Donovan McNabb will probably only see one series of action for the second straight week when the Philadelphia Eagles close out the regular season with a meaningless game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
That hasn’t stopped Philadelphia’s star quarterback from putting his game face on for the upcoming playoffs. Especially with all the critics questioning the Eagles’ ability to get to the Super Bowl without injured wide receiver Terrell Owens.
“It’s unfortunate that people are pretty much turning their backs on us because we lost T.O.,” McNabb said Wednesday. “I’m still the captain of this ship and this ship is going to move. I’ll take this team as far as we need to go with the guys that we have.”
Philadelphia has lost three straight NFC championship games, including the last two at home as heavy favorites.
Owens was supposed to be the missing piece to the Eagles’ Super Bowl puzzle. He helped the Eagles earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs by catching a team-record 14 touchdown passes from McNabb before suffering an ankle injury against Dallas two weeks ago that will keep him out until at least the Super Bowl.
“We sign T.O. and we turn into the world’s greatest football team. We lose T.O. and we get buried in the dirt,” McNabb said. “This team has been through a lot. We know what we need to do in order to get us where we need to go. If we continue to do what we’ve been doing, things will work out well.”
McNabb made only a cameo appearance in Philadelphia’s first game without Owens, leading the first-team offense to a touchdown on his only drive in a 20-7 loss at St. Louis on Monday night.
The five-time Pro Bowler completed all three of his passes for 36 yards, including a seven-yard scoring pass to Freddie Mitchell, who moved into Owens’ starting spot.
Though he wanted to play the whole game against St. Louis and prefers to play against Cincinnati this Sunday, McNabb understands coach Andy Reid’s decision to rest his starters.
“We don’t have to prove anything to anybody,” McNabb said. “Being 13-1 before Monday night’s game has proven a lot to a lot of people.”
McNabb and the rest of the regulars probably won’t play more than one series against the Bengals. Running back Brian Westbrook, who didn’t dress against the Rams, might again be inactive.
Cincinnati has plenty to prove as it closes its second season under coach Marvin Lewis. After raising expectations with an 8-8 record last year, the Bengals will by trying to match that mark when they take the field against the Eagles.
Cincinnati moved into position for a .500 finish with last weekend’s come-from-behind 23-22 victory over the New York Giants. Chad Johnson caught Jon Kitna’s 4-yard touchdown pass with just 44 seconds remaining as the Bengals found a way to pull the game out.
“That’s one area where we’ve grown from last year,” Lewis said. “We would have lost this game a year ago. We would have continued to find a way to lose at the end.”
Kitna had another up-and-down day filling in for Carson Palmer, who missed his second game because of a sprained left knee. He threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Johnson in the first quarter, then was only 2-of-6 with two sacks and an interception in the second.
Kitna, the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year last year, pulled out the game with a big assist from receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who corralled his 4th-and-10 pass for a crucial first down on the winning drive.
“On four straight plays, they had the perfect coverages called for the plays we ran,” said Kitna, who was 20-of-30 for 186 yards with an interception. “They had the perfect call on the one to T.J., but he just went up and made the play.”
The Bengals will finish without a winning record for the 14th straight season.