The glue to the Eagles' offensive line this season landed in the trainer's room before the end of the first quarter yesterday.
Center Jamaal Jackson suffered a sprained left knee with 5 minutes and 36 seconds left in the first quarter and did not return. Coach Andy Reid said after the game that Jackson would have an MRI examination on the knee today.
Jackson's injury forced the Eagles to shuffle their offensive line once again, which has been an ongoing saga for this team since the start of training camp.
Nick Cole moved from right guard to center and was replaced at right guard by Max Jean-Gilles.
Jackson was making his 71st straight start, the sixth longest streak among NFL centers. He has not missed a game since taking over the starting job from an injured Hank Fraley in the ninth game of the 2005 season.
While the loss of Jackson certainly weakened the Eagles' offensive line, Jean-Gilles at least has experience with 15 career starts, including four this season at right guard. Cole has never made a start at center, but he said the adjustment isn't that difficult for him.
"It wasn't too bad," Cole said. "As far as technique, everything is pretty much the same. It's just that everybody is depending on you to make the calls and you have to be sharp."
Cole said he does get "a few" reps every week at center and he practices snapping the football from the shotgun formation every day. He also believes that Jackson will be back for Sunday's game in Dallas.
"He should be good," Cole said. "I didn't talk to him yet, but he's an O-lineman. He'll be all right."
If the Eagles were concerned about rushing Brian Westbrook back after a second concussion and a five-game layoff, it did not show.
The running back was an integral part of the offensive game plan, playing approximately 20 plays. Reid said Westbrook was in on 13 plays by the half.
"He told me he felt good and he doesn't lie to me," Reid said. "He's very honest with that. We game plan off of that and that's why we had him back out there."
Westbrook led the team with nine carries for 32 yards. He also finished with two catches for five yards and was targeted by quarterback Donovan McNabb five times. While he didn't alter the outcome, Westbrook was useful enough and more important, finished the game injury-free.
That might not seem like much, but Westbrook had failed to reach the conclusion of the last two games in which he played. On both occasions – Oct. 26 at Washington and Nov. 15 at San Diego – he left early after suffering a concussion.
There were some – pundits and former NFL players – that suggested Westbrook should just hang up his cleats. Six weeks ago, it appeared unlikely that he would even return this season. But he came back to practice three weeks ago and was cleared by doctors last Tuesday to suit for game day.
After administering a big hit on Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall in the opening quarter, Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown turned to the Denver bench and pointed to Dawkins.
"The reason why I pointed at him was because he taught me how to play only that way," Brown said. "And that was to punish the guy with the ball. . . . If you punish him, you set the tempo and tone and it affects the course of the game."
Marshall appeared to alligator-arm, meaning not reach out for passes, and dropped a few balls after Brown's hit.
Brown, who notched two other tackles, hurt his ankle in the third quarter and left for one play. He returned the next series, however, and played the rest of the way. Brown has now played in 139 straight games, including the postseason, and is a candidate to reach his first Pro Bowl. Rosters will be announced tomorrow.
David Akers' 45-yard field goal near the end of the first half gave the Eagles a single-season record of 419 points, breaking the mark of 416 established last season. . . . Asante Samuel's third quarter interception gave the cornerback nine on the season and moved him into a four-way tie for second place with Bill Bradley (1972), Don Burroughs (1960) and Ed Bawel (1955) on the team's all-time mark for picks in a season. Samuel is two behind Bradley's team record of 11 interceptions set in 1971. . . . Defensive end Trent Cole matched his career high in sacks for a season when he recorded No. 12 ½ sack in the fourth quarter. Cole recorded 12 ½ sacks in 2007. . . . Michael Vick was inactive because of the thigh bruise he suffered last week. He did dress as the emergency third quarterback, though. Safety Quintin Demps was also out with an ankle sprain. . . . Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley was ejected in the first quarter when he made contact with back judge Todd Prukop's right index finger while complaining about a non-call on a pass thrown his way. Stokley felt as though Eagles linebacker Will Witherspoon should have been called for pass interference and replays indicated he had a point. . . . Former Eagles running back Correll Buckhalter reinjured his right ankle returning a kickoff near the end of the first half and did not return. It was the same ankle that forced him to miss the Broncos' previous game against Oakland.