PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Donovan McNabb jogged off the field one final time this season with nearly everything he could have possibly wanted: the cheers of the remaining diehards, and his health and confidence in tact.
Had McNabb performed at the start of the season as he did at the end, perhaps the Eagles’ three-game winning streak would be a prelude to the playoffs instead of an extended offseason.
“What we did the last three weeks is something positive,” McNabb said.
“I know this team can get it done. We just didn’t do it this year,” Westbrook said. “You really can’t say good things about that.”
No, but there was something to appreciate about how McNabb, Westbrook and the rest of the Eagles ended their season. The finale was meaningless, though the Eagles (8-8) finished at .500
While Westbrook and most of the other starters rested in the second half, McNabb kept playing. His surgically repaired knee is nearly back to 100 percent and he showed flashes down the stretch of the mobility and playmaking that once made him an annual Pro Bowl pick.
“In the last five or six games, you just kind of felt it was getting better and better,” he said. “You just feel it and it does wonders for you.”
McNabb was the last Eagles player off the field and the 100 or so fans who sat over Philadelphia’s tunnel stood and applauded or pumped their fists in his direction. Surely, a game like this will turn the hot-and-cold relationship McNabb has with the fans back in his favor.
“I love being here,” he said. “I love the passion of the fans. I’ve always loved being here.”
McNabb will likely be back for at least one more season. So will coach Andy Reid, who has remained steadfast in his commitment to the Eagles even as two of his sons were jailed and their drug issues were turned into splashy headlines.
“We will be a contender again,” Reid said.
No matter the turmoil or even the losing, Westbrook gave Eagles fans a reason to watch every week. The dynamic running back set Eagles records for catches in a season and total yards from scrimmage, putting the finishing touches on a Pro Bowl season.
Westbrook’s third reception of the game gave him 89 this season, one more than Irving Fryar’s total in 1996. Westbrook set the record with a 30-yard catch from McNabb early in the second quarter.
Westbrook gained 10 yards on his first carry to set the franchise record for yards from scrimmage. Wilbert Montgomery had 2,006 total yards in 1979. Westbrook entered the game needing 2 yards to set the record.
Westbrook finished with 1,333 yards rushing and 90 catches for 771 yards.
“I would definitely have been shocked to see that I had all those yards and my team didn’t do well,” he said.
Who needs Westbrook or McNabb making plays on offense when Kevin Curtis has perfected the fumble recovery TD? For the second week, Curtis recovered an Eagles fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.
Reggie Brown fumbled a 32-yard catch at the 1 and Curtis was in a perfect spot to fall on the ball and give the Eagles a 17-6 lead late in the third. Curtis recovered McNabb’s fumble for a TD last week at New Orleans.
McNabb connected with rookie tight end Brent Celek for a 2-yard TD at the end of the first quarter for a 7-0 lead. Celek, who caught his first career touchdown pass, could find himself with an increased role next season if the Eagles don’t bring back free agent L.J. Smith.
“I think Celek’s going to be a great player, but it would be big for us to get L.J. back,” McNabb said.
The Bills (7-9) failed in their bid for a .500 record and finished this season having missed the playoffs for an eighth straight year, establishing the longest drought in franchise history.
“It’s been a long year in that regard. We just don’t score enough points to win games, particularly against a team as good as the Eagles,” Bills coach Dick Jauron said.
The Bills have their key players under contract for next season and Jauron’s job appears safe.
“There are a lot of teams in this league that are younger than us, less experienced and folding in situations that this team did not fold in,” Edwards said. ^Notes: Eagles RT Jon Runyan was forced out of the game with a concussion, two plays after he started his 176th straight game. … Eagles S Brian Dawkins (foot), CB Lito Sheppard (knee) and Smith (knee, ribs) all were inactive. … Buffalo WR Lee Evans left after a hard hit to the chest.
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