Akers has Philly's cure

Injured kicker's 23-yard field goal wins game

McNabb plays hurt

Eagles 23 - Raiders 20

Gameday

September 26, 2005|By Bill Ordine | Bill Ordine,Sun reporter

PHILADELPHIA — Exhibiting an astonishing consistency for both electrifying football heroics and injudicious behavior, the Philadelphia Eagles' Terrell Owens and the Oakland Raiders' Randy Moss have been near mirror images of each other, right down to their combined palindromic jersey numerals - 81 and 18, respectively.

And together, they were the most-discussed subplot going into yesterday's Raiders-Eagles game at Lincoln Financial Field, a 23-20 Philadelphia win. But while Owens won the heads-up match with Moss, Eagles kicker David Akers stole the spotlight, hammering home a 23-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining despite a hamstring injury that left him writhing in pain after every kick.

"I asked God to let this pain go away for a minute here," Akers said of the moments as the Eagles (2-1) were driving to get within field-goal range. "Because when I was swinging on the sideline, I wasn't hitting the ball. ... I kept swinging and said, `This is OK.' When you go out there, you know it's only going to hurt for one second."

On the opening kickoff and a do-over because of an offside penalty, it was obvious that Akers, a left-footer, was still smarting from an injury he suffered to his right hamstring last week. After being helped from the field in agony, Akers yielded the kickoff duties to backup tight end Mike Bartrum, who managed only semi-line-drive squibs. Linebacker Mark Simoneau, who made an extra point in Week 2 subbing for Akers, missed the Eagles' first extra point as a fill-in yesterday, and Akers was pressed into service for the conversions.

With the score tied at 20 and the Eagles driving in the game's final moments, it was uncertain just how close they'd have to get for the hobbled Akers to even make an attempt. They got to the Oakland 5-yard line.

Akers punched it through, threw his arms in the air and fell to the ground in a one-legged performance reminiscent of the Karate Kid - or gymnast Kerri Strug.

Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who played with an abdominal strain, has spent considerable time with Akers in the training room lately.

"I just wanted to be the first guy [after the first kickoff] to tell him that all the guys are depending on us to be effective in everything we do. Continue to hold your head high and realize that what you're doing here, everyone is watching," said McNabb, who was 30-for-52 for 365 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

In the duel between Owens and Moss, the Eagles wide receiver caught nine passes for 80 yards and one touchdown. He also had the final three catches of the game for a combined 36 yards to set up Akers' game-winner. Moss grabbed five passes for 86 yards, but he was kept out of the end zone.

Because Philadelphia was able to shut down Oakland's running game - the Raiders (0-3) had just 21 yards on the ground - Philadelphia free safety Brian Dawkins was able to stay deep and shade toward Moss.

"We mixed it up. Me going to him a lot of the time, especially in the second half," Dawkins said. The shifting coverages were meant to confuse Raiders quarterback Kerry Collins (24-for-42, 345 yards, two touchdowns) and Moss, and in particular frustrate the receiver.

Collins did hit Moss with a 22-yarder in the first quarter that might have been a bigger play if the receiver didn't have to wait on the ball. And the two connected on a 31-yard completion on a fourth-quarter drive that led to a Raiders touchdown, a 27-yard pass from Collins to wide-out Doug Gabriel that tied the game at 20 with 2:17 left.

"They took him away," Collins said of the Eagles' coverage of Moss.

"He stepped up in the fourth quarter," Collins added. "I know it's frustrating for him, but he really stepped up."

For the most, though, the Raiders were unable to capitalize on consistently good field position and McNabb's lack of mobility.

After Oakland scored on an 8-yard reception by LaMont Jordan, Eagles running back Brian Westbrook countered with an 18-yard touchdown dash, but Simoneau's point-after was blocked. Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski hit a 28-yard field goal for a 10-6 halftime lead for Oakland.

Owens put Philadelphia ahead in the third quarter on a 4-yard reception, and Westbrook helped pad the lead to 20-10 on a 5-yard catch. Janikowski's 26-yard field goal in the fourth quarter closed the gap to 20-13, but he hit the left upright later on a 37-yard attempt.

For the most part, Moss and Owens performed yesterday with a minimum of histrionics. After his touchdown catch, the Eagles wide receiver did a hip shimmy, but that was mild compared to previous exhibitions.

Since 1998, Moss leads all NFL receivers with 92 touchdowns, followed by Owens with 86. And during their careers, Moss and Owens have been equally adept at raising the hackles of foes, teammates and fans.

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