McNabb Gets the Job Done

Times Staff Writer

The questions, persistent as an icy downpour, have rained down on Donovan McNabb all season.

Is he the same quarterback who led Philadelphia to the NFC title game the last two seasons? Can he effectively grip the ball with a chipped bone in his thumb? Are the Eagles better off with him on the bench?

McNabb gave a resounding rebuttal Monday night, directing two fourth-quarter touchdown drives to lead the Eagles to a 17-14 victory over Green Bay at a frigid, rain-soaked Lambeau Field.

"On the sideline, we just told ourselves that we were going to be the one to win this game," McNabb said.

The decisive score came on a six-yard pass play to Todd Pinkston with 27 seconds left, just the second time a Philadelphia receiver has caught a touchdown pass this season.

This could prove to be a landmark victory for the Eagles (6-3), who drew within a game of first-place Dallas in the NFC East.

"You try to look back on each year and try to find the game that sort of propelled things," said McNabb, who scored on a one-yard run early in the fourth quarter to give the Eagles their first lead, 10-7.

"This could be one of those games. To play in a tough environment like this in some terrible conditions, playing against a Hall of Fame quarterback [Brett Favre]. For us to come out and sustain a drive toward the end and win a game, that's something you can definitely use as a little bit of adrenaline and energy."

Green Bay (4-5), which has lost three of four, looked to be in control after Ahman Green broke loose on a fourth-and-one carry for a 45-yard touchdown and a 14-10 lead with 7:03 remaining.

The Eagles responded by marching into Green Bay territory, but a blitzing Packer front forced McNabb into throwing an incompletion on fourth and five with 4:39 remaining.

Whether Philadelphia would ever get the ball back was in doubt, considering how well Green was running. He finished with a career-high 192 yards in 29 carries.

But the Eagles forced Green Bay into a three-and-out and got the ball back at their 35 with 2:35 on the clock. That's when McNabb calmly mounted the game-winning touchdown drive, never panicking as the seconds ticked away.

It was the sixth victory in seven games for the Eagles, who stumbled out of the gate this season with home losses to Tampa Bay and New England.

It was a miserable night for Favre, who fumbled three times while setting up to pass, the ball squirting out of his right hand like a bar of soap. His offensive linemen recovered the first two, but the third, which came on the Packers' last-gasp drive, effectively ended the game when the Eagles recovered it.

Favre has a broken thumb on his throwing hand and was wearing a skin-colored soft cast on it. He had season lows in attempts, 22, and completions, 14.

"The weather certainly hampered our game plan, particularly early, when we were having difficulty holding on to the ball," Packer Coach Mike Sherman said. "It was a very slick ball. I asked the officials to keep a dry ball in there and I'm sure they did their best."

With about a minute remaining in the second quarter, Favre had a bottom-scraping passer rating of 12.0, a statistic that rocketed to 61.9 in the final minute when a dump-off pass to Green resulted in a 24-yard touchdown play.

"He had a heck of a game," Philadelphia linebacker Nate Wayne said of Green. "A lot of times we were out of our gaps, out of position, but still you have to give him the credit he's due. We knew coming into the game that for us to be successful, we were going to have to stop Ahman."

Wayne, a former Packer, had a sack and a beautiful one-handed interception of a Favre pass on consecutive plays in the second quarter. Wayne might have scored on the return but was tackled by the last line of defense on his 33-yard runback -- Favre.

"I wanted to score," Wayne said. "I was seeing green. I was visualizing myself doing a Lambeau Leap.... It was just a huge play."

Like Favre, Green had his own problems hanging onto the ball. He had two fumbles in the first quarter, one of which he lost at the Philadelphia 27. Keeping his grip on the ball has been a problem for him all season. Before Monday, he had fumbled five times, losing four, in his last seven games.

Apparently, the rubberized elbow pads Green wore in the first quarter were a liability when he was trying to tuck the ball away. He switched to cloth forearm pads in the second quarter and never fumbled after that.

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