IRVING, Texas — Just when you thought you had seen everything Brian Westbrook could do on a football field, he did something else amazing today. He stopped.
With 2 minutes, 19 seconds left and the Eagles leading the Dallas Cowboys by 10-6, the eventual final score, the ball was snapped at the Dallas 25-yard line and it was handed to Westbrook and he went off right tackle and broke into the secondary.
He was free. He was clear. He was going to score the touchdown that put the Eagles up 11 points with about 2:10 remaining.
And then he stopped.
On the 1-yard line.
It was a selfless act with a strategic purpose. Dallas was out of timeouts. After the 2-minute warning, all the Eagles would have to do was kneel three times and the game would be theirs. You can debate the strategy —- who could possibly calculate the odds of botching three kneel-downs and giving up a score versus the odds of blowing an 11-point lead with 2 minutes to play? —- but you cannot debate that Westbrook gave up a touchdown there and did it as an act of unselfishness.
What we found out later was that he had a little help in the decision-making from right tackle Jon Runyan.
“I just want to help this team win — and I got a stern talking-to by Jon Runyan right before that play,” Westbrook said. “He said, ‘Listen, if you get down to the 1, take a knee.’ I was like, ‘Ahhh ... ’ He said, ‘Take a knee, Westbrook, take a knee.’”
Then, during the play, Westbrook said: “I looked back and I saw all 6-7 or 6-8 of him running toward me saying, ‘Get down.’ So I got down ... Runyan, he’s our offensive leader out there. He’s a coach. So he helped me out a little bit there.”
It was the day’s last amazing act. And if Donovan McNabb was the most impressive player today on the Eagles’ offense, so tough under pressure, Westbrook was typically essential. He ran the ball 18 times for 81 yards and had nine receptions for 63 yards. In the first quarter, he also returned a punt for 9 yards.
Twenty-eight touches. Just another day at the office.
And there also was a scare, when he came out of the game in the third quarter for a couple of plays after banging up his knee. (It resulted in rookie Tony Hunt getting windburn while failing to block a blitz, which is another matter.) But Westbrook said there was never a doubt that he was coming back. He was, it seemed, on a bit of a mission after reading what he thought were some disparaging comments from the Cowboys in the days leading up to the game.
“I think we felt like they didn’t really respect us,” he said. “Sometimes, when you don’t respect the opponent, you get beat.”