Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens may have off-field issues, but there is no denying their on-field chemistry for the Philadelphia Eagles. Kerry Collins and Randy Moss are still looking for theirs as they lead the Oakland Raiders into Lincoln Financial Field.
For all the bickering Owens and McNabb did during the preseason as the Eagles prepared to defend their NFC title, the first two games have shown a working professional relationship is what best suits them.
McNabb threw for 342 yards and matched a career high with five touchdown passes in a 42-3 rout of the San Francisco 49ers last week for the Eagles’ first win.
“When we’re on that football field, everyone’s smiling and having a good time when things are clicking,” McNabb said.
Owens was dominant from the outset against his former team, making five catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns in the first 19 minutes.
McNabb has made it a point to find his primary receiver, who has 12 receptions and 255 yards after two games. More importantly, the off-field issues that caused a media circus now have been erased by Owens’ on-field excellence.
“You may think I’m crazy for saying this, but he is a pleasure to coach,” said Eagles coach Andy Reid, who suspended Owens for a week in the preseason after the two had a sideline dispute. “He enjoys playing the game. No matter what phase we were in during this thing, he enjoys it. He loves it and I appreciate that.”
Owens and McNabb sat out Wednesday with minor injuries, but both returned to practice Thursday and are expected to play Sunday. While Owens has a nagging abdominal/groin problem, McNabb hurt his groin just before halftime against the 49ers after suffering a bruised chest in the season opener.
“It seems like it’s something new every week, but it’s something you have to get used to and realize that you just can’t go in and out of games pain-free,” McNabb said. “I’m sort of used to it.”
Eagles running back Brian Westbrook missed practice Friday with a knee injury, but was expected to start Sunday.
While Owens is the focal point of defenses since the Eagles do not have a proven No. 2 receiver, the Eagles were able to get in sync offensively by getting L.J. Smith more involved.
Reid called upon the third-year tight end early, and Smith responded with six catches in the first quarter. He finished with career highs of nine receptions and 119 yards, and caught a TD pass.
“Tight end is such a vital part of this offense that I never feel like I’m just running out there so someone else can get open,” Smith said. “There are so many times that I’m the second and third read, but a lot of times, Terrell is double-covered, so I’m right there.”
Collins and Moss continue to be a work in progress early in their first season together.
Moss already has 257 receiving yards and two TDs, but he was a non-factor in the final 10 minutes of Oakland’s 23-17 loss to Kansas City on Sunday night. The Chiefs made a series of adjustments to contain Moss, who did have a 64-yard TD reception in the third quarter but no passes thrown to him the final 13 minutes.
“One of the things for us right now is to continue to get a handle on how people are going to defend us because there are differences because of Randy’s presence,” Raiders coach Norv Turner said. “You do get some things a little different.”
One of the adjustments is Collins spreading the offense. Running back LaMont Jordan leads the team with 11 receptions, one more than Moss.
“It is not about one guy, it’s all of us,” Collins said. “Talent wise, we are as good as anyone in the league. But it’s not always the most talented team that wins, it’s the team that plays the best. It’s the team that plays the smartest and executes, and right now we are not doing that. We need to find a way to reverse the trend and get the job done.”
Blog Coverage from SB Nation
Latavius Murray RB, Tony Bergstrom G, David Ausberry TE, DJ Hayden CB, Juron Criner WR, Kaluka Maiava LB, Usama Young S, Tyvon Branch S, Lucas Nix G, Jeron Mastrud TE, Jeremy Stewart RB, Darren McFadden RB, Charles Woodson S, Sio Moore LB, Miles Burris LB, Vance Walker DT