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McNabb Owns Bragging Rights

Eagle throws for two touchdowns and runs for a third, and Owens wins receiver battle in a 27-16 win over Vikings.

September 21, 2004|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA — Turns out all that barking between receivers Randy Moss and Terrell Owens was more smack than substance, what happens when a Minnesota motormouth meets a Philly filibusterer.

Although Moss and Owens caught touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, the real showdown Monday was between Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb and Minnesota's Daunte Culpepper, the two star passers from the heralded quarterback class of 1999.

And the night belonged to McNabb, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third to lead the Eagles to a 27-16 victory at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles are 2-0 for the first time since 1993.

"I know it's only one game," Philadelphia linebacker Mark Simoneau said, "but I feel really good about our quarterback."

This time last season, the Eagles were 0-2.

"What a difference a year makes," McNabb said. "Guys have come out with a lot of confidence.... We showed some good signs of things to come."

The same could not be said of the Vikings. It was a rough game for Culpepper, who twice in the second quarter blew chances to score from point-blank range.

First, he hesitated too long on a third-down quarterback draw from the two, and was stopped a yard short of the end zone. Later, in the final minute of the half, he again tried to run in from the two but was sandwiched by linebackers Nate Wayne and Simoneau and fumbled away the chance.

Eight days earlier, in a 35-17 throttling of Dallas, the Vikings scored three touchdowns in their three trips into the red zone. Monday, they mostly wound up red-faced.

"Obviously we made some mistakes," Culpepper said. "Whether it be the fumble, or the penalties, or missed assignments. That's football."

The most productive performer for Minnesota was kicker Morten Andersen, who kicked three field goals and an extra point. Moss scored the only Viking touchdown, on a four-yard toss with 3 minutes 32 seconds to play.

"He was double-covered just about every time," Culpepper said of Moss. "I'm not going to force it out there if it's not there."

By the time Moss scored, the Eagles were firmly in command, having scored on McNabb's 20-yard keeper and touchdown passes to L.J. Smith and Owens. Replays of Owens' 45-yard scoring reception seemed to show that his knee was down at the one, and that he might not have had control of the ball until he rolled out of bounds. The Vikings could have challenged the touchdown call, but they didn't.

Moss caught eight passes, sharing game-high honors with teammates Jermaine Wiggins and Onterrio Smith, but he never reeled in one of his trademark long balls. His longest reception was 22 yards.

"He's a heck of an athlete, one of the best athletes in the NFL," Philadelphia defensive end Jevon Kearse said of Moss. "But if his quarterback doesn't have time to get him the ball, it's another story."

Aside from his troubles inside the Eagles' 20, Culpepper had a statistically solid night. He completed 37 of 47 passes for 343 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He was sacked four times, though, and hurried many others.

McNabb threw for 98 fewer yards, and his team held the ball almost 16 minutes less than the Vikings, but the Eagles got the job done, scoring on three of their four meaningful drives in the second half.

Most of the media attention surrounding the game concerned the matchup of Moss versus Owens, even though the two players are never on the field at the same time.

After the Eagles opened with a victory over the New York Giants, Owens billed his showdown with Moss as the NFL's answer to the NBA's "Michael vs. Magic." Moss shook off that suggestion, saying "you can go through all these high-profile receivers, but nobody sees the coverages I see. The comparison between the two of us next week, there is no comparison."

After some coaxing from Philadelphia reporters, Owens, who has been more subdued as an Eagle than he was as a 49er, responded to the no-comparison slight.

"I mean, that's great," Owens said last week. "That's all fine and dandy. I've always given Randy his credit and his just due because he is a great receiver. If he doesn't feel like I'm in comparison to him, that's great. My thing is, if I were thinking of great receivers who I want to be compared to, I would obviously say a guy like Jerry Rice or Michael Irvin, those types of guys.

"Regardless of what he says, if I'm not compared to him or he feels like he's on another planet, it doesn't bother me because whether we win, lose or it's a draw, I'm still going to feel confident in my ability that I'm still the best I can be."

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