-3 on the road, winning five of their last six away from Lincoln Financial Field, with the lone loss coming against the unbeaten New England Patriots.

The impressive road record means the Eagles are 2-5 at the Linc.

"We have to go back this off-season and try to figure out if there's anything different we did at home and on the road," Reid said. "Normally, you have to figure it out the other way. We'll see what we can come up with."

Westbrook eclipses 2,000.

Running back Brian Westbrook ran 17 times for 100 yards and caught three passes for 9 yards, giving him 109 yards from scrimmage. He became the second player in franchise history with more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage in a single season. He needs 2 yards against the Bills to break Wilbert Montgomery's team record of 2,006 yards from scrimmage, set in 1979.

Oddly, the Saints have done very well at shutting down Westbrook in the receiving game the last two seasons, but they cannot stop him from picking up yards on the ground. In his last three games against New Orleans, Westbrook has run 46 times for 288 yards and two touchdowns. He has caught nine passes for 17 yards.

Special Q.

Quintin Mikell made his mark during his first four NFL seasons as a terrific special-teams player, but he hasn't been in that role too often this season because he has been a starting safety.

But when Dawkins left the game and Reed was forced into action at safety, Mikell jumped back onto special teams.

"Me and J.R. were kind of splitting time, just to give each other a rest," Mikell said. "I was out there doing my thing. It was fun. It came right back to me, and I made a couple of plays."

Mikell made two special-teams tackles, including one in the fourth quarter that probably prevented a long punt return by the Saints' Lance Moore.

Extra points.

The Saints went into the game first in the NFC at converting on third down, but went just 3 for 12 against the Eagles. The Cowboys, second in the NFC in third-down conversions, were 1 for 13 in those situations the week before against the Eagles. . . . Quarterback Donovan McNabb's 40-yard run on the Eagles' first offensive series was his longest since an Oct. 28, 2002, game against the New York Giants when he scored on a 40-yard run. . . . As expected, tight ends Matt Schobel (concussion) and L.J. Smith (knee) and guard Shawn Andrews (knee) were among the Eagles' inactives yesterday. Healthy scratches: safety Marcus Paschal, guard Scott Young, and defensive tackles Montae Reagor and LaJuan Ramsey.

Max Jean-Gilles made his first career start, and Reid praised the second-year guard's performance. Asked if Saints defensive tackle Hollis Thomas said anything to him, Jean-Gilles said, "He just told me I was big. No trash talk or anything like that." . . . The Saints were without starting tailback Reggie Bush (knee) and starting tight end Eric Johnson (groin), and lost star wide receiver Marques Colston (chest contusion) and cornerback Mike McKenzie (knee) during the game.

Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.