Eagles rely on Westbrook for big plays Print
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Tuesday, 13 November 2007 11:24
NFL Headline News

 PHILADELPHIA (AP) -Brian Westbrook can turn a simple screen pass into a touchdown or a short gain into a long run. More than once, he's turned a loss into a win for the Philadelphia Eagles.
When nothing else seems to work for an inconsistent offense, putting the ball in Westbrook's hands often creates positive results.
``You're talking about one of the best players in his position in this league,'' coach Andy Reid said. ``He proves it over and over. He's got a knack for making big plays at the end of the game. I don't know why that is, other than he's a good football player.''
The Eagles trailed Washington 25-20 late in the fourth quarter Sunday when Westbrook caught a screen pass from Donovan McNabb. Aided by excellent downfield blocking, turned it into a 57-yard touchdown for a one-point lead with just over 3 minutes left.
It was a perfectly executed play that helped Philadelphia (4-5) win a game it couldn't afford to lose. Westbrook finished with 100 yards rushing and had 83 more receiving, scoring three times.
``If you give a guy like Westbrook space, he's going to take it and do something great with it,'' said guard Shawn Andrews, who threw a nasty block to help spring Westbrook.
In his typical, unassuming way, Westbrook gave credit to the linemen and wideout Reggie Brown for paving his way into the end zone with their blocks.
``That screen was really a play that shows how much a team game this really is, and how much the team really wanted it,'' he said. ``Our offensive line did a great job of getting down the field, throwing blocks across the board, all of them. Reggie making a big block at the end. That was a real team play and our team did a great job on that play.''
The 28-year-old Westbrook is on pace for the best season of his six-year career. Despite missing one game with an abdominal injury, Westbrook is eighth in the NFL with 701 yards rushing. He's second among running backs and ninth overall with 54 catches for 518 yards, and he has nine TDs combined.
At this rate, Westbrook would finish with 1,314 yards rushing, 101 receptions for 971 yards and 17 total TDs; each would be career highs. He has a chance to become the third halfback in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season, joining Roger Craig (1985) and Marshall Faulk (1999).
Often overlooked for the Pro Bowl, Westbrook is making a strong case to earn his second trip to Hawaii. He went to the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement after the 2004 season when the Eagles reached the Super Bowl.
``I've had an opportunity to see it firsthand for a couple of years now, and the guy just continues to come into his own, and he is not only locally but nationally recognized,'' McNabb said. ``I'm excited to have him on my team because we're able to do a lot of different things with him.''
A third-round pick out of Villanova in the 2002 draft, Westbrook has overcome stereotypes throughout his career. At 5-foot-8 and 203 pounds, he was considered too small to handle the rigors of playing every down. He still hasn't played a full season, but he answered questions about his durability down the stretch last year.
After McNabb went down with a season-ending knee injury, the Eagles relied more on Westbrook and the running game. Westbrook proved he can handle the workload. He surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for the first time, finishing at 1,217. His average of 5.1 yards per carry was a franchise record and he also had a career-high 77 catches for 699 yards. No other back averaged more yards per touch (6.0) or per catch (9.1) last year.
With McNabb returning, Westbrook's carries are down slightly from when Jeff Garcia filled in. Westbrook averaged 20 carries per game in the first five games McNabb sat out last season and 18.3 this season. Overall, he's averaging a career-best 25 touches.
``I have a hard time believing anybody right now is doing it better than Brian is doing at his position,'' Reid said. ``He does so many things well. Besides running the football, he also catches the football well out of the backfield and also flexed out.''
 

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