There was something different, yet so familiar, about Brian Westbrook on Sunday.
His 209 yards from scrimmage and about an equal number of ankle-breaking jukes and cuts made him unquestionably the focal point of the Philadelphia offense in a 27-14 win over Atlanta at Lincoln Financial Field. But these typical elements of Westbrook's game had been absent for various reasons so far this season.
For starters, he's been banged up pretty much consistently since Week 3, with two separate injuries causing him to miss games. And even before the bumps and bruises, he had never gotten one of his signature dominant games going.
But all that ended Sunday.
"I felt really good. I'm blessed to be back," Westbrook said. "My ankle healed up pretty well, my ribs healed up pretty well. Things went well today."
Quite the understatement. Westbrook's 167 yards rushing established a new career high, and his presence as a receiver out of the backfield allowed quarterback Donovan McNabb to get into a rhythm he lacked earlier in the game. Video
It was his presence that also allowed the Eagles' offense to move the ball consistently starting about midway through the second quarter. On the Eagles' two separate scoring drives before the half ended, Westbrook accounted for 62 of their 130 total yards gained, including a huge 20-yard run with 45 seconds left in the half that might have convinced head coach Andy Reid that a field goal chance was within reach.
In all, the Eagles ran the ball 32 times out of a total 66 offense plays. It was their most balanced attack of the season. It comes amidst Westbrook's assertion that the team should run more, with his healthy return, an offensive line that was beginning to get in sync and the strong performance of backup Correll Buckhalter in his stead.
"There was point there on the last series where he didn't want to come out," Reid said. "He wanted to stay in, he wanted the football, and we gave it to him."
It was the second half when Westbrook took the wind from Atlanta's sails, with five big plays of at least 10 yards or more. His 16-yard bounce to the right side gave the Eagles a huge score on their first drive of the third quarter, and he helped set up a fourth quarter field goal with a 20-yard scamper on the first play of a drive.
That chip shot for David Akers, though, came on the heels of a second-and-goal shovel pass on which Westbrook failed to cross the goal line. Instead of the Eagles putting the game out of reach, they took a 20-7 lead that allowed Atlanta to inch back in to the contest with a Roddy White touchdown.
So, naturally, Westbrook wasn't done.
After a controversial muffed punt call left the Falcons battered with less than three minutes to play, Westbrook's 39-yard touchdown burst down the left sideline put them out of their misery on just the second play after the turnover.
"Coach gave me some opportunities," Westbrook said. "Today, we did a great job of throwing the ball and running the ball. Hopefully, we'll get to continue to have the opportunity to run the ball in the future."