In this same space a few weeks ago, it was noted that Donovan McNabb wasn't fully responsible for the Eagles' 16-13 loss to the New York Giants that pretty much destroyed the team's playoff hopes.
Now, it's time to point out that the Eagles quarterback wasn't entirely responsible for the team's 38-23 victory Sunday in the Superdome, which pretty much destroyed the New Orleans Saints playoff hopes.
Yes, McNabb played well, better than he had in any game since Week 3, when he was nearly perfect in a rout of the Detroit Lions at Lincoln Financial Field. He completed 24 of 35 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns.
He was 6 for 8 for five first downs and a touchdown on critical third-down plays. He ran a naked bootleg for 40 yards on the Eagles' first offensive series, making the Saints respect his ability to run from the beginning of the game.
As New Orleans prepared for its must-win game against the Eagles, Saints defensive end Will Smith had called McNabb "the king of the broken play."
McNabb made Smith look prophetic late in the first quarter when defensive tackle Hollis Thomas beat a block by guard Todd Herremans and had a clear path for a sack. McNabb escaped to his left, then turned back right with his eyes focused downfield. He found rookie tight end Brent Celek open for a 29-yard gain.
Those plays are the kind that demoralize opposing defenses.
McNabb also spread the football around to seven receivers, another trademark of his best days as the Eagles' quarterback.
But the Eagles' victory Sunday wasn't all about McNabb. It was about outstanding catches by Reggie Brown, Kevin Curtis and the rest of the receiving corps. While the Saints dropped the ball at critical junctures, the Eagles receivers made play after play.
This win also was about a running game that averaged 6.6 yards thanks to the brilliance of Brian Westbrook, the physical running of Correll Buckhalter, and the outstanding play up front.
Defense and solid special-teams play, always the best friends of any quarterback and offense, came up big. After rookie linebacker Stewart Bradley led the third-quarter goal-line stand, McNabb and the Eagles fed off the momentum and went 98 yards for a touchdown. McNabb had huge third-down completions to Jason Avant and Brown on the long drive. Brown's catch on a third-and-5 play from the Saints' 15-yard line was every bit as vital as McNabb's strong throw.
After Martin Gramatica's third field goal of the game cut the Eagles' lead to eight points in the fourth quarter, Buckhalter responded with an impressive 34-yard return to the 44. Given a short field, the Eagles scored a game-clinching touchdown with McNabb and Curtis hooking up three times for 42 yards.
One of McNabb's comments after the game pretty much summed up what has gone wrong this year and what needs to change next season.
"The word is
, and it starts with myself," the quarterback said. "Everyone else has to have that same mind-set."
It is about being consistent and it does start with the quarterback, but it can't end there if the Eagles are going to turn this late-season surge into a positive beginning nine months from now.