EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - L.J. Smith reads the headlines and knows about the sports-talk radio chatter, much of which hasn't been terribly flattering about his impact on the Eagles.
In fact, when a wish list of Eagles' needs is drawn up, it usually includes tight end, the position Smith happens to play.
With that in mind, he was pleased but far from giddy after he played a significant role in yesterday's 20-14 win over the Giants at Giants Stadium, a win that extended the Eagles playoff hopes for at least another week.
"It's good, but at the same time the headlines could be a lot different next week, so I'm not going to sit here and act like I don't know what's going on," Smith said quietly. "I mean, I had a good game this week and if I don't have a good game [next week], the headlines will be something different. We've just got to keep this thing moving and play every game like it's do or die."
Smith had six catches for 44 yards, tying Brian Westbrook for the lead in yesterday's game. It's the most catches Smith has had in a game this season, and several came at key moments, so he'd finally had an impact in a year in which he's had to deal with a back injury and concussion and the frustration of not getting many passes come his way.
Actually, the last time the veteran tight end got this much attention was after he sat out the Nov. 2 game against Seattle with a concussion. Brent Celek started, caught six passes for 131 yards, and there was a growing sentiment that Smith should have been bumped into a backup role.
A performance like yesterday's, though, can keep the critics at bay. At least, as Smith suggested, for a week.
Smith's two biggest receptions came in the second quarter, during a 77-yard scoring drive that resulted in a 30-yard touchdown run by Brian Westbrook that gave the Eagles a 10-0 lead.
On third-and-9 from the Eagles' 48, Donovan McNabb found Smith on a short crossing route. Smith deked past Giants safety Kenny Phillips and gained 10 yards for a first down. Next play, Smith caught another pass for a 12-yard gain to the Giants 30, and Westbrook broke loose for his TD.
After his productive first half, Smith promptly went into the locker room at halftime and threw up. He didn't want to make a big deal of it but he said he had been feeling ill most of the week.
"Injuries are something else," he said. "But sick is nothing. I was feeling whatever all week, but I was fine. It just came out of nowhere, throwing up at halftime."
Smith may have gotten the attention of McNabb because the swirling winds made it nearly impossible for either McNabb or Eli Manning to throw deep, although Manning launched one that probably would have been a touchdown, except it was dropped by Domenik Hixon, who is starting in place of suspended Plaxico Burress.
Instead of going downfield, McNabb relied on the running and catching of Westbrook and short throws to Smith.
"The wind was everywhere," Smith said. "The fourth quarter, you could see when they were driving - they had it bad. It was tough for Eli to throw the ball. The wind was all over the place. It would die then all of a sudden it would pick back up.
"It kind of made us run the ball out of necessity rather than out of want. nd when you actually want to run the ball and you can, that's great. That's something we were lacking in our offense - the run game."