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Eagles vs Broncos: The Grades

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Brian Dawkins came back.

Brian Westbrook  came back.

Denver came back from 17 points down.

And for the third time during this six-game winning streak, Donovan McNabb engineered a come back.

The Eagles beat the Denver Broncos, 30-27, to spoil Dawkins’ return and move to 11-4 on the season.

With one week left in the season, the Eagles can move as high as the No. 2 seed and earn a first-round bye, or fall as far as the No. 6 seed and be on the road for the first round.

Here’s how they graded out against the Broncos.

PASSING OFFENSE – Donovan McNabb had a perfect 153.8 quarterback rating in the first half when he completed 15 of 19 passes for 242 yards with a touchdown. Then he was 4-for-16 with an interception in the second half until his pass to rookie Jeremy Maclin  ruled incomplete on the field was overturned by replay. That pass gave the Eagles a first down at the Denver 13 and led to David Akers’  game-winning field goal. McNabb still finished with a rating of 104.7.

Denver’s veteran secondary which ranked 3rd best in the league did a decent job on wide receiver DeSean Jackson (four catches for 33 yards), but the playmaker did score his 12th touchdown of the season on a two-yard pass. Tight end Brent Celek  had a huge first half, finding openings in the Broncos secondary for four catches and 121 yards.

Grade: B

RUSHING OFFENSE – The Eagles ran the ball 28 times, including five by McNabb, who ran 27 yards for a huge first down on 3rd-and-25 on the next-to-last drive of the game. Westbrook, in his return after missing five weeks with a concussion, carried nine times for 32 yards. Rookie LeSean McCoy had six carries for 27 yards, but his biggest play was a 39-yard screen pass in which he eluded Dawkins. Fullback Leonard Weaver had seven carries, but could gain just 20 yards. Weaver did not catch a pass. While it’s nice to see Andy Reid keep his offense balanced (35 passes, 28 runs), the running game needs to be more productive and can’t always rely on 27-yard runs by McNabb.

Grade: C

PASSING DEFENSE – Again, in the first half the Eagles kept Denver quarterback Kyle Orton  in check, and four dropped passes, three by Brandon Marshall helped. Orton got untracked in the second half and finished 27-for-41 for 189 yards and three touchdowns for a rating of 90.4. His one interception, Asante Samuel’s ninth of the season, took away potential Broncos’ points, but in a strange way spurned Denver’s come back. Marshall finished with eight catches, but managed just 39 yards and no touchdowns, as the Eagles basically took Denver’s top playmaker out of the game. One-time Eagles training camp player Jabar Gaffney had the better game with seven catches, 69 yards and two touchdowns. The Eagles also did a good job on Denver’s tight ends (3 for 30) and backs (5 for 29).

Grade: B+

RUSHING DEFENSE – Former Eagle Correll Buckhalter had 42 yards on five carries, but one was for 33, so the other four amounted to just nine yards. Rookie Knowshon Moreno had 18 yards on nine carries and was never a factor. The Eagles front four was stout for the most part, with Mike Patterson having another strong game along with Juqua Parker. The Eagles outside linebackers – Akeem Jordan and Moise Fokou were also good at the point of attack to shut down Denver’s running game which came into the week ranked 12th in the league.

Grade: A

SPECIAL TEAMS- Either Quintin Demps has to get healthy or the Eagles have to find someone other than Victor "Macho" Harris to return kickoffs. Harris fumbled twice on returns, the first allowed Denver to cut the lead from 27-17 to 27-24. On the second he got lucky when the ball was recovered by Victor Abiamiri. When he didn’t fumble, Harris averaged just 15.3 yards on his three returns.

Denver was not going to let DeSean Jackson beat them on a punt return so punter Mitch Berger sacrificed distance and just kicked high, pooched or kicked out of bounds. Jackson managed just 17 yards on three returns.

The Eagles once again covered kickoffs well, allowing a 17.6-yard average on seven returns. They allowed 11.7 on three punt returns before they began to kick away from rookie Alphonso Smith.

Punter Sav Rocca had a couple of good punts and one bad one at the end. Akers was perfect on his two field-goal attempts, including the game-winner.

Grade: D+

photo: Michael Perez/AP