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Back In The Game, And Ways To Stay There

It is amazing, two days later, how much better the view is from the perspective of 6-4 rather than 5-5. The Eagles got back into the playoff game, so to speak, by beating Chicago on the road. They have control of the season's destiny with Washington in town on Sunday. How can the Eagles do something they have had trouble doing for the last couple of years, and that is to take the momentum they have and roll with it.

To do so, the Eagles must play a more complete game than they showed in Chicago. Here is a list of some of the things the Eagles must bring to the table to beat a Washington team that has all kinds of injuries, all kinds of adversity, but is still playing lights-out defense and a backs-to-the-wall offense that still has big-play capability.



The use of the no-huddle offense is something that quarterback Donovan McNabb really likes, and the Eagles used it effectively against Chicago. For whatever reason, it seems to get the offense into more of an up-tempo, urgent mentality. Obviously, the Eagles get the personnel groupings they want on the field.

So let's hope the Eagles don't put the no-huddle in mothballs. No reason to use it every week, but if Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg can keep it on the front burner, the no-huddle offense can certainly aid the unpredictability of the offense.

So, too, is the use of Michael Vick in the spread formation. His 34-yard carry sent a jolt through the offense. Later, he was on the field to convert another third-and-short situation. We have not seen Vick in the red zone, but that has to be in the playbook somewhere. Vick can be a weapon if he is used a few snaps each game and he has a chance to run around and cause some havoc within the defense.

Let's not forget how effective the Eagles were at running the football at Chicago. It is going to be really fun to see what kind of progress LeSean McCoy makes on a week-to-week basis as he takes all the practice reps and knows going in that he is the man to run the football. He is a talented kid, a young man who is super quick in his first 10 yards and who makes people miss in that small area. You may not see McCoy break off a 65-yard touchdown, but he is going to have a lot of 15- to 35-yard gains in his career.



McNabb threw to Jackson 10 times in Chicago and completed 8 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown. This is a lesson that should not be forgotten: No matter what defenses are doing, no matter how much they are rolling coverage his way, Jackson has to be a primary target in the passing game, in the running game, in the offense. The young man needs to touch the football 8 to 10 times each and every game the rest of the season.

Clearly, Jackson learned a lot during his rookie season. Most notable is the durability required to remain productive throughout the long, long NFL season. Jackson looks every bit as fast and spry as he did in Carolina on Week 1. There is nobody more explosive than Jackson, so he needs to have the football in his hands.

I like the progress rookie Jeremy Maclin is making. He is a standout in the making. Brent Celek is handling things very nicely at tight end. Jason Avant is as good as any slot receiver in the league.

But Jackson is special, a game-breaking player and he needs the football. Give it to him.



It's great that the Eagles adopted the must-win approach to beat Chicago. They went out and played hard-nosed, if imperfect, football to gain a huge road win. With a wounded Washington coming in on Sunday, will the Eagles be every bit as desperate?

We'll learn a little bit more about the team's leadership in this game. A team that has no business making the playoffs and doing damage there plays a sluggish game against Washington. A team that has its head on straight and that is truly ready for another playoff run goes out and plays outstanding football against Washington.

As for discipline, the special teams showed a lot of solid play and good mental discipline in Chicago. The Eagles were still penalized 8 times and that has to concern the coaching staff. So they have to continue to stress attention to detail and all of the little things. Penalties are a killer down the stretch. The best teams reduce their penalties and their mental mistakes at this time of the year. Andy Reid's Eagles have always done that in November and December. They have a chance to step up again this year.



Victor Abiamiri is still not 100 percent after his knee injury, so his reps have been limited in the games since he has come back. In his place, Jason Babin is playing very good football. Sean McDermott may have found something, something with Jeremiah Trotter at middle linebacker against power formations, so perhaps Trotter has earned some reps down the stretch.

With the secondary all sorts of banged up, the Eagles have turned to players like Sean Jones and Dimitri Patterson and Macho Harris in coverage and they have played well. Antonio Dixon is making plays at defensive tackle.

McDermott has exhausted his defensive depth chart and won't quit. He has shown early in his coaching career that he isn't afraid to challenge players and move pieces around. McDermott will have to continue with that approach, but the injuries are only going to get worse.

Against Washington, the Eagles have to make sure they aren't beaten down the field by the very good group of receivers. They have cornerbacks Sheldon Brown battling a hamstring injury and Asante Samuel battling a neck injury. Will they again have to go deep into the rotation to cover Washington?

At linebacker, well, things are different from one week to the next. It is as crazy as any situation as the Eagles have had at a single position in many, many years.

Yet, the defense keeps playing good, physical football. That is what playoff teams do. The Eagles are right there, in the hunt, and to stay there they have to find ways to win. Washington is next. The season is alive. Let's see how the Eagles handle their position in the stretch run.

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