PHILADELPHIA -- Donovan McNabb is proving he can the throw the ball, too.
McNabb, who entered the league with a reputation as a running quarterback, had the best game of his career in the Philadelphia Eagles' 35-24 playoff-clinching victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
The second-year quarterback set career highs with 390 yards passing and four touchdowns against the Browns, and further established himself as a Most Valuable Player contender.
One year after winning just five games, the Eagles are 10-5. McNabb is most responsible for the startling turnaround.
''There's a lot of parts to it,'' Eagles coach Andy Reid said about McNabb's success. ''It's taking control of the huddle, to feeling comfortable in the pocket and with throws. He's more comfortable with that full picture of being a quarterback.''
No one could've predicted the Eagles would do this well in the second year of Reid's rebuilding program, especially after star running back Duce Staley went down with a season-ending foot injury in Week 5.
But McNabb has taken complete control of the offense. He became the leading rusher in Staley's absence, almost single-handedly beat the Washington Redskins with his legs by running for 125 yards in a 23-20 victory last month, and showed he can beat teams with his arm with the performance against Cleveland.
''It made Donovan mature a little faster than he would have had to with Duce,'' safety Brian Dawkins said.
McNabb has completed 307 of 529 passes for 3,167 yards, 20 TDs and 12 interceptions. He leads all quarterbacks with 609 yards rushing, and has six TDs on the ground.
His 529 attempts are an NFL high, 31 short of Randall Cunningham's team record. He already surpassed Cunningham's team record for completions.
''I have fun out there,'' McNabb said. ''I have confidence in the players around me and I am pretty sure that they have confidence in me. Most importantly, we are out there executing together.''
Reid, who not surprisingly endorsed McNabb as his choice for MVP, was most impressed by the quarterback's play against Cleveland. McNabb twice led the Eagles on 98-yard scoring drives.
''He could have very easily been caught up in all of the media hype that he has received, with the Most Valuable Player awards, Pro Bowl and all of that,'' Reid said. ''He did not do that. It was a big game and he stepped up.''
It's not bad for a guy many fans didn't want in the first place. The reception McNabb got from the notorious Philly boobirds on draft day in 1999 won't be forgotten anytime soon.
McNabb's ability to handle that situation, and turn himself into the people's choice has drawn praise from his teammates.
''He won't die, he won't give in,'' wide receiver Torrance Small said. ''He's able to overcome adversity and keep his composure.''
McNabb remains humbled by the accolades.
''I think if I were even to be considered for the MVP award,'' he said, ''it would be a total result of how hard we all worked as a team.''
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