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ATLANTA at PHILADELPHIA Today, 5 p.m., Channel 11

Reeves' Success on Road Will Get Important Test

January 11, 2003|From Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — Don't expect a Dan Reeves team to roll over in a road game.

After becoming the first visiting coach to win a playoff game at Green Bay's forbidding Lambeau Field, Reeves takes his underdog Atlanta Falcons to equally intimidating Veterans Stadium tonight for an NFC semifinal game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Reeves has been going to the Vet since the '70s, when he played for the Cowboys.

And he spent plenty of time there as an assistant coach with Dallas and as head coach of the New York Giants, two of Philadelphia's NFC East rivals.

He has never liked it.

"They have some of the best fans in the league, and they let you know it," Reeves said.

"It's always been a tough place to play and I don't expect it to be any different this time. You hear all kinds of things from the stands, but the bottom line is they support their team."

Eagle quarterback Donovan McNabb, who likes to think of himself as a conventional quarterback despite his scrambling ability, has changed his tune this week. He says he'll surprise people who think his injury (he'll be making his first start since breaking his right ankle Nov. 17) will limit his mobility.

"According to everyone else, I'm not able to move anymore," he said. "I just let people continue to think that. When the time comes, we'll make sure I showcase that a little bit."

Reeves' remarkable playoff road record hasn't gotten much attention, but is worth noting.

He is in his 22nd consecutive season as an NFL head coach -- first with the Denver Broncos, then the Giants, and for the last six seasons with Atlanta.

His success started 16 seasons ago, when his Broncos won the AFC title game in Cleveland in overtime, after John Elway led a 98-yard drive in the final five minutes to tie it.

But his best coaching job may have come four seasons ago, when he took the Falcons into the Metrodome for the NFC title game and upset the Vikings, 30-27, in overtime.

That ended a 10-game home winning streak by Minnesota and was accomplished without one illegal-procedure penalty, something that had plagued other teams in the din of that indoor stadium.

Then there was last week's upset in Green Bay, a rare loss for Packer quarterback Brett Favre in a cold-weather game.

One way Reeves prepared his players for that game was to remind him that when he played in the "Ice Bowl" for Dallas against the Packers in 1967, the conditions were horrible for both teams, not just the visiting Cowboys.

Despite those victories, Reeves has never won a Super Bowl as a head coach, although he has rings from his time as a player and assistant in Dallas. He has been there four times -- with Denver after the 1986, 1987 and 1989 seasons, and again after the win in Minneapolis.

In that Super Bowl, he lost to his old team, the Broncos.

Reeves has been coaching for more than two decades despite heart problems that began when he was in his 40s at Denver.

In the Super Bowl season with the Falcons, he underwent bypass surgery and returned to the sideline less than a month later.

"We had won two games and I didn't want them to think they could win without me," the 58-year-old Reeves said.

Asked about the pressure of remaining in a high-stress occupation, Reeves repeated what he said 15 years ago after his heart problems first surfaced.

"I'd feel more stress if I wasn't doing this," he said.

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