Redemption: McNabb Talks A Good Game, Too

By Phil Sheridan
Updated: September 25, 2007

PHILADELPHIA — Donovan McNabb passed, on the field and off.

The Eagles quarterback passed for 381 yards and four touchdowns Sunday — with a rare perfect 158.3 passer rating. Then McNabb passed on an even rarer opportunity to tell naysayers where they might stick all the harsh criticism he had absorbed over the previous few days.

McNabb took heat for saying African American quarterbacks had to “do a little extra” compared with their white counterparts, then he came out and did a lot extra in a 56-21 blowout victory over the Detroit Lions. Only 10 other NFL quarterbacks in the last 40 years delivered performances with perfect passer ratings.

Would it be crazy to point out McNabb is the first African American to do it?

No one is claiming that the Lions are the class of the NFL, or that this win undoes the two previous losses. But give credit where it is due. Perfection is perfection, even against Detroit.

McNabb completed long passes to Kevin Curtis for touchdowns. He completed little touch passes that Brian Westbrook broke for long gains. He moved around to avoid the Detroit pass rush. His only mistake, really, was losing the ball when Detroit’s 250-pound Corey Smith ran around William Thomas and Westbrook to blindside McNabb.

Not bad for a guy whose pregame introduction was met with a Philadelphia cocktail: three parts applause, one part boos, dash of bitters. Shake vigorously and garnish with sour lemon.

“I don’t pay much attention to that,” McNabb said. “The team heard it. The fans that cheered heard boos. All the people that booed heard more boos. I didn’t feed off of that at all. It didn’t bother me at all. The majority of those boos turned to cheers as the game continued on.”

That was as close to an I-told-you-so as McNabb delivered after the game. He has been around too long to think one great September afternoon is going to change anyone’s mind about him. If this is the start of another playoff push, then fine. If not, he’s only one bad performance from hearing all the criticism again.

Someone asked him whether this was among his best performances ever.

“This ranks up there as one of the top team performances,” McNabb said, deftly sidestepping a self-promoting answer that would light up the talk-radio switchboards in the morning. “I don’t focus on individual aspects. I think it was a great team performance for the situation we were in: being 0-2, a lot of people counting us out, saying this team isn’t what it used to be.”

One advantage to spending your career in a cauldron is that you can handle a little hot water. McNabb had no problem going from a testy news conference to the practice field Wednesday afternoon. His performance turned the criticism on network pregame shows into praise on the postgame wrapups.

“He blanked everything out,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “He didn’t worry about one thing. He had some things that people played on this week, and he was able to block all the outside thoughts out. He moved on and he didn’t let anything distract him.”

“Donovan took some shots this week,” Westbrook said, “and we rallied behind him. We told him that we had his back and any shots that he was taking, we are going to take together as a team. Donovan has been the lightning rod, basically, his whole career. When he goes out and has success like he did today, all that stuff is going to disappear.”

McNabb was as matter-of-fact after a great performance in a win as he was after poor performances in losses. Same with Reid. Their demeanor Sunday lends credence to their earlier contention that the Eagles were going to be fine, that it was going to take only minor adjustments to get the offense on track.

“We had great weeks of practice the previous two weeks as well,” McNabb said. “I felt the same way the previous two games. It’s just that things were a little off. Whether it was timing or whatever it may be, it got adjusted back to game situations. Today, we felt like we were right on point in our passing game. It was just execution.”

McNabb did not wear the knee brace he wore throughout the preseason and the first two regular-season games. He said he had practiced without it at times over the last couple of weeks and felt ready to go without it. He did not blame it for any problems in those first two games.

“It’s not a big issue,” McNabb said. “I have full confidence in what I can do with the brace or without the brace.”

After this game, so will Eagles fans. Until the next game.