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Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and the Philadelphia Eagles try to put together consecutive wins for the first time during what’s become a frustrating season when they host the winless Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
The Eagles (4-5) have alternated wins and losses for the last eight games, but got a crucial 33-25 win at Washington last weekend behind four touchdown passes from McNabb and three total scores from Westbrook, who realizes the inconsistency cannot continue if Philadelphia is to reach the postseason.
“We’re in the position now that we need to win every game,” said Westbrook, who is questionable with a knee injury even though coach Andy Reid thinks he’ll be ready to play.
McNabb went 20-for-28 for 251 yards last weekend, as he and Westbrook have been instrumental to the Eagles’ hopes of winning games. McNabb has completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 1,243 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception in Philadelphia’s four victories, while eight of Westbrook’s nine TDs this season have come in wins.
McNabb has fared far worse in defeat, posting a 55.8 completion percentage for 1,052 yards, with only three TDs and three interceptions.
The quarterback does appear to be re-establishing himself as a running threat again after last week’s season highs of 37 rushing yards and seven carries - four going for first downs - showing his surgically repaired right knee can hold up. He had totaled 70 yards on 21 carries in the previous eight contests.
“I think even more so this past week, when he pulled it down, he pulled it down with a little conviction in it,” Reid said. “He went and ran very hard. He was very decisive on what he was going to do. That shows you he’s getting more comfortable with his leg and everything else. That does put pressure on the defense and that was good to see.”
Meanwhile, the 5-foot-8 Westbrook continues to prove he is one of the top running backs in the NFL.
The versatile running back leads the Eagles with 701 rushing yards, 518 receiving yards and 54 receptions, putting him behind only Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson (1,301) for the league lead in total yards from scrimmage.
Despite missing one game with an abdominal injury, Westbrook has a chance to become the third running back in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season, joining Roger Craig (1985) and Marshall Faulk (1999).
“I’ve had an opportunity to see it firsthand for a couple of years now, and the guy just continues to come into his own, and he is not only locally but nationally recognized,” McNabb said. “I’m excited to have him on my team because we’re able to do a lot of different things with him.”
McNabb and Westbrook will try to take advantage of a Miami defense that is ranked 31st in the NFL in scoring defense (28.6 points per game), and 30th against the run (149.7 yards per game).
The Eagles are just 4-7 all-time against the Dolphins, but won the last meeting on Dec. 15, 2003. They have not hosted Miami (0-9) since Oct. 20, 1996 - a game Philadelphia won 35-28.
Miami already must focus on 2008, after losing 13-10 at home to Buffalo last week and becoming only the seventh team to open a season with nine consecutive losses.
The Dolphins will try to find out if rookie John Beck, their second-round draft pick out of Brigham Young, is their quarterback of the future by making him the starter for the season’s final seven games.
“When we haven’t won a game, you make a change,” first-year Dolphins coach Cam Cameron said. “John has made tremendous progress in the last month. The timing is right.”
“I just want to make the most of it,” Beck said. “I’ve been working real hard in practice and on the sidelines in games to try to prepare myself.”