|Knee improving, McNabb is a running threat again|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 14 November 2007 12:17|
No detour toward the sideline or a quick slide this time. McNabb kept running for 16 yards before going down, his longest gain in 13 months.
For the first time since tearing a knee ligament, McNabb finally looked like his old scramblin' self in the Philadelphia Eagles' 33-25 victory at Washington last Sunday. The five-time Pro Bowl quarterback had 39 yards rushing on five carries, before kneeling down twice at the end.
``I think even more so this past week, when he pulled it down, he pulled it down with a little conviction in it,'' coach Andy Reid said Wednesday. ``He went and ran very hard. He was very decisive on what he was going to do. That shows you he's getting more comfortable with his leg and everything else. That does put pressure on the defense and that was good to see.''
Slowed by his surgically repaired right knee, McNabb had turned into a pure pocket passer this season. He ran just 19 times for 72 yards in the first eight games, and had trouble eluding even some of the bigger linemen chasing him from behind.
He shed a bulky protective brace after just two games, but still couldn't avoid pressure the way he used to. McNabb has been sacked 30 times, including 12 times in a loss to the New York Giants in Week 4.
Some of the sacks were the fault of a makeshift offensive linemen and some were coverage sacks. A few times, McNabb held the ball too long instead of throwing it away or taking off. Now he doesn't have to think twice about running.
``It's an exciting time because this is the time when you really want to be healthy,'' McNabb said. ``There are a lot of different things that I knew I wasn't able to do early on that I can definitely do now. It's not that you focus on the mobility, it's more of the balance and confidence in knowing that you used to be able to do, now you can do.''
McNabb never embraced the idea of being a running quarterback because he didn't want to be labeled as one-dimensional, so he always looked to pass first. But his ability to create big plays with his legs caused many problems for defenses.
Hoping to prevent McNabb from turning a certain loss into a long gain either by running or buying time to find an open receiver, teams often would assign one player - a spy - to shadow him. Even if he didn't run, the possibility existed and defenses had to be wary.
Until last week, opponents were able to focus on containing McNabb in the pocket without the fear of his legs doing damage. Not anymore.
Against the Redskins, McNabb ran for a first down four times, including once on third-and-2 and a sneak on fourth-and-1.
``I think you saw with that one scramble that he was able to elude the defender and get up the field,'' safety Brian Dawkins said. ``That's what Donovan used to do. Once he gets past a guy, he gets separation from him. So, he's getting more comfortable and confident. He's, if not there, very close.''
McNabb is quietly putting together one of his best statistical seasons from a numbers standpoint. He's thrown for 2,295 yards, 13 touchdowns and four interceptions.
His quarterback rating (91.7) is the third highest in his nine-year career and his completion percentage (61.0) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (3.25:1) are second. McNabb's best season in each of those categories came in 2004 when Terrell Owens was here and the Eagles reached the Super Bowl.
Still, McNabb has come under heavy criticism for his performance, even though he's still not a year removed from the knee injury. He's been more defensive and reluctant to accept blame for the team's struggles, perhaps because he knows rookie Kevin Kolb is waiting to take his job.
``This isn't the first year where I've been a part of a controversy, so I'm quite used to it,'' he said. ``There's been some different controversy every year. I don't get caught up in it. I never let it affect what I do here in this building, when I step out on the field, or when I step off of the field. When I put the helmet on, it's just me and those 10 other guys out on that field trying to get into the end zone.''