ATLANTA - Michael Jordan always said it wasn't the shoes.
Leonard Weaver says, maybe, it was the gloves.
"Thank you, Reebok!" said Weaver after a pair of sticky-handed catches out of the backfield helped lead his Eagles over the Falcons, 34-7.
Squat, powerful men like Weaver - a 6-foot, 250-pound fullback - often aren't able to do the things he did yesterday.
First, he reached behind him, by his right knee, popped up a bullet of a pass from Donovan McNabb in the end zone, then corralled it for a 4-yard touchdown that gave the Eagles a 10-0 lead early in the first quarter.
On the next series, deep in Eagles territory, Weaver reached high with his left hand and snared, one-handed, McNabb's sizzler over the middle . . . and took off, somehow pulling away from the linebackers. About 35 yards after the catch Weaver was run down, 59 yards from scrimmage, at the Falcons' 25.
The catches were sweet, but this is the one that will make Weaver the star of today's film session.
Early in the second quarter, Weaver found room outside of the left tackle and was confronted by Falcons safety Erik Coleman.
Weaver, as big as he is, juked left, cut back right and left Coleman - a comparative sprite at 5-10 and 207 pounds - splayed on the turf. That 17-yard run gave Weaver the bulk of his team-high 37 rushing yards, on five carries.
He finished with 100 all-purpose yards on seven touches - exactly the sort of output Weaver promised in a meeting a little more than 2 weeks ago with Andy Reid.
With franchise running back Brian Westbrook ruled out of the Chicago game due to a second concussion and likely to miss a lot of time, Weaver, in his first season as an Eagle, wanted to reassure his coach that he could produce.
"I went and saw Andy," Weaver said. "I told him . . . 'Lean on me.' "
At that point, Weaver had 29 touches for 164 yards in nine games.
In the three games since his meeting with Reid, Weaver has touched the ball 19 times and has gained 169 yards, leaving Reid a little regretful.
"He didn't get quite as many carries as he should have," Reid said. "He's very good. He sees things well."
"Coach doesn't need to regret that. I'm not mad at it," Weaver said.
Not now, anyway. In the past 3 weeks Weaver has positioned himself as a serious player in the free-agent market . . . if he makes it there.
There have been no talks between the sides, Weaver said, but he makes no secret of his Philly preference: "It's a place I'd love to be, long-term," said Weaver, 27, in his fifth year.
Already, he has eclipsed the career-high in rushing attempts and rushing yards he compiled in 2007 with Seattle. He also caught 39 passes for 313 yards that season, a talent that drew the Eagles' eye.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said he had been looking for a chance to make Weaver more of a weapon. The Falcons showed themselves to be vulnerable to what Weaver can offer, Mornhinweg said.
Weaver showed himself to be up to the task. He figures he always will be.
"When I come into the game, I want the defensive coordinator to account for me," Weaver said. "A lot of fullbacks in this league don't get a chance to be accounted for, because they're not considered weapons. I like that aspect of my game."
So does tight end Brent Celek, McNabb's favored possession receiver. Celek found himself blanketed yesterday, and, really, given that he played with a week-old left-thumb sprain, his season-low two catches were plenty.
As he heals, he knows that the emerging threat Weaver presents will make his life easier.
"He's a beast," Celek said, asked if Weaver's potency will make it tougher for teams to cover the middle of the field. "It does. Two great catches. And his run-after-catch ability . . . we saw what he could do today. He had an amazing game. It opens things up in the middle."
It does, as long as Weaver continues to get the chances. Considering he's built more like a left guard than a point guard, he understands that it has taken a few weeks for Reid and Co. to realize what they have.
"That's something you have to prove week-in and week-out," Weaver said. "It showed them a little bit more what I can do. It ensured some things: He can do it on a consistent basis."
But will it be?
"We've just sort of evolved into that," Mornhinweg said. "And we'll keep evolving."