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Avant Emerges As Catalyst For The Offense

Jason Avant's two receptions on the game-tying drive in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 27-24 win over the Redskins sparked a struggling offense that had been held to a pair of field goals in the previous two quarters.

Surprised? You shouldn't be.

In San Diego, Avant's one-handed, pirouette catch started the furious fourth quarter rally that came up just short.

In Chicago, Avant broke the curse of the red zone when he scored on a 13-yard screen for the first touchdown of the game.

"That's what good teams do. There are going to be games when you don't play your best game, but it's all about how you end the game," Avant said. "There are going to be some more games this season where we may not play as well, but we've got to come and finish games out in the fourth quarters, and when you're in position, you've got to take advantage of it."

But what is surprising, to an extent, is how Avant's teammates are looking at him. Avant is known as the go-to guy on third downs. This year, Avant has nine receptions on third down. Eight of those catches moved the chains. A survey of the Eagles locker room would reveal that Avant has the best hands on the team. However, there is a more intrinsic quality that he brings to this team.

"There's not a harder worker, not a better teammate deserving of anything he gets. I've never seen a guy that brings so much to a football team," cornerback Sheldon Brown said. "I'll put him in a category with a guy like (Brian Dawkins). His leadership on that side of the ball that people don't see; words cannot express how important he is to this football team."

With the Eagles backed up at their own 10-yard line, Donovan McNabb fired a ball into triple coverage for Avant on the first play of the game-tying drive. The 6-0, 212-pound Avant got his hands on the ball, but it was broken up at the last moment. McNabb decided to go back to Avant again. This time, McNabb hit an open Avant down the right seam. The first defender bounced off Avant like a pinball and Avant gained 46 yards.

"Jason is a big-time player. He's a big-time player and on the first down, it was one-on-one with him and 20 (cornerback Justin Tryon), and again it's putting the ball in a position where they can compete for it," McNabb said. "He had his hands on it, tried to bring it down and the guy knocked it out of his hands. Then what I tried to do was just go right back to him because that's what the defense showed and he secured a catch, got big yards for us and what that did was that got things going. You always need that now and again that goes back to giving them an opportunity to make a play. They make a play and then everybody else is looking for their opportunity."

On the very next play, Avant made an amazing in-air grab deep down the middle for a 20-yard gain. Avant was nailed by safety LaRon Landry and remained on the field after the hit. Since trainers came out to attend to Avant, he had to sit out the next play. But that would be it. Avant came right back in the game.

"I mean a guy that gets two or three straight catches and gets flipped on his back. He's laying there and he wants to stay in the game," McNabb said. "He goes out for a play and he comes right back. That's just showing great effort and the guys trust him in certain situations and I do as well."

"He's a fearless guy. You're born with that," Brown said. "A lot of guys will go and say, for who, for what? He's a guy that puts it out there for us."

With DeSean Jackson sidelined late in the game due to a concussion, Avant paced the receivers with five catches for 94 yards. Avant has 32 catches for a career-high 474 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns with five regular season games still to go in 2009. The Eagles are 7-4 and remain in the thick of the playoff chase thanks in large part to Avant's effort.

"We're a team. If it wouldn't have been me, it would have been someone else," said Avant, who is in his fourth season. "I just thank God for an opportunity to go out there and be able to play. It wasn't about me. It was about the team. I was just in that position at that time - next week it may be someone else."

-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 10:45 a.m., November 30

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