The craziest five-week span of Donovan McNabb's career ended in the same way it started – on the bench.
But this time, McNabb stood on the sidelines fully aware of his own future in Philadelphia. Through a wild, but fortunate, series of events, the Eagles clinched their first playoff berth since 2006 with a 44-6 win over Dallas. McNabb could watch, then, as Kevin Kolb engineered an offense that McNabb knew would be his in Minnesota next week.
As a result, those crazy five weeks become six, and McNabb will be quarterbacking his first playoff game since Super Bowl XXXIX.
"I'm in," McNabb said. "It's sweet. But you know what? I got a job to do."
Between a couple of notable plays, McNabb was little more than efficient at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. He didn't need to be anything else. He accounted for all three of the Eagles' offensive touchdowns – passes to Brent Celek and Correll Buckhalter and a quarterback sneak. Removed from the game midway through the fourth quarter, he finished 12-of-21 for 175 yards, and the aforementioned scores.
But it was the Eagles' defense that again put on the game's top performance – two long fumble recoveries for touchdowns among the five Cowboy turnovers. As a result, the Eagles' run-pass ratio was lopsided 35-23 in favor of the run – mostly because the entirety of the second half was spent running out the clock and starting the countdown to the clash with the Vikings.
And that was just fine with McNabb. He could relish in what his team had accomplished. Photo Gallery : DAL VS. PHI 12-28-08
"I said it last week: no matter what has happened, we all have something to play for. And this week, we play for pride. We play for each other," McNabb said. "And once we got word that there was an opportunity, that the door was open, this team played with a lot of passion."
Though he was relatively limited offensively, McNabb showed flashes of brilliance he can only hope continue into the postseason. With the game tied at 3-3 early in the second quarter, he made several defenders miss as he escaped the pocket. He found running back Correll Buckhalter a few yards upfield, which Buckhalter turned into a 59-yard gain down to the Dallas 6. The play set up McNabb's sneak, which gave the Eagles a permanent advantage.
On the Eagles next drive, facing a third-and-9 from the Dallas 37, McNabb dropped a beautiful throw right over DeSean Jackson's shoulder – a ball that probably couldn't have been better placed had it been surgically attached.
It was a fitting cap for McNabb, who might have had the most up-and-down season for any individual player in recent memory.
In Baltimore, McNabb wondered if he'd ever throw a pass in an Eagles uniform again. But five weeks later, he's wondering if he can get his team back to the Super Bowl.
"I've been kind of revived, I guess. (People) have been throwing me out. They ran over me, they spit on me," McNabb said. "But you know what? I just continue to prevail.
"You never want to give a team another opportunity, because when that team gets in, it could be that team that you … don't want to play."