Eagles on verge of setting team record for points

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - December 24, 2009

In a year filled with injuries to key players, the NFC East-leading Eagles (10-4) are on a record-breaking offensive pace. They need 18 more points to set a single-season franchise mark. The current record of 416 points was set last year.

The '04 offense featuring Terrell Owens is widely considered the best in team history. With Donovan McNabb and Owens leading the charge, the Eagles stormed to a 7-0 start and were 13-1 with nine double-digit victories through 14 games.

Despite losing Owens to a broken ankle, Philadelphia won the NFC championship after falling short three straight years. Owens returned for the Super Bowl, but the Eagles lost to New England 24-21. The team scored 386 points in the regular season. They've already hit 399 in 14 games this year. Only the New Orleans Saints have more points.

McNabb is still the quarterback, but he has a new supporting cast. Brian Westbrook is the only other offensive starter remaining, but he's played in just six games this year because of concussions and an ankle injury.

Rookie halfback LeSean McCoy (606 yards rushing) and veteran fullback Leonard Weaver (301 yards rushing) have filled in more than capably for Westbrook, who is expected to return Sunday against Denver.

Owens obviously was McNabb's primary target in '04, catching 77 passes for 1,200 yards and 14 TDs. Jackson is the playmaker now. The dynamic second-year pro has 56 receptions for 1,087 yards and eight TDs. He's also rushed for a TD and returned two punts for scores.

Jackson is also explosive: Eight of his 11 TDs have been 50-plus yards.

Back then, McNabb mostly threw to Owens or Westbrook. Todd Pinkston was third in receptions with 36. McNabb spreads the ball around to more players now. Five Eagles have at least 37 catches, including tight end Brent Celek (65), rookie wideout Jeremy Maclin (46), slot receiver Jason Avant (38) and McCoy (37).

So, which offense is better?

"We're so young that I think it's a little early to compare," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said Thursday. "However, we have excellent skill and ability. There is no question about that. The unique thing about many of our players is they are so young right now. They have played at a high level and pretty consistently at a high level. Our challenge is to continue to get better every day and every week."

McNabb would rather wait until the end of the season to judge this year's offense.

"I think it's kind of premature to do that," he said. "We've had some explosive games, but we have also left some plays out on the field. When you're in this part of the season, you have to make sure that you eliminate those mistakes and be able to be very effective at the right time."

The Eagles have overcome plenty of adversity this season and still managed to light up the scoreboard. They've received little production from Westbrook and got nothing from another former All-Pro they were counting on to anchor the offensive line. Shawn Andrews, a two-time Pro Bowl right guard, was moved to right tackle to replace longtime starter Jon Runyan. But a back injury sidelined Andrews for the season.

The projected starters on the offensive line didn't play a single down together and the unit was reshuffled several times before settling in nicely.

"I think our offensive line is playing great and I think Jamaal Jackson and Todd Herremans should be Pro Bowlers," McNabb said. "Nick Cole has played outstanding. Winston Justice has continued to improve. Jason Peters, after the first couple of weeks, got comfortable and not being injured, has played great as well. Those guys have done a wonderful job of just communicating and being on the same page. I think they've allowed us, the skill guys, to be very effective with throwing the ball and running the ball. Obviously, everything starts up front and those guys being able to do their jobs makes our jobs a lot easier."

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