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Paul Domowitch: Between The Tackles

Maybe it was a message to the media, or maybe it was a message to his unhappy teammate Lito Sheppard and his troublemaking agent, Drew Rosenhaus.

"No matter the [cornerback] rotation, nobody can complain when you're winning," said Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown.
"No matter the [cornerback] rotation, nobody can complain when you're winning," said Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown.Read more

Maybe it was a message to the media, or maybe it was a message to his unhappy teammate Lito Sheppard and his troublemaking agent, Drew Rosenhaus.

Either way, Sheldon Brown clearly is sick and tired of dealing with the soap opera that is the Eagles' three-headed cornerback situation. The season has begun and he wants everybody to shut up and play.

"Winning handles and controls everything," Brown said after the Eagles' lopsided 38-3 win over the St. Louis Rams. "No matter the [cornerback] rotation, nobody can complain when you're winning.

"What's important for us to understand is that we're here to win and try to accomplish something. All that other bullcrap, it can be handled at a different time. So we don't really need to discuss it."

Sheppard wasn't around after the game to tell us whether he agrees with his bud's shut-up-and-play opinion, making a hasty exit from the locker room before reporters arrived.

The two-time Pro Bowler has made it clear he's not happy with his new status as the team's third corner behind Brown and Asante Samuel. But his unhappiness didn't seem to affect his play yesterday as the rest of the Eagles' defense silenced the Rams' inept passing game.

They held Rams quarterback Marc Bulger to 158 passing yards and their seven-time Pro Bowl wideout Torry Holt to one catch for 9 yards. The only real negative was the three interception opportunities the Eagles squandered, including two that went in and out of Samuel's hands.

"I should've had them," Samuel said. "You'd be loving me now [if I caught them]."

The Eagles finished last in the league in takeaways last season with just 19, including only 11 interceptions. They went out and signed Samuel, who had 16 interceptions with the Patriots the last two seasons, to help change that. But they didn't have any takeaways against the Rams.

"I still don't think we're there," strong safety Quintin Mikell said. "We had a good game. But we had some picks we dropped. The thing we've stressed is [forcing] turnovers and getting off the field on third down. We definitely stepped up on getting off the field [on third down]. But we've got to do better with the turnovers. Hopefully, we can improve on that next week."

The Rams were 0-for-11 on third downs.

Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has repeatedly downplayed the three-cornerback dilemma by saying that he likely will have all three on the field at least 50 to 60 percent of the time this season. He upped that number to 70 percent last week.

Against the Rams, Sheppard was on the field for 28 of the Eagles' 40 defensive plays, including 20 with Samuel and Brown in nickel (five defensive backs) and dime (more than five) packages, and eight in which he replaced Brown at right cornerback in their base defense.

They held the Rams' four wideouts - Holt, Drew Bennett, Dante Hall and Dane Looker - to a combined six receptions for 47 yards and didn't give up a touchdown pass.

"We're all smart enough and old enough to know that, on any given week, it can be totally different," Brown said. "Let's be honest: We've got a challenge coming up [Monday night against Dallas]. Let's see if we can answer it."

Brown had the best hit of the game, leveling running back Steven Jackson and knocking his helmet off his head after a 24-yard catch in the second quarter. Both of the Eagles' safeties were up near the line of scrimmage on the play, and Brown was playing centerfield.

"In certain packages, I'm helping the [other] corner over the top," he said. "We had both safeties down in the box and I had an opportunity to play in the middle of the field.

"[Jackson] is 6-1, 230 [Brown is 5-10, 200]. Last night, coach said, 'Small guys, go low.' But it was an opportunity for me to go high and I took it."


--To coach Andy Reid, for having the good sense to remove most of his key starters from the game early in the fourth quarter.


--I know I'm being picky here considering that he threw three TD passes and finished with a 131.0 passer rating, but McNabb should have run the ball in for a touchdown on that third-and-goal play from the Rams' 5 late in the third quarter rather than force the ball to covered tight end L.J. Smith. McNabb would have had an easy touchdown. The pass to Smith was incomplete and the Eagles had to settle for a David Akers field goal. If the game had been closer, my guess is McNabb probably would have tucked it under his arm and ran.


"There's a lot of emphasis put on the first game [of the season]. And it's the most overrated game in the league. I'm very happy to have this one, and we'll enjoy it. But it's one of 16."

- Andy Reid, who had lost six of previous first nine season-openers.


--For the moment, Donovan McNabb owns the lowest interception percentage in NFL history. With no picks in 33 attempts against the Rams, he lowered his career interception percentage to 2.098, which moved him ahead of Neil O'Donnell (2.106). McNabb has thrown just one interception in his last 182 attempts, dating back to last season. He hasn't thrown an interception in 16 of his last 26 starts.

--DeSean Jackson, Greg Lewis and Hank Baskett became the first Eagles pass-catching trio to put up 100-yard receiving performances in the same game since Timmy Brown, Tommy McDonald and Pete Retzlaff did it in 1960.

--The Rams failed to convert any of their 11 third-down opportunities. In the Eagles' last four games dating back to last season, their opponents are just 6-for-48 on third-down conversions.

--Donovan McNabb's 361 passing yards were the most Week 1 passing yards of his career. It's the third time he's opened with three or more touchdown passes. He threw four in '04 (vs. Giants) and had three in '02 (at Tennessee) and '06 (at Houston).

--Josh Brown's 46-yard field goal in the fourth quarter spoiled the Eagles' bid for their first shutout of the Andy Reid era. The last time the Eagles blanked an opponent was Dec. 1, 1996, when they beat the New York Giants, 24-0.

--The Eagles have just six interceptions in their last 12 games, dating back to last season. Three of those six came in their 10-6 win over the Cowboys last Dec. 16.

--The Eagles' offensive line didn't give up a sack. That happened just once last season (vs. Miami in Week 11).

--Brian Westbrook's two touchdowns were just one fewer than he had in the final seven games last season.