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Benching brushed off

McNabb's focus solely on winning

By Rob Maaddi
Associated Press / December 12, 2008
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PHILADELPHIA - Donovan McNabb may someday reveal the true emotions he felt after getting benched for the first time in his career.

Now isn't the time. Not with the Philadelphia Eagles making a push for the playoffs and McNabb leading the way.

"The only thing I'm focused on at this particular point is playing the Cleveland Browns," McNabb said yesterday.

The Eagles (7-5-1) host the Browns (4-9) Monday night in a game that has playoff ramifications. No one could've imagined Philadelphia playing meaningful games 2 1/2 weeks ago.

After McNabb got yanked at halftime of a 10-7 game at Baltimore Nov. 23, the Eagles fell apart. A 3-point deficit turned into a 36-7 rout. The Eagles were 5-5-1 and going nowhere. McNabb's future with the team after 10 seasons was in doubt. His relationship with coach Andy Reid was being questioned.

Watching a healthy McNabb stand on the sideline in a hooded sweat shirt and jacket while Kevin Kolb ran the offense was strange.

McNabb never pouted, though. He didn't criticize coaches, blame his teammates, or demand a trade. Instead, McNabb responded like a leader.

"He's always been positive," running back Brian Westbrook said. "He remained the leader of this team, a person that everybody on the team looks at as the leader and goes to for advice."

Behind McNabb's arm and Westbrook's legs, the Eagles beat NFC West champion Arizona, 48-20, on Thanksgiving and upset the conference-leading Giants, 20-14, last Sunday.

Philadelphia now sits a half-game behind Dallas and Atlanta, both 8-5, for the final wild-card spot. The Eagles will make the playoffs if they win the last three games and the Falcons lose once.

McNabb has completed 67 percent of his passes (46 of 69) for 451 yards, five touchdowns, and no interceptions since his benching. Reid said the five-time Pro Bowl quarterback just needed a break from the action.

"He's a great player," Reid said. "Sometimes you just need to take a step back and things kind of clear up for you. He's playing great football right now."

Did McNabb learn anything from watching?

"No," he said flatly.

McNabb hasn't started a playoff game since the Eagles lost the Super Bowl after the 2004 season to New England. Jeff Garcia led Philly to the second round of the playoffs in 2006 after McNabb tore a knee ligament.

"You play to make the playoffs and put yourself in position to make the Super Bowl," McNabb said. "I don't look at it as the last time I was there as a starter. I was part of the team that made it with Jeff Garcia. It was a different position for me."

It'll be a more familiar feeling if he's taking the snaps should the Eagles reach the playoffs.

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