Really, was this the same team that took the field in Baltimore last Sunday? Or, for that matter, was it the one that tied Cincinnati two weeks ago?
Brian Westbrook had gone four straight games without a touchdown. To make up for it he scored four total, three in the first half alone, in Thursday's 48-20 win over Arizona at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Eagles' most dynamic weapon had his most explosive game since Week 9 against Atlanta, and an Eagles' offense that looked cooked for two weeks got its wings – or, more appropriately, its legs – back. Photo Gallery : ARI vs. PHI 11-27-08
"We had some things that we needed to prove," Westbrook said. "From the top down, we had a message. We wanted to go out there and send that message and we did a pretty good job with it today."
As vintage as Westbrook looked, there likely were few in the stadium who weren't surprised with his performance, especially in light of his last handful of games and the fact that he hasn't practiced in a good three weeks. Battling ankle and knee injuries, Westbrook's cuts haven't been sharp, and his game has suffered as a result.
Over the last four games, Westbrook had turned in a total of 260 yards from scrimmage, a paltry average of 65 yards per game for last season's league leader in the category. But the most egregious statistic in Westbrook's book was a zero in the touchdown column.
But this week, Westbrook was outstanding. He turned in 130 yards from scrimmage (110 rushing) and the Eagles' first four-touchdown performance since Irving Fryar in October 1996, and a surprisingly good Cardinal defense (ranked 10th overall entering the contest) had absolutely no answer for his attack.
And the Eagles showed a consistent faith in Westbrook, as well. Battling criticism of a 38-62 run-pass ratio this season entering tonight's game, the Eagles actually went into halftime having run the ball 20 times – one more time than Donovan McNabb threw a pass. For the game, they finished with 40 rushes and 39 passes thrown – the run game's first victory of the season.
In the "much more obscure" category for interesting-stat diggers, Westbrook was the first NFL player to rush for 100 yards, score two touchdowns rushing and two touchdowns receiving since Lydell Mitchell did it against Buffalo in October 1975.
Of all those surprised with Westbrook and the running game, the Cardinals might have been most so.
"When we do establish the run early, we have a better chance of winning the football game," Westbrook said. "If we continue to (balance the offense) that the next couple of games, we'll have an opportunity to win."
Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Westbrook's assault was the fact that he was clearly still struggling with his wounds. He left the field limping with two minutes left in the third quarter after getting his knee bunched up during a tackle, only to return and contribute on a crucial fourth quarter scoring drive after that point.
Gutsy, indeed, in a game that could have erased any hope of an Eagle playoff berth in 2008.
"We need this game to be a springboard," Westbrook said. "We can't lose anymore. We are at that point where we have to man up. We have the team that can do it."