Special teams, defense are carrying Eagles

Originally Published: October 20, 2003
ESPN

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles are overcoming their inept offense with stellar play on defense and special teams.

In Sunday's 14-10 victory over the New York Giants, the offense continued its futility. But second-year pro Brian Westbrook returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown with 1:16 left and then the defense held on to secure a much-needed win.

"Our defense played well," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "They rose to the occasion when they needed to. Special teams came through when we needed them. They did a heck of a job with that last return and the last kickoff coverage."

An offense that scored a club-record 415 points last year is ranked last in the NFL in total yards, and is third-worst in scoring, averaging 15.8 points a game. Still, the two-time NFC East champion Eagles are 3-3 and in position to make a playoff run.

"Statistically, we are not where we want to be, but when you go 3-3 and put yourself in position to continue this thing on and compete for the top, you can't worry about what statistics say," said quarterback Donovan McNabb, the worst-rated passer in the NFL.

If McNabb and the rest of the offense figure out their troubles, the Eagles could be a dangerous team the rest of the season. But until then, the Eagles will have to rely on a defense that still is hurt by key injuries and young, inexperienced special teams players.

Pro Bowl cornerback Bobby Taylor played well Sunday after returning from a foot injury that forced him to miss four games. All-Pro safety Brian Dawkins still is out with a foot injury, but could be closer to returning. Defensive end Jerome McDougle, out since the preseason with an ankle injury, could return this week.

Even without those players, the defense, led by defensive tackles Corey Simon and Darwin Walker, is ranked eighth and has allowed 19.8 points a game.

Special teams was a concern entering the season after the Eagles let veteran punter Sean Landeta and Brian Mitchell, the most prolific returner in NFL history, leave through free agency.

But Westbrook is having a better year than Mitchell, now playing for the Giants. And, Dirk Johnson, who is tied for most punts in the league, is outkicking Landeta, who plays for the St. Louis Rams.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index