When Donovan McNabb crossed the goal line with a second-quarter touchdown on the rarely used quarterback draw during Sunday's win against Atlanta, he got to break out something else he hadn't done for a while – a touchdown dance, or, as head coach Andy Reid said, "whatever that little move was."
It might not have been surprising if Reid had a little move for himself, either, as the Eagles converted on a goal-to-go situation, something they've had numerous problems with since Week 1. With that quarterback draw, Reid opened up the playbook to include something he was tentative to use just a few weeks ago after McNabb suffered a chest contusion.
But though McNabb broke through on that particular play, the Eagles still managed to miss a chance to put the game away for good in the fourth quarter, when a drive stalled inside the 1-yard line after a McNabb sneak, setting up a disappointing David Akers chip shot.
Reid's confidence in McNabb to run the ball in short-yardage situations could be a sign of improvement, but the inconsistency remains a major cause for concern.
"These one-foot things, we have to change this," Reid said after the Atlanta game. "We're going to keep working on it. We've been working on it, but we're going to keep working on it." Andy Reid PC: October 29
It's been a problem that Reid and his staff have been openly acknowledging for a number of weeks now, and literally no one has escaped their share of the blame. McNabb came up short, Reid came up short, Brian Westbrook came up short, Correll Buckhalter and Tony Hunt came up short. The wide receivers and tight ends haven't gotten open. The offensive line has missed some key blocks, no situation exclusive of one another.
Reid's tried to mix in some different things, including shovel passes and fade routes. But for each successful call, another seems to miss.
The results show that the Eagles have had to settle for a field goal from inside the 10 seven times this season, an average of once per game. Yes, they're three valuable points, but four more are left unclaimed each time. Despite ranking eighth in total yards per game, the Eagles score touchdowns on just 47 percent of red zone possessions, 22nd overall in the league.
And when the Eagles take the ball inside the 10 for a goal-to-go situation, their rank dips to 23rd – touchdowns on only 63 percent of those chances.
Of course, the Eagles haven't exactly eluded bad luck either. Guard Shawn Andrews has missed practically the entire season so far with a back injury. Tight end L.J. Smith, a valuable red zone target, has been banged up, and he missed the fourth-quarter goal line charge after suffering a concussion earlier in the drive. Reggie Brown, Kevin Curtis, Smith and Westbrook haven't been on the field all at once yet this season.
So will establishing at least some stability – and health – be part of the remedy? McNabb's taken a big step forward, but who is next?
"We've done a lot of different things where we weren't able to get in the end zone," said Westbrook about McNabb's run. "It's another thing that we can do down there, another option that we have, to score touchdowns."
McNabb joked with reporters Wednesday that he wasn't looking to dance all the time – he just hadn't tasted the end zone himself for quite a while. He's confident in his ability to run similar plays to the draw and the sneak. But at this point, he said, it doesn't matter who gets the six.
But someone – anyone – needs to step up.
"I get more gratification (from) other guys scoring, on a pass, or a screen, or a run," McNabb said. "I'm not one of those guys that's striving to get my own. I wouldn't mind throwing a touchdown pass or handing the ball and watching other guys do it."