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Kolb Learns Through Struggles

BALTIMORE --When the Philadelphia Eagles took the field in the second half of an ugly 10-7 game at Baltimore, the face of the franchise for 10 years was on the sidelines in a coat.

Donovan McNabb was not injured, but he was ineffective. So under center Jamaal Jackson was second-year quarterback Kevin Kolb.

"My thought process was, 'Let's get it right,'" Kolb said. "Try to lead the team the way I thought I should. Obviously, it didn't go quite as I expected." Photo Gallery : PHI vs. BAL 11-23-08

Kolb's appearance wasn't called for so much out of excitement for the future, but the struggles of the present. With the season on the line and the Eagles' offense anemic, something, obviously, needed to be done.

Head coach Andy Reid, in starting Akeem Jordan at weakside linebacker and Brent Celek at tight end, showed he wasn't afraid to send a signal where he thought one was needed. And with Kolb's insertion, he showed he had no qualms about taking it to the top.

"Sometimes … you step back an inch and go forward a mile," Reid said about McNabb, saying he still believed he could play at a high level. "It's just something I thought needed to be done at the time."

Both McNabb and Kolb, likewise, found out Reid's decision at halftime from quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur. Reid did not talk to McNabb until after the game in a private meeting.

The move ended speculation as to whether Reid would bench the quarterback who undoubtedly helmed his offense for his entire career. But after a solid start that declined precipitously, that question was answered.

McNabb and the offense didn't come out and drive right down the field, but they seemed to at least establish some momentum with a couple of running plays, screens and intermediate passes. For the first time this season, the Eagles ran on the first play of the game, signaling at least an initial change in philosophy.

But while McNabb finished the first quarter 6-of-7 for 43 yards, his second quarter was inexcusable. He lost a fumble, threw two interceptions and completed just two of his 11 second-quarter passes, for 13 yards. The result was an ugly first half in which Quintin Demps, who scored the only Eagle touchdown on a 100-yard kickoff return, outgained the entire Eagles' offense (82 yards).

"It's not all about Donovan," Reid said. "I think it's very important that everybody around the quarterback and the quarterback pick up their game."

But the offense's performance under Kolb, however, was also not entertaining. He completed his first throw, but missed on his next five, including an interception on his first shot down the field.

And when he had the Eagles, down two scores, on the doorstep of a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter –on a drive he engineered – Kolb was stuffed short of the goal line on a sneak, and then threw a backbreaking interception on a play-action fake. The pass turned into a 108-yard return for a touchdown by Ed Reed, the longest in NFL history, breaking his own record.

Kolb said he threw the ball off of his back foot and too far behind receiver Reggie Brown. It's a recipe for disaster with a Pro Bowl safety like Reed, who scored his 10th career touchdown.

"I'm just really disappointed in myself. I know I'm a better quarterback than that," Kolb said. "It's crucial times that count as a quarterback, and I didn't get it done in the crucial time."

In the end, the Eagles lost 36-7, and they sit at 5-5-1 with their next game just four days from now on Thanksgiving against Arizona.

But Reid stuck with the kid, and it could be determined Monday if that move is permanent.

Kolb finished 10-of-23 for 73 yards and, like McNabb, two interceptions. But despite being thrown to the wolves in a near-impossible situation, Kolb also finished Sunday's game with a personal apology to his teammates in the locker room.

"My dad raised me to where you want those 'against-all-odds' (situations)," Kolb said. "I was smiling, man. I was ready to go. That's an opportunity that nobody expects you to do well (with). So if you do, you defy everyone's thoughts and ideas. And that's what I was looking forward to doing; didn't get it done.

"But there'll be another day."

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