One strange touchdown
Wide receiver Kevin Curtis was making a great downfield block on cornerback Jason David on Sunday when safety Josh Bullocks punched the ball out of Donovan McNabb's left arm at the 26-yard line, triggering a mad scramble for the football near the goal line.
Curtis said he thought McNabb was headed for a touchdown until he looked up at the giant video screen and saw the football was loose. When cornerback Mike McKenzie failed to cover the ball at the 2, Curtis was able to beat safety Roman Harper and linebacker Scott Fujita to it. He recovered the ball in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.
The guy who deserves a lot of credit for the play is wide receiver Hank Baskett, who created the outside lane for McNabb to run with a block on Bullocks at the line of scrimmage. Baskett followed McNabb down the field and interfered with Fujita, allowing Curtis to recover the fumble.
Umpire Darrell Jenkins flagged defensive tackle Mike Patterson for holding right guard Jahri Evans during the Saints' second touchdown drive. If anything, it appeared as if Evans, a product of Frankford High, had held Patterson on the play. It was an important call, too, because if no flag had been thrown, the Saints would have been in a third-and-goal situation from the 8, thanks to a nice tackle by rookie linebacker Akeem Jordan.
Instead, Jenkins' mysterious flag gave them a first-and-goal situation from the 4, and the Saints scored two plays later.
The Eagles' 98-yard touchdown drive after the defense's goal-line stand was launched by a 15-yard personal-foul call against defensive end Will Smith for hitting McNabb in the face mask. Smith hit McNabb in the face mask, but only because he was pushed into the quarterback by guard Todd Herremans.
Eagles cornerback Joselio Hanson seems to understand that these late-season games have a lot of meaning for guys auditioning for jobs next season, and he badly wants to be back as the third cornerback.
Hanson contributed three huge plays to the victory.
He pulled down Marques Colston for a 2-yard loss on a quick screen on the Saints' second possession. He eluded a block by right tackle Jon Stinchcomb and forced a punt by stopping a screen pass to David Patten for no gain on the final play of the first quarter. And with the Saints driving late in the first half, the cornerback blitzed and knocked down a Drew Brees pass.
A good play went really bad for Brian Dawkins late in the first half. The veteran safety blitzed and batted down a pass by Brees, but the ball went right back into the hands of the Saints quarterback, who had the presence of mind to pick up 8 yards after the catch. It appeared as if Dawkins had sprained his right foot on the play. He was in for just one more play before leaving for the remainder of the game - and probably the season.
J.R. Reed replaced Dawkins late in the first half and came up with a huge play when he tackled rookie running back Pierre Thomas for a 7-yard loss that left the Saints' Martin Gramatica with the task of kicking a 55-yard field goal. To his credit, Gramatica nailed the kick right through the middle, tying his career long.
Reed came up huge again early in the second half when he made a hit on Patten that prevented the wide receiver from getting into the end zone, setting up the Eagles' goal-line stand.
The reserve safety forced the Saints to kick a field goal again early in the fourth quarter when he blitzed and immediately got into Brees' face, leading to an incompletion on a third-and-9 play from the 17-yard line.
The Eagles' defense deserved credit for tightening after allowing touchdowns on the Saints' first two series, but it got some help with unforced errors. The first came late in the second quarter when Devery Henderson dropped a third-down pass from Brees that would have given New Orleans a first down in Eagles territory. The second came early in the fourth quarter when Patten dropped what should have been a first-down catch inside the Eagles' 10. The Saints eventually settled for a field goal that left them down by 11 points.
- Bob Brookover