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Akers' 4 FGs the difference

12/1/2003

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Donovan McNabb was an easy target to
blame for Philadelphia's 0-2 start. Now that the Eagles have
rallied for a share of the NFC's best record, he wants little of
the credit.

Question on the Eagles: Because of their overall improved health, do the Eagles now have all the pieces in place for a title?
Currently, they have the pieces necessary for a run at the NFC championship game. But for a run at the ultimate prize, they need more production from their receivers and running game. Their receivers need more one-on-one opportunities and the only way that'll happen is if their running game forces opposing defenses to respect it.

Question on the Panthers: Is the dependence on the running game starting to hurt the Panthers?
The dependence on the running game isn't the reason the Panthers aren't playing up to their earlier standards. The reason is their inability to get adequate production from their running backs. Earlier in the season, it didn't seem to matter how many men opposing defenses had in the box against them because they were successful rushing the ball regardless. Recently, that hasn't been the case and they need to find a way to recapture that swagger in their running game to win.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

McNabb overcame an interception on the first play -- his first in
six games -- to throw for a touchdown and 182 yards, hitting nine
receivers while leading the Eagles to their seventh consecutive
victory, 25-16 over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

The win kept the Eagles (9-3) tied atop the conference with St.
Louis and stalled Carolina's (8-4) attempt to wrap up the NFC
South.

But there was little celebration in the Philadelphia locker
room, especially from McNabb.

"This is no time to go wild, you only go wild in February," he
said. "Everybody counted us out early and nobody went crazy in
here. We knew what we had to do to get this ship righted."

What the Eagles had to do was play mistake-free football and get
better production out of McNabb. They did, going four consecutive
games without a turnover while McNabb went 127 attempts without an
interception.

That ended on the first play when McNabb looked left, then
right, and tossed the ball straight into Mike Rucker's hands.

It took McNabb all of two minutes to forget about it.

"You can't harp on mistakes," he said. "The guys want to see
how you adjust to mistakes."

The Eagles made several against Carolina -- Brian Westbrook also
fumbled away a punt and they failed on a 2-point conversion -- but
the Panthers made more.

John Kasay, who came into the game 24-of-27 on field goals this
season, missed three -- and an extra point. The 10 points he failed
to put on the board was the difference in the Panthers not ensuring
their first winning season since 1996.

"I just missed the kicks and it's my fault," said Kasay.
"Usually when something like this happens you're not doing this
anymore -- you've moved on to another career. So hopefully I'll keep
this to a minimum."

The Panthers refused to place all the blame on Kasay, the only
player left from Carolina's inaugural 1995 team. He made a
20-yarder after Rucker's interception, but missed on attempts of
32, 38 and 49 yards.

"John is a guy who has been very reliable for us, and for
whatever reason didn't get it done today," coach John Fox said.
"I don't think that is the entire reason we lost."

The Panthers also turned over the ball on downs at the end of
the first half on the Eagles 8-yard line when they went for it on
fourth-and-1 rather then give Kasay another chance.

And Jake Delhomme fumbled on a fourth-quarter sack at the
Carolina 11. McNabb put the Eagles ahead 22-10 two plays later when
he hooked up with James Thrash, who used a second-effort dive to
get into the end zone.

Although Philadelphia continued its turnaround from an 0-2 start
-- its seven straight victories represent its best single-season
streak since 1980 -- the Eagles did it without any flash and needed
David Akers' four field goals and a 2-yard touchdown run by Duce
Staley for the win.

Akers, who made field goals of 35, 48, 38 and 29 yards,
empathized with Kasay after the game. The two battled in 1999 for a
spot on Carolina's roster.

"Nobody taught me more than John Kasay," he said. "I would
have taken him over any kicker in the league coming into today."

Despite the miscues, the Panthers still had opportunities.

Delhomme threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad, and
although Kasay missed the extra point, it cut the Eagles' lead to
22-16 with 6:42 to play.

Carolina held on defense, but Delhomme threw two incompletions
and Steve Smith was called for offensive pass interference to force
the Panthers to punt.

They still had one last chance to get the ball back, needing to
hold on third-and-8 at the Eagles 45. But McNabb eluded several
defenders in a collapsing pocket to launch a 29-yard completion to
Chad Lewis that set up Akers' final field goal.

"Chad had to win versus man-to-man coverage and he did that,"
coach Andy Reid said. "Donovan trusted him and he went up and,
heck, that was a big play. It kind of sealed things."

NOTES:@ Delhomme threw for 216 yards and two touchdowns. ....
Stephen Davis ran for 115 yards, the seventh straight game the
Eagles have given up 100 or more yards. ... Kasay missed his first
extra point attempt since 2001. ... Westbrook had 97 total yards,
64 rushing and 32 receiving. ... The Panthers were livid with the
officiating: "What exactly that crew was doing today, I don't
know," Fox said.