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McNabb and the Eagles will try to turn their season around against another inconsistent team when they visit the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
The will be the first meeting between Vikings coach Brad Childress and his former team. Childress was Philadelphia’s offensive coordinator from 2002-05, but his offenses in his first two years in Minnesota haven’t fared well.
The Eagles (2-4) haven’t been much better on offense, and now they find themselves in serious trouble in the NFC East. Division rivals Dallas, the New York Giants and Washington all have winning records, and the Eagles trail the Cowboys by 3 1-2 games in the division after losing 19-16 to Chicago last Sunday on a last-second touchdown.
“Any time that you are 2-4 and with the situation that we’ve been in, we easily could have been 4-2, or possibly 5-1. You wish that it never would happen, but in this situation it’s an opportunity to move in a positive direction,” said McNabb, who is 3-0 against Minnesota in his career with seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
“You can’t focus on what your record is right now. You can only focus on what you can do to change it, and that’s kind of our approach and it’s going to be our approach for the rest of the season.”
McNabb, who missed the last six games in 2006 with a torn ACL and watched as Jeff Garcia led the Eagles to the playoffs, is healthy this season but Philadelphia has struggled to score points. With the exception of a 56-21 win over Detroit on Sept. 23, the Eagles are averaging just 12.0 points per game. They scored eight touchdowns against the Lions but have just three touchdowns in all other games.
“We have to find a way to get into the end zone,” said running back Brian Westbrook, second in the NFC with 789 yards from scrimmage, 68 behind Minnesota rookie Adrian Peterson. “I don’t know what the answer is, but we have to find one between now and Sunday. If we can turn some of those points into touchdowns, we’ll win some of these games.”
It’s been the same story for Minnesota this season as last. A strong defense keeps the Vikings in games, but lack of offensive production eventually costs them down the stretch.
It happened again in a 24-14 loss to Dallas last Sunday. Minnesota scored a defensive touchdown - its ninth since the start of last year to lead the NFL - and had another called back because of a penalty, but was unable to hold a 14-7 halftime lead.
Dallas held the ball for 37 minutes and eventually wore down the Vikings defense. After the Cowboys tied the game at 14, Minnesota’s Ryan Longwell had a 48-yard field-goal attempt blocked and returned 68 yards for a touchdown that gave the Cowboys the lead for good.
Peterson, who excited the league with 361 all-purpose yards - the third-highest total in NFL history - in a 34-31 win over Chicago, had only 12 carries for 63 yards against Dallas. He scored Minnesota?s first touchdown, but fumbled in the fourth quarter.
Peterson, who leads the NFL with 670 rushing yards, and Chester Taylor have been splitting carries all season, a plan that Childress plans to stick with.
“As a competitor, you want to be out there all the time,” Peterson said. “At this level, you just have to be ready when they call your number.”
Childress still hasn’t called a number at quarterback, yet to announce whether he will start Tavaris Jackson or former Eagle Kelly Holcomb. Jackson broke a finger on his throwing hand last Sunday and is listed as questionable.
“I’m still debating, the old game-time decision,” Childress said Friday. “You just want to see how a guy keeps coming, keeps coming.
“I see (Jackson) touch it a little bit better every day, and we’ll just see if it will keep coming along.”
Jackson experienced growing pains against the Cowboys, going just 6-of-19 for 72 yards. He’s struggled in his first full season as a starter, with the lowest passer rating (48.7) and completion percentage (45.9) among starters.
“You knew coming into this year - young quarterback, first year starting - there was going to be some growing pains,” cornerback Antoine Winfield said. “But I think he’s handled it well. There’s a lot of pressure on him. He’s not really performing like he wants to, but we have to stick with him and stick by him.”
The Eagles have won six of the last seven meetings between the teams, including a 27-14 win in the divisional round of the 2004 playoffs. The teams last met in Minnesota in 1997, a 28-19 Vikings win.