McNabb leads Eagles to rout over Rams
Just like a preseason game, Donovan McNabb finished this one early. By the time he went to the sideline, though, he'd turned in a vintage performance.
McNabb threw for 361 yards and three touchdowns, rookie DeSean Jackson had an impressive debut and the Philadelphia Eagles routed the St. Louis Rams 38-3 on Sunday.
Entering a season healthier than he's been in years, McNabb played like the quarterback who went to five straight Pro Bowls and took the Eagles to the NFC championship four years in a row from 2001-04. He was 21-for-33, including a 90-yard TD pass to Hank Baskett.
"He's healthy. That's the difference," said Brian Westbrook, who ran for 91 yards and had two TDs. "Now, he can do his thing."
Jackson, the first Eagles rookie wide receiver to start the season opener in 18 years, had six catches for 106 yards and returned a punt 60 yards to set up a field goal. Greg Lewis had five receptions for 104 yards, Baskett caught two passes for 102 yards and each of the four wideouts had a catch longer than 30 yards.
It was the first time the Eagles had three 100-yard receivers since Timmy Brown, Tommy McDonald and Pete Retzlaff did it against the Washington Redskins on Dec. 18, 1960.
Not bad for a group missing injured starters Kevin Curtis (sports hernia) and Reggie Brown (hamstring).
"They work hard," McNabb said of the often-maligned receiving group that's lacked a big-name playmaker since Terrell Owens was kicked off the team in 2005. "In order for the guys to be successful, you have to call plays for them. We spread the ball around. When things are rolling like that, you're going to look good."
Coming off their second last-place finish in three years, the Eagles played like a team that expects to make a championship run. The offense racked up 522 total yards and the defense was dominant.
The Rams, 3-13 last season, were downright awful again.
Marc Bulger didn't have much time to throw and Steven Jackson hardly had any room to run against Philadelphia's stifling defense. St. Louis had 109 total yards through three quarters.
"It was not very good," Bulger said. "They played great, we didn't. Give them credit, but that's about as bad as you can get beat in the NFL."
McNabb hasn't played an injury-free season since leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl in 2004. He missed the final seven games in '05 because of a sports hernia and sat out the last six games in '06 with a knee injury. McNabb started slow last season after returning quickly following surgery to repair a torn knee ligament. But he finished strong after ankle and thumb injuries cost him two games late in the season.
"He's worked so hard to get himself back to this point," coach Andy Reid said. "For once, he didn't have to rehab in the offseason. He showed this the last three games last year and he picked up where he left off."
Right from the start, McNabb picked apart the Rams' secondary with crisp passes and pinpoint accuracy. He did it all except scramble. Kevin Kolb came in with 8:55 left, allowing McNabb to enjoy the rest of the game as a spectator.
"It's always big when you don't get touched too much," McNabb said. "The offensive line did a wonderful job."
McNabb connected with Jackson for 47 yards down the right sideline on the second play from scrimmage. Jackson, generously listed at 5 feet 10, was perfectly covered by Tye Hill, but made a leaping catch to the Rams' 33. An unsportsmanlike penalty on St. Louis' sideline moved the ball to the 18.
Three plays later, Westbrook scored on a shovel pass for a 7-0 lead.
McNabb hit a wide-open Jason Avant for 31 yards to the St. Louis 31 on third-and-12 to keep the next drive going. L.J. Smith caught a 5-yard TD pass in the back of the end zone to make it 14-0.
Pinned at their own 8 with less than two minutes left in the first half, the Eagles seemed content to run out the clock as Westbrook ran twice for only 2 yards. Then McNabb found Baskett streaking down the left side on third down. Baskett caught the ball in stride near the 40 and ran untouched the rest of the way to make it 21-0.
Notes: Calvin Williams was the last rookie receiver to start Week 1 for Philadelphia. ... Baskett's 90-yard catch was the longest of his three-year career and tied for seventh-longest in team history. ... Rams WR Torry Holt had one catch. ... The Eagles improved to 4-6 in openers under Reid.