Three days after the offense he leads failed to score a touchdown in a must-win game against Washington, three days after the Eagles surrendered control of their playoff chances, quarterback Donovan McNabb was asked to evaluate his season.
"I think I've played great," McNabb said yesterday before the Eagles went through a Christmas Eve practice for Sunday's game against Dallas.
Huh? McNabb's grand self-assessment may not sit well with frustrated Eagles fans.
To make the playoffs, McNabb and the Eagles need help in early games Sunday, and then must beat the Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field.
Statistically, McNabb's numbers are impressive. With a big game against the Cowboys, McNabb can become the first quarterback in franchise history to pass for 4,000 yards in a season. He needs 259 yards to reach the 4,000 plateau. With 135 yards in the air, he can break his own team record, which stands at 3,875 yards.
But statistics don't tell the complete story. For example, the Eagles are going to finish in the top 10 in total offense and defense for the second straight season. Yet they are on the cusp of missing the playoffs for the second straight season.
A skeptic could point out to McNabb that 1,250 of his passing yards came against four teams from the defense-challenged NFC West Division. He averaged 312 yards a game against Arizona, San Francisco, Seattle and St. Louis. In five games against NFC East rivals, McNabb has thrown for 1,092 yards, an average of 218 a game.
Then there's the matter of the Eagles' red-zone offense, which ranks No. 24 in the NFL. The Eagles have managed to score TDs only 46.7 percent of the time after they've advanced to the opponents' 20-yard line or beyond.
"I don't look at the stats aspect of it," McNabb said when told he's within reach of his team record. "But if you do, it has been better than it has been in years. Offensively, we've been able to do some good things and some things that, obviously, we would love to change. I don't regret any of the things I've done this year and look to do better in this game coming up."
McNabb reiterated that he expects to be with the Eagles next season.
"I expect to be here, and I will play this game not like it's my last," he said.
McNabb is under contract for next season. Asked if he wants a new contract, he said, "Everybody wants a new deal. Don't you? But that's not why we're playing this game. We're playing this game to win. and things happen. I've been answering this question the last couple of years, so I guess to eliminate that part of it, hopefully that will happen, but we'll see."
The day after the 10-3 loss to the Redskins, Andy Reid said Washington forced the Eagles to pass by playing an eight-man front.
But a video review of the game showed the Redskins showed an eight-man front on eight of 27 second-half plays before the Eagles' final possession, when they pretty much had to throw.
Reid's unwillingness to run the ball again became an issue after the Eagles called only five running plays out of 41 in the second half.
Asked if he felt as if Washington was focusing on stopping the run, Brian Westbrook said: "It's really hard to say. . . . We didn't get enough opportunities to kind of tell. It was obvious on the passing downs they had a lineman and a linebacker on me. The running part, we didn't have a lot of opportunities, so it's kind of hard to tell exactly what they were doing."
With an eight-man front, a defense moves a safety up to the line of scrimmage. Safety Brian Dawkins has played many plays up on the line of scrimmage, and said teams committed to the run still go at him.
"They'll still run the ball," Dawkins said. "Like I said, it depends on the mind-set of that team."
When Reid was asked if he plans to run the ball more against Dallas, he said, "Yeh, I think we're going to run it every down. Merry Christmas to you and the fans."
Reid said defensive end Victor Abiamiri will miss Sunday's game because of a sprained foot. . . . Linebacker Stewart Bradley (fractured rib, groin), tight end L.J. Smith (shoulder), guard Todd Herremans (sprained ankle), tackle Jon Runyan (knee) and Westbrook (knee, ankle) didn't practice.
Kevin Curtis, who missed the Washington game with a strained calf muscle, practiced and should be ready for Sunday. Fellow wide receiver Hank Baskett, who also sat out the Redskins game with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee, was limited at practice.