Flexible Raiders dispatch Eagles

Oakland stifles McNabb, goes back to ground game for 20-10 win, 5-1 mark

Nfl Week 7

October 29, 2001|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA -- The Oakland Raiders imposed their will on quarterback Donovan McNabb yesterday and turned a reunion with the Philadelphia Eagles into a rout.

Led by a core group of former Eagles, the Raiders' 20-10 victory at Veterans Stadium spoke volumes about their rising profile in the AFC playoff picture.

At 5-1, the Raiders not only have the best record in the conference, they may have the most versatile team, as well.

Primarily a passing team this season after leading the league in rushing a year ago, the Raiders returned to the run in a big way. They gouged the Eagles' defense for 202 rushing yards with a four-man running back committee. It was West Coast offense, but smash-mouth football. The Raiders ran the ball 47 times and threw it just 26.

"You've got to know [Jon] Gruden's style," said Charlie Garner, a former Eagle who rushed for 77 yards and one touchdown. "That's what he likes to do."

Gruden, the Raiders coach, was the Eagles' offensive coordinator from 1995 until 1997. Garner, linebacker William Thomas and cornerback Eric Allen were among the ex-Eagles wearing silver and black. And quarterback Rich Gannon, a Philadelphia native, had friends and family in the stadium.

"This is a very good Philadelphia Eagles team," Gannon said. ""I think we caught them at the right time, coming off a big win last Monday night [against the New York Giants]. We were coming off the bye week and felt fresh."

The Raiders dominated virtually every category. They had a 354-195 edge in total yards, and more than doubled Philadelphia's time of possession. Their punter, Shane Lechler, dropped four kicks inside the 20, pinning the Eagles at their own 7, 6, 11 and 12.

But perhaps Oakland's greatest accomplishment was effectively taking McNabb out of the Philadelphia offense. The third-year quarterback had little touch on his down-the-field passes and completed just 12 of 27 for the game. He also remained bottled up in the pocket and rushed for only 30 yards on six carries.

"We wanted to keep him in the pocket," said defensive end Tony Bryant, who had one of four Oakland sacks. "We didn't want him to make a lot of plays when he was running around."

"We played good team defense," Gruden said. "We wanted to limit some of the big plays he does create. The defensive line, for 60 minutes, did an outstanding job."

The Raiders did better than contain McNabb. They silenced him on third down. The Eagles' first third-down conversion came with just 4:30 left to play after 10 failures.

"The key is not trying to go get him," Bryant said, "because he'll make you miss. We kept pursuing him."

Said McNabb: "[The Raiders] did an excellent job sitting in the zone. They were very smart in whatever they were doing to cover guys and just trying to eliminate me from running."

Winning their 10th straight game against an NFC team, the Raiders had touchdown drives of 80 and 63 yards, culminating in scoring runs by Garner (2 yards) and Zack Crockett (1 yard). Sebastian Janikowski hit field goals of 42 and 32 yards.

The Eagles crossed midfield only twice until a 49-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Duce Staley's 3-yard run with 2:28 to play was too little, too late.

The loss dropped the Eagles to 3-3, but they maintained a half-game lead over the Giants, who lost to Washington yesterday, in the NFC East.

"We were not playing emotional football," said Eagles coach Andy Reid. "We were not flying around like we normally do. I have to put that on the short week and myself for not getting the guys up and ready to go. It is something we have to learn from."

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