Eagles back in the playoff picture Print
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Monday, 08 December 2008 12:35
NFL Headline News

 PHILADELPHIA (AP) -It was only two weeks ago that Donovan McNabb was benched for the first time in his career and people were calling for Andy Reid to be fired.
The Philadelphia Eagles didn't panic or start planning their offseason vacations. Instead, they responded with convincing wins over NFC West champion Arizona and the conference-leading Giants.
Now all that talk about rebuilding and moving on without McNabb or Reid is on hold. The Eagles (7-5-1) are very much alive in the playoff race following Sunday's 20-14 victory at New York. Yes, the same team that couldn't beat the lowly Bengals last month handed the defending Super Bowl champions their first home loss and second defeat of the season.
The Eagles still have to pass Dallas and Atlanta, both 8-5, to get the final wild-card spot. But that's not quite as insurmountable as it once seemed. If they win the last three games - the Cowboys visit Philadelphia for the regular-season finale - and the Falcons lose one more time, the Eagles are guaranteed a playoff berth.
in the NFL, so you just have to make sure that you take care of your business and you can't worry about really anything else,'' Reid said Monday. ``If you get to Thanksgiving and you're within striking distance, that's a good thing. And we were within striking distance, so hopefully we'll just keep pushing and do a good job there.''
Since Reid came to Philly in 1999, the Eagles have been at their best late in the season. They're 34-18 after Thanksgiving, including a 48-20 victory over the Cardinals on the holiday this year. In December, they're 9-2 the last three seasons.
The mood around the team has taken a dramatic turn in just a 10-day span. No one could've seen this coming after the Eagles played to a 13-13 tie at Cincinnati and then were routed 36-7 at Baltimore in a game that saw McNabb yanked at halftime with the score 10-7.
Then again, these Eagles have always handled adversity well. In 2002, they went 5-1 down the stretch after McNabb broke his leg and earned the top seed in the NFC. They won nine straight after starting 2-3 in '03 and finished first in the conference again.
Two years ago, the Eagles were written off after McNabb tore a knee ligament in mid-November. But Jeff Garcia led Philadelphia to its fifth NFC East title in six years with five straight wins, including three in a row on the road against division opponents.
are of business with,'' Reid said. ``It's not a time to sit back and relax.''
In the victories over the Cardinals and Giants, Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg displayed a renewed commitment to the running game. Brian Westbrook had a career-high 33 carries for 131 yards against New York. He ran 22 times for 110 yards against Arizona.
Overall, the running backs have carried 66 times the last two games. That's 43.4 percent of the 152 total plays, a significant change in philosophy for the pass-happy Eagles.
``We're going to do what it takes to win the game,'' Reid said. ``Some of it (Sunday) was dictated by the weather conditions. You weren't going to be very successful throwing the football in that weather. That was one of the factors.''
Whatever the reason they ran, the Eagles are more successful with a balanced offense. It's much easier for defenses to concentrate on stopping Philadelphia's passing attack when McNabb is putting it up 50-60 times a game.
By the time they play next Monday night against Cleveland (4-9), the Eagles might have a chance to move into one of the playoff spots. Dallas hosts the Giants (11-2) and Atlanta hosts Tampa Bay (9-3) on Sunday.
Considering their dreadful performance against the Bengals, the Eagles should know they can't overlook the Browns.
``They have four wins and three of those have been on the road,'' Reid said. ``They have a lot of talent on their team.''

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