Eagles down Dolphins

Posted: Tuesday, December 16, 2003

MIAMI The last time the Philadelphia Eagles played so well for so long, they won the NFL championship. That was 43 years ago.

Donovan McNabb threw a 59-yard completion on the first play, receiver Freddie Mitchell's first career completion went for a touchdown, and Philadelphia beat the slumping Miami Dolphins 34-27 Monday night.

The Eagles extended their winning streak to nine games, matching the franchise record set in 1960, when they went on to the NFL title. Philadelphia (11-3) matched the St. Louis Rams for the NFC's best record.

''We're opening up some eyes,'' McNabb said. ''We've gotten better and better each week. Guys are out here having fun.''

The result pushed Miami to the brink of elimination from the playoff race. With coach Dave Wannstedt's job in jeopardy, the Dolphins (8-6) slipped into their traditional December swoon with a second consecutive loss.

The Dolphins could miss the playoffs for the second year in a row even if they win their final two games against Buffalo and the New York Jets.

''Do we need a little bit of help? Sure,'' Wannstedt said. ''Anything can happen.''

When asked if he's concerned about his job security, Wannstedt said, ''I'm just concerned about Buffalo, to be honest with you.''

Philadelphia has averaged 32 points in the past five games, and McNabb and company continued to roll against a Miami defense that ranked third in the NFL in points allowed.

The 34 points and 401 yards allowed by Miami were season highs. The Eagles scored touchdowns on three of their first four possessions.

''They probably made more big plays today than we've given up all year,'' Wannstedt said. ''We missed too many tackles.''

Three times the Dolphins came from behind, but they couldn't rally after Correll Buckhalter scored on a 2-yard run with 14:53 left to break a 24-all tie.

Buckhalter reached over the goal line with the ball extended as he leaped across the corner pylon. A replay review determined the play was a touchdown after the officials originally ruled Buckhalter out of bounds short of the end zone.

A pass-interference penalty against Miami's Arturo Freeman on third-and-18 set up the score.

David Akers' second field goal gave Philadelphia a 10-point lead. Olindo Mare kicked a 50-yard for Miami with 14 seconds left, but his ensuing onside kick went out of bounds to give the Eagles the ball and the win.

''We're not near where we want to be,'' running back Brian Westbrook said. ''We're a work in progress.''

Ricky Williams ran for 107 yards and a touchdown for Miami. But he carried only 18 times, while Jay Fiedler threw 40 passes a ratio sure to be questioned by Wannstedt's critics.

Williams broke a 45-yard run, his longest this season, to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Travis Minor for a 14-all tie. On the first series of the second half, Miami evened the score at 24 with an 80-yard drive capped by Williams' 3-yard run.

McNabb was 15-for-27 for 236 yards, but it was Mitchell who threw the game's only touchdown pass.

McNabb lateraled to the wide receiver, who retreated and hit Westbrook with a 25-yard scoring pass. Westbrook outfought linebacker Zach Thomas for the ball in the end zone to put the Eagles ahead 21-14.

''Against an aggressive defense, it's something you want to try,'' Mitchell said. ''They didn't bite as much as we thought they would. But I know as a receiver I just want them to throw the ball up there so I can make a play, so I figured I'd do the same for Westbrook.''

The teams scored touchdowns on five of the first seven possessions, and the Eagles needed just three plays to take the lead. Todd Pinkston beat Sam Madison deep for the Eagles' longest pass of the season, a 59-yard gain. After an incompletion, Westbrook ran up the middle 21 yards for the score.

''Our offense did an excellent job of putting up enough points for us to win,'' Madison said. ''As a defense, we weren't as stingy as we usually are. We gave up too many big plays, too much yardage, and that will come back to bite you.''

Notes: Eagles tackle Tra Thomas was inactive after suffering back spasms during pre-game warmups. ... Miami fullback Rob Konrad suffered a concussion in the first quarter and missed the rest of the game. ... Miami defensive tackle Tim Bowens played sparingly after he aggravated a calf injury in first quarter. ... Eagles cornerback Troy Vincent suffered a hip flexor in the second half. ... The Eagles improved to 12-1 on Monday night under coach Andy Reid. ... Williams topped 100 yards for the 16th time, a team record. Larry Csonka held the old record of 15.

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