PHILADELPHIA - This is what a healthy Donovan McNabb looks like. McNabb threw for 361 yards and three touchdowns, rookie DeSean Jackson had an impressive debut and the Philadelphia Eagles routed the St. Louis Rams 38-3 on Sunday.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb (5) looks to throw a pass during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008, in Philadelphia, Pa.
(AP Photo/Mel Evans)
McNabb was 21-for-33, including a 90-yard TD pass to Hank Baskett. Jackson, the first Eagles rookie wide receiver to start the season opener in 18 years, had six catches for 106 yards and returned a punt 60 yards to set up a field goal.
Coming off their second last-place finish in three years, the Eagles played like a team that expects to make a championship run. The offense racked up 522 total yards and the defense was dominant.
The Rams, 3-13 last season, were downright awful again.
Marc Bulger didn't have much time to throw and Steven Jackson hardly had any room to run against Philadelphia's stifling defense. St. Louis had 109 total yards through three quarters.
McNabb, the five-time Pro Bowl quarterback, is starting a season healthier than he's been in years. He picked apart the Rams' secondary, spreading the ball around to a group of receivers that didn't seem to miss injured starters Kevin Curtis (sports hernia) and Reggie Brown (hamstring).
Greg Lewis had five receptions for 104 yards, Baskett caught two passes for 102 yards and each of the four wideouts had a catch longer than 30 yards. McNabb also tossed TD passes of 5 yards to L.J. Smith and 1 yard to Brian Westbrook.
McNabb hasn't played an injury-free season since leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl in 2004. He missed the final seven games in '05 because of a sports hernia and sat out the last six games in '06 with a knee injury. McNabb started slow last season after returning quickly following surgery to repair a torn knee ligament. But he finished strong after ankle and thumb injuries cost him two games late in the season.
Right from the start, this was vintage McNabb minus the scrambling. He had plenty of zip on his passes and threw with pinpoint accuracy.
McNabb connected with Jackson for 47 yards down the right sideline on the second play from scrimmage. Jackson, generously listed at 5 feet 10, was perfectly covered by Tye Hill, but made a leaping catch to the Rams' 33. An unsportsmanlike penalty on St. Louis' sideline moved the ball to the 18.
Three plays later, Westbrook scored on a shovel pass for a 7-0 lead.
McNabb hit a wide-open Jason Avant for 31 yards to the St. Louis 31 on third-and-12 to keep the next drive going. Smith caught his TD pass in the back of the end zone to make it 14-0.
Pinned at their own 8 with less than two minutes left in the first half, the Eagles seemed content to run out the clock as Westbrook ran twice for only 2 yards. Then McNabb found Baskett streaking down the left side on third down. Baskett caught the ball in stride near the 40 and ran untouched the rest of the way to make it 21-0.
The Rams didn't pass midfield until late in the second quarter. Even that play didn't end well. Steven Jackson took a crushing hit from Sheldon Brown after a 24-yard catch to the Eagles' 47. Brown knocked Jackson's helmet off with the hard blow to the head. But Jackson got right up and swung his dreadlocks around to show he was fine.