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Controversial call aids Eagles


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Out of timeouts, Falcons could not challenge key ruling in fourth quarter.

By Paul Sokoloski psokoloski@timesleader.com

Times Leader Sports Columnist

PHILADELPHIA — Whether the Philadelphia Eagles benefitted from a blown call or received a proper ruling wasn’t even debateable.

Donovan McNabb reaches back over his head with the football and breaks the plane of the goal line to score a second quarter touchdown in Sunday’s NFL game against Atlanta Falcons at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Because by the time it happened, the Atlanta Falcons didn’t get a chance to argue.

The Eagles maintained their final possession Sunday when officials ruled a punt was muffed by Atlanta, and Brian Westbrook used the good fortune for his second touchdown run that clinched Philadelphia’s 27-14 victory over the Falcons at Lincoln Financial Field.

“We need to get on a run right now,” Westbrook said after the Eagles won their second straight game while improving to 4-3.

They gained momentum with one big push Sunday.

After Atlanta closed within 20-14 on Matt Ryan’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White, the Falcons defense appeared to force the Eagles into a three-and-out.

That’s when the big break came.

Eagles punter Sav Rocca sent a wobbly kick bouncing toward Atlanta returner Adam Jennings with 2:22 left in the game. As he was about to field it, Jennings tried to pull away from the ball at the last instant.

Officials ruled Jennings had touched the ball, resulting in a muff that was recovered by Eagles linebacker Akeem Jordan.

Jennings said afterward he never touched the ball, and television replays appeared to back him up.

“I do not think that I did touch the ball,” Jennings said. “The official saw something different. I felt like I played the ball the right way. When I knew I could not get to the ball, I tried to move back as far as I could when I got there. I backed off the ball.”

The Eagles disagreed.

“From what I saw, he touched the ball,” said Eagles safety Quintin Mikell, who was near the play in punt coverage. “Let’s give the ref some credit. They (officials) have got a tough job. I thought it was a good call. I don’t know what you guys saw, but I saw him touch it.”

It’s hard to tell what Jordan saw, since he dressed quickly and left the Eagles locker room before it was opened to interviews.

But Eagles coach Andy Reid certainly wasn’t going to argue. And the Falcons couldn’t.

Atlanta coach Mike Smith called his third and final timeout just before Rocca’s punt. That meant the Falcons couldn’t challenge the call on the field, since they had no timeouts left to lose if a challenge was denied.

“Since we did not have a timeout, we cannot challenge it,” Smith said. “And it would be a 15-yard penalty if I threw the (red challenge) flag. He (the official) thought he saw the ball touch the return man’s hands, so that’s the call that was made.”

Reid had no dispute with it.

“They guys upstairs, they had a better look. They saw it hit him,” Reid said of his assistants in the Eagles coaching booth. “I thought it was a good call. I’m not going to say I don’t feel fortunate. But saying that means that the officials weren’t right, and I’m not going to say that.”

Instead, the Eagles basically just said, “Thanks.”

Because right after the two-minute warning, when the Falcons thought they’d be driving for the winning score, Westbrook darted around end for a 39-yard touchdown that sealed victory for the Eagles.

That punctuated the 100th career win for Reid and the season’s first two-game winning streak for the Eagles, who overcame a slow start and some blurred vision by quarterback Donovan McNabb in the first quarter to rally for victory.

“I got poked in the eye,” McNabb said. “From there, everything got blurry. I am OK.”

Once McNabb regained the ability to see straight, things went smooth for the Eagles.

McNabb scored on a three-yard quarterback draw in the second quarter to tie the game at 7-7, after Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan hooked up with White on a 55-yard touchdown bomb. Later, McNabb’s 20-yard pass to DeSean Jackson set up a 36-yard field goal by David Akers as the Eagles took a 10-7 lead into halftime.

Westbrook added a 16-yard scoring run in the third quarter and Akers nailed an 18-yard field goal in the fourth as the Eagles took command, 20-7. Then they needed one last bit of good fortune to hang on.

“Hey, thank you,” Eagles offensive tackle Tra Thomas said. “Sometimes you get them (breaks) and sometimes you don’t. This time, we got one. We made the best of it.”

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This pisses me off even more. The fact that these *** hats are saying he touched it when it was more than clear that he didnt. We can curse this all we want but Tra Thomas had it right. If the situation was reversed we wouldnt be complaining 1 bit. **** happens I guess

If you criticize the ref's, you get fined. What else are they supposed to say?

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