Eagles fans who don't appreciate Donovan McNabb should be sentenced to spend eternal damnation with a 25-year-old Tarvaris Jackson as their quarterback.
Either that or be forced to watch a continuous loop of Philadelphia's 26-14 victory over the Vikings in Sunday's NFC first-round playoff game at the Metrodome.
Playing in front of a hostile 61,746 fans while facing every blitz that Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier could think of, McNabb calmly led the Eagles into next week's divisional-round game at Giants Stadium. And he did it with a virtually nonexistent running game that averaged a puny 2.9 yards per carry.
Meanwhile, Jackson lost at home while facing fewer blitzes than anybody imagined. He had the support of a running game, but he literally threw away a 40-yard touchdown run by Adrian Peterson by lobbing a hideous interception that Asante Samuel turned into the winning points with a 43-yard interception return for a touchdown midway through the second quarter.
"Donovan put us on his back and carried us," Eagles running back Brian Westbrook said. "That's what you expect from a superstar quarterback."
McNabb completed 23 of 34 passes for 300 yards and, oh yeah, sucked the life out of the Metrodome with a perfectly timed screen pass that Westbrook turned into a 71-yard touchdown and a 23-14 lead with 6 minutes, 37 seconds left in the game.
"We hadn't utilized the screen game prior to that," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "[The Vikings pass rush] had been flying up the field all day, and Brian hit that son of a gun."
McNabb's day wasn't perfect. He threw an interception on a deep ball and lost a fumble while being sacked by Jared Allen. But his passer rating of 92.8 was a tad better than T-Jack's 45.4.
McNabb also made two great plays that didn't lead to scores and will never be remembered.
The first came on third-and-11 from his own 4 early in the third quarter. Leading 16-14, he dropped back into his end zone -- the same end zone in which the Vikings recorded all three of their safeties this season. Facing a heavy blitz and the loudest crowd noise of the day, McNabb kept his poise and threw a 12-yard completion to Jason Avant over the middle. Ten plays later, the Vikings got the ball back at their 10-yard line following a punt.
The second play came on second-and-9 from his 5 early in the fourth quarter. Again leading 16-14, McNabb faced another heavy blitz. Again, he completed a 12-yard pass over the middle to Avant. Nine plays later, the Vikings got the ball back at their 19 following a punt.
"Field position is huge, especially when you're playing a guy like Adrian Peterson," Avant said. "He's the kind of guy you hold your breath every time he touches the ball. For Donovan to keep his cool, get us out of bad field position in this building and put Peterson on the other end of the field, that's huge."
McNabb was asked about a story in Sunday's Boston Globe in which Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said he wanted McNabb to finish his career with the Eagles. McNabb can void his current deal after the 2010 season.
"That's exciting," McNabb said. "Now I don't have to answer questions from [the media]. I want to be here."
That feeling hasn't always been mutual among some Eagles fans the past decade.
"I don't understand it," Avant said. "A lot of the ridicule and a lot of the criticisms he has received is not just due for him. To be the best quarterback in Eagles history and go to multiple Pro Bowls and take this team all the way to the Super Bowl, even though he didn't win, and get the ridicule that he gets, I don't get it. It makes all of us mad. It's one of those things where we play for him and our heart is with him."
By the way, if Philly doesn't want him, I can think of about 61,746 disappointed fans who would take him right now.
Mark Craig firstname.lastname@example.org