He gained 91 yards on 19 rushing attempts, caught a couple of passes, one for a touchdown, and was an afterthought to many in a blowout victory. It was easily the quietest 92-yard, two-touchdown game in Brian Westbrook's career. Monday night, in the glare of the spotlight of a game in Dallas, Westbrook is sure to make some noise. Just how much could determine the outcome for the Eagles in this early-season NFC East showdown.
Of many talents who are going to play in this game, Westbrook may be the most wondrous of all. He is The Little Man Who Can, and Westbrook's versatility, explosiveness and intelligence for the game have long helped make him the go-to player in this offense. Add to that, of course, is that he has been the focal point for every defense since, well, since Westbrook started playing in earnest in 2003.
No team has really come up with an answer for Westbrook. He is too shifty, too smart, too talented to cage. If a team loads eight men into the box, the Eagles can split Westbrook out in the formation and get him into the passing game and, well, who can cover Westbrook in the open field? St. Louis actually did a reasonable job on Sunday against Westbrook, limiting him to two receptions for a single yard, but the Rams seemed so concentrated on Westbrook that they lost focus on everyone else in the Eagles offense and Donovan McNabb and his mates scorched the defense for 522 yards.
It was not a routine day at the office for Westbrook or for the offense. It was spectacular, promising, brilliant. It was, in a sense, a preview of what could come down the line if defenses put too much of their efforts into stopping Westbrook.
Dallas, for example, figures to have spent a lot of time this week making sure they have a plan for No. 36. It is safe to assume that they have a running back -- Tashard Choice, maybe? -- wearing the red jersey of Westbrook in practice. That red jersey signifies players on the opposing team the defense wants to stop. DeSean Jackson, for example, was a target for the Rams last week, along with Westbrook. Truth be told, neither player -- no player, in fact -- was bottled up too well.
Anyway, Dallas knows full well how much damage Westbrook can inflict. He has averaged 5.4 yards per touch in 12 games against Dallas, along with 90.5 total yards per game. In the November loss to Dallas at Lincoln Financial Field last season, Westbrook caught 14 passes for 90 yards. Dallas was willing to give Westbrook all the underneath yardage he wanted. The Cowboys had a lead. Westbrook had no room to break anything big. It worked well for the visitors.
What might the Cowboys do on Monday night to corral Westbrook? Are they willing to sell out with run blitzes every time they have the idea that Westbrook is going to touch the football out of the backfield? Would they use a spy on Westbrook? Or will Dallas play it straight and keep eight men in the box and take their chances in coverage against the Eagles' wide receivers?
It is part of the back-and-forth chess match that means so much in games like these. The talent level between the teams seems to be minimal. There are injury question marks on both sides. The coaches know the other coaches extremely well. Both teams have momentum after huge wins on Sunday.
Who makes the difference, then?
Why not Westbrook?
"I've been able to make some plays here and there against them. I think that we match up pretty well against them, our offensive line against their big defensive line," said Westbrook. "They're very athletic in the secondary as well. We match up pretty well against them, and they do some things that we try to take advantage of, and if we are able to do that, we'll be alright."
Westbrook will get his touches, maybe as many as 25 to 30. The Eagles need him to move the sticks, threaten the defense and get into the end zone. He is the engine here, the difference maker.
As it has been in the past, Westbrook is the focal point. He is ready to step in and step up once again. On the stage of Monday night, Westbrook wants to make some noise.