Owens has Eagles on a higher level

Controversial receiver connects with McNabb to give Philly 6-0 start

Pro Football

October 28, 2004|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA - There is the weekly Terrell Owens sideshow. One week, it's T.O. vs. Randy Moss or Jeff Garcia. Another week, it's T.O. takes on Ricky Manning or Steve Mariucci. This week, it's T.O. against Ray Lewis.

Somewhere lost among all the theatrics is the Owens and Donovan McNabb Show, possibly the best on-the-field entertainment in the NFL.

It could be the beginning of another special pair. Johnny Unitas had Raymond Berry and Joe Montana had Jerry Rice. Peyton Manning has Marvin Harrison and Daunte Culpepper has Moss.

Now it's McNabb and Owens. They give each other some love.

"I've always envisioned myself with a quarterback such as Donovan," Owens said. "With Steve [Young, former 49ers quarterback], he got knocked out of the game late in his career, and I wasn't able to blossom with him.

"With Jeff [Garcia], he was limited with some of the things he could do. With Donovan, I have all those things with one guy, so I'm thrilled and blessed just to have him."

The Eagles (6-0) are just as thrilled to have Owens, even with all his flamboyance. He is considered the missing ingredient. After three straight losses in the NFC championship game, Eagles coach Andy Reid finally decided to go out and purchase a $48 million weapon in March.

The Eagles have had just about everything except a big, nasty, speedy wide receiver who can open up defenses. With Owens, the Eagles now have one of the league's most productive offenses. Philadelphia is ranked fourth in the league in yards per game (386.7) and second in points (28.5). The Eagles have one of the league's top rushers in Brian Westbrook (90 attempts, 458 yards) and a Most Valuable Player candidate in McNabb.

But the MVP might be Owens.

"It's not just what he meant to me, but the impact he has made with the team," McNabb said. "My game is pretty much the same as it's always been. We've just added another weapon, and when you provide another weapon for any quarterback, things happen."

You can't cover Owens one-on-one, especially after 15 yards, because he is too big, too strong and too fast. A safety always has to be aware of his presence.

The Eagles know that. That's why they line him up outside or in the slot or in the backfield. They'll put him in motion. They'll bunch him with two other receivers on the right and send them left to clear out for Westbrook. Whether the pattern is deep or short and across the middle, Owens has no fear.

He has 34 catches for 596 yards and eight touchdowns, which is tied for first in the league. He has had four straight 100-yard games, and has teamed with McNabb for six plays of 40 or more yards.

Owens also is a great decoy, having opened up passing lanes for tight end Chad Lewis (18 catches, 152 yards) and receiver Todd Pinkston (17, 245).

No one has benefited more than McNabb, who had to deliver perfect passes to his receivers last year, and then they still dropped some of them. Owens is a big target at 6 feet 3, 226 pounds. He wants the ball all the time, and will go through anybody to get it.

McNabb, a six-year veteran, is off to his best start, having completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 1,753 yards and 13 touchdowns, with just three interceptions. His 105.6 quarterback rating ranks third in the league behind Culpepper and Manning.

A year ago, McNabb basically stayed with short passes. Now, he's throwing all over the field. The Eagles can beat you in a lot of ways.

"Teams are trying to eliminate T.O. as well as Westbrook," McNabb said. "We give him [Owens] the ball, or other guys are making plays for us, so all of the sudden it looks like the quarterback is so great. This is a pretty well-balanced attack. We've got a pretty good chemistry going here."

Team chemistry and Terrell Owens?

Those are words that usually don't go together because Owens likes to be the center of attention. He has danced on the Dallas Cowboys' star logo at midfield in Texas Stadium. He has pulled out a Sharpie pen to autograph a football on the field after a touchdown catch. How about the time he celebrated by grabbing a cheerleader's pom-poms, or when he did sit-ups in the end zone?

Last Sunday in Cleveland after his first touchdown catch, Owens fired the ball against a banner that said "T.O. has B.O." He ripped down another banner after his second scoring catch.

But the Eagles see another side of Owens in practice. He still talks all the time, but he works extremely hard. Reid seems to have a handle on him.

"I think his play is No. 1, just the way he makes plays on the ball and his work ethic out of practice," Reid said. "His attitude has been great. He's great in the locker room. The players have gravitated toward him, and I think he feels at home in there."

Owens said: "I channel a lot of things in a lot of different ways than other people obviously would. A lot of people are looking for me to fail ... but I'm not going to do that."

Next for Ravens

Matchup: Ravens (4-2) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (6-0)

Site: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Eagles by 7 1/2

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