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News » Big play makes Eagles' day Westbrook romps for 71 yards, seals win against Vikings

Big play makes Eagles' day Westbrook romps for 71 yards, seals win against Vikings

Big play makes Eagles' day Westbrook romps for 71 yards, seals win against Vikings
Brian Westbrook proved once again Sunday you can't keep a good man down forever.

Bottled up all game by a Minnesota Vikings defense ranked sixth overall and No. 1 against the run, Philadelphia's star running back needed one fourth-quarter play to help carry the Eagles into the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.

Westbrook had been limited to 30 yards on 16 touches, including only 18 yards rushing on 14 carries, before he took a screen pass, followed a wall of blockers and raced 71 yards into the end zone to help secure a 26-14 victory in an NFC wild-card game at the Metrodome.

The play widened a two-point Eagles lead in the fourth quarter and helped overcome two first- half rushing touchdowns by league-leading rusher Adrian Peterson of the Vikings.

"I knew he was going to break one," Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson said. "He did a great job of staying humble, staying quiet, and when his time came, making a big play. That's all that matters."

Asante Samuel added a 44- yard interception return for a TD and David Akers had four field goals for Philadelphia (10-6-1), which won its fourth straight wild-card game under head coach Andy Reid and advanced to the divisional round for the seventh time since 1999, the most appearances in the league.

The Eagles will face the New York Giants (12-4), their NFC East rivals, on Sunday at the Meadowlands (11 a.m. MST, Fox 31).

The two teams split their two regular-season meetings, each winning on the road - Philadelphia on Dec. 7 (20-14); New York on Nov. 9 (36-31).

"I don't care if it's the preseason all the way to the NFC Championship Game. That's just a bloodbath for those guys, just a hard- fought battle for them," said Akers, whose 51-yard field goal set a franchise record and whose field- goal total tied a team playoff mark. "And it's going to be interesting to see how it all comes out."

That it even reached this point was surprising from the Eagles' perspective, at least. Philadelphia was 5-5-1 in late November and won four of its last five to reach the playoffs, needing help on the final day of the season, too.

"All of the things we went through, we stayed together," Eagles safety Brian Dawkins said. "We didn't finger-point. . . . We carried on. And in the midst of all that adversity, it built character."

The Eagles' strengths were largely on display Sunday against the NFC North champions.

An aggressive, pressure-based scheme that forced 29 turnovers in the regular season did it again on Samuel's second-quarter runback of a Tarvaris Jackson pass to help give the Eagles a 16-7 edge. Philly kept the young Vikings QB, reinserted into the lineup last month after an eight- game benching, on edge (15-for- 35, 164 yards, no TDs) while shutting out the Vikings in the second half.

Outside of Peterson's two TDs (40 and 3 yards), they bottled up the NFL's leading rusher, who had 83 yards on 20 carries.

The Eagles offense again was led by frequently beleaguered quarterback Donovan McNabb, who was benched at halftime of the Week 12 game against Baltimore. McNabb demonstrated his postseason moxie, completing 23-of-34 passes for 300 yards.

"It's funny," Vikings linebacker Ben Leber said of McNabb. "Sometimes he just knew what we were disguising . . . ."

The Eagles hadn't used the screen before the game-breaking play to Westbrook, and with the Vikings flying up the field, had the right play called at the right time. Westbrook finished with 38 yards on 20 carries, and the Eagles averaged 2.9 yards per carry.

"We were very patient," Westbrook said of an attack that rushed 23 times on 60 offensive plays and produced 350 yards despite converting 5-of-14 third downs. "Those guys did a great job on defense taking away the run. . . . For us, we did a good job throwing the ball downfield and continuing to run the ball. We had to make them play honest."

Westbrook's play broke up a scoreless second half in which the Vikings (10-7) couldn't take advantage of a third-quarter sack-and-strip play by defensive end Jared Allen on McNabb.

After Westbrook's TD, Minnesota went three-and-out, then Jackson fumbled a snap from center Matt Birk. Akers tacked on a 45-yard field goal to bring to an end a Vikings' season, in which they started 1-3 and concluded with nine wins in the final 12 regular-season games.

"It was a roller-coaster ride but we gave ourselves a chance," Peterson said. "To be at home and to lose this wild-card game, it's tough."





Cornerback Asante Samuel was bothered by a hip strain, leaving the game on a few occasions. He felt much better on a 44-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter. "You don't feel it for a little while when you do something like that," he said. "Your adrenaline's rushing. It was awesome."

It was Samuel's fourth playoff interception for a touchdown, breaking a tie with Willie Brown for the most in NFL history. He has six interceptions in 15 postseason games, including his two Super Bowls with New England. Samuel's 202 career interception yards in the playoffs also is a league record.


This season, the Vikings became the first team since the 1970 merger to rank No. 1 in rush defense for three straight years. They again were playing without defensive tackle Pat Williams (broken right shoulder blade) and defensive end Ray Edwards (left knee), and for the two previous weeks, Minnesota had its worst stretch against the run all season - allowing 233 yards to Atlanta and the Giants combined.

But Minnesota completely stifled the Eagles on Sunday, limiting them to 23 carries for 67 yards. Excluding a 27-yard run by Correll Buckhalter, the Eagles managed only 40 yards on the other 22 carries, a 1.8-yard average.


The most rushing yards in a playoff debut by players who led the league in rushing in the same season:

Season Player, team Yds

1991 Emmitt Smith, Cowboys 105

1983 Eric Dickerson, Rams 99

1978 Earl Campbell, Oilers 84

2008 Adrian Peterson, Vikings 83

1957 Jim Brown, Browns 69

1977 Walter Payton, Bears 60


"It's exciting. Now I don't have to answer the questions whether I'll be here."

Donovan McNabb, Eagles quarterback, on published comments by team owner Jeffrey Lurie that McNabb will be back next season.

Lee Rasizer

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 5, 2009

Victor Abiamiri Name: Victor Abiamiri
Position: DL
Age: 22
Experience: 2 years
College: Notre Dame
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