After all the talk about the Eagles not being able to win the close games in the fourth quarter, quarterback Donovan McNabb has led his team to back-to-back come-from-behind fourth quarter victories. And to the veteran's credit, he has clearly raised his level of play when the game has been on the line.
"I'm proud of (McNabb) for stepping up and just taking over," said head coach Andy Reid. "He was into it, not that he isn't all the time, but during that time he just gathered everybody up and said, 'Hey, listen, we're scoring.' He was very upbeat and positive with the guys and very strong."
When McNabb and the Eagles first got the ball in the fourth quarter, they were trailing 24-16 and were playing without their most explosive player, wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who left the game with a concussion. So McNabb promptly led the Eagles on a 10-play, 90-yard touchdown drive that, along with the ensuing two-point conversion, tied the game.
Then, after the defense forced a three-and-out, McNabb led the Eagles on a 10-play, 66-yard drive that produced the game-winning David Akers field goal. It's the first time the Eagles have won back-to-back fourth-quarter comeback victories since 2003.
On those two drives, McNabb was cool under pressure, throwing for 115 yards on five of eight passing and completing passes of 20, 35 and 46 yards. On the day, he was 21 of 35 for 260 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
"It provides confidence," McNabb said of the second-straight fourth-quarter comeback. "But we knew that we could do it, it was just kind of getting it done. For us to do it in back-to-back weeks, you want to stay away from that situation and make sure you secure the win earlier."
McNabb made a significant mark in what was a significant day for him. Playing in his 143rd game as an Eagle, McNabb set the team record for games played by an Eagle quarterback, passing Ron Jaworski.
But the most memorable part of the victory for McNabb will certainly be the two defining drives in the fourth quarter, highlighted by long completions to wide receivers Jason Avant and Jeremy Maclin. On the game-tying drive, McNabb hit Avant on the right side of the field for a 46-yard catch and run. That play was immediately followed by a 20-yard toss to Avant that set up an Eldra Buckley touchdown run.
Then, with the game knotted up, McNabb trusted Maclin to bring down the ball in one-on-one coverage along the right sideline - which he did for a 35-yard gain. Akers would kick the game-winner several plays later.
"I read the single-high safety and one-on-one," said McNabb. Maclin "did an excellent job of getting off press coverage and for me, it was just making sure (to) ... get the ball in position where (Maclin) could compete."
So McNabb is beginning to build quite the reputation as a fourth-quarter quarterback, even though he would prefer to have the game in hand by the time the final stanza rolls around. Still, he's excited at the character his team has shown over the past two weeks to move to 7-4, in position to make the playoffs at the moment.
"It's not really how you start, it's how you finish," McNabb said. "I thought this team really came together and was able to pull it out the way it was supposed to be done and the guys stepped up and made big plays for us."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 7:45 p.m., November 29