What's next for the Eagles?

November 24, 2008 6:11:08 AM PST
Donovan McNabb had never been pulled without being hurt. So after the unimaginable happened, the logical question was: Is the tenure of the longtime Philadelphia Eagles quarterback nearing an end?

The answer is expected to come Monday, when embattled coach Andy Reid decides between Donovan McNabb or Kevin Kolb for Thursday's game against Arizona.

Neither quarterback was effective Sunday in a 36-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. But because McNabb was benched at halftime with the Eagles trailing by only a field goal, it appears that the desperate Eagles (5-5-1) might be headed in a new direction.

"I'm not here to judge whether it's the end of an era. I'm here to support Donovan as a friend and as a player," Eagles running back Brian Westbrook said. "I'm here to support Kevin as a friend and as a player. They're two very good, very competitive quarterbacks. No matter who's in there, I'm going to support them."

McNabb was 8-of-18 for 59 yards with two interceptions and a fumble in the first half - a miserable 13.2 quarterback rating. One week earlier, he threw three interceptions and lost a fumble in an overtime tie with Cincinnati.

The Eagles scored only 13 points against the lowly Bengals, and their only touchdown in the first half against Baltimore came on a 100-yard kickoff return by rookie Quintin Demps. So Reid turned to Kolb, a second-round pick who had attempted nine throws in two seasons before Sunday.

"I thought it might be a little bit of a spark, and we might be able to get some things going," said Reid, who had quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur tell McNabb of the decision.

"I guess it's better to find out in the locker room than to find out going out on the field when you warm up and they grab you and you find out someone else is going in," McNabb said.

But long after the game ended, Reid still hadn't spoken directly to McNabb.

"I'll talk to him after this," the coach said from an interview podium.

Kolb went 10-of-23 for 73 yards and two interceptions - a 15.3 rating. One of his interceptions was returned an NFL-record 108 yards for a touchdown by Ed Reed.

"Obviously, it didn't go good and I'm not going to pretend that it did," Kolb said.

If this was an audition, Kolb flopped.

But can the Eagles still win with McNabb?

"Donovan, I think, is a very good player. He's led us through a whole lot," Westbrook said. "For me to sit here and say he needed to come out of the game, I couldn't say that."

It's been a tough stretch for McNabb, who made headlines last week for not knowing an NFL game could end in tie. Now he doesn't know his place on the depth chart.

"That will be a decision (Reid) will make. The thing I will do is I will continue to prepare as if I am the starter," McNabb said. "I've been a part of this thing for 10 years. You have to have short-term memory in this league, be able to focus on who you're playing and be able to move on."

Baltimore (7-4) went up 12-7 in the third quarter when Jameel McClain blocked a punt by Sav Rocca and the ball bounced out of the end zone.

Matt Stover kicked a field goal to launch a 24-point fourth quarter that included a 53-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Mark Clayton, Reed's interception return and a 1-yard TD run by Le'Ron McClain.

Reed returned two interceptions for a total of 151 yards - more than the passing yardage of both Philadelphia quarterbacks. Reed avoided several tackles on the right sideline during his end zone-to-end zone run.

"Ed Reed is just one of the greatest ballplayers I've ever seen," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said.

It was a particularly significant victory for Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who served as an assistant with the Eagles for 10 years.

"There is no way to describe it," he said. "It was meaningful to see Andy Reid over there." Notes: Eagles RB Correll Buckhalter sprained a ligament in his knee; DB Asante Samuel and DE Darren Howard hurt their necks. ... Reed has 10 career TDs, five on INT returns.


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