NFL news of November 2, 2002

Nobody told the Philadelphia Eagles that teams that lose their starting tailback aren’t supposed to have the NFL’s best ground attack.

Thanks to a 299-yard rushing performance in last Monday’s 17-3 pounding of the New York Giants, the Eagles are leading the league with a 165.7-yard average. Such lofty status didn’t seem possible after Correll Buckhalter suffered a season-ending knee injury during the preseason.

Coach Andy Reid didn’t panic, deciding against pursuing a high-profile replacement via trade or free agency. He felt confident Duce Staley could again assume a starting role and 2002 third-round draft pick Brian Westbrook was ready as a backup. Reid also added ex-Green Bay Packers standout Dorsey Levens through a bargain-basement contract.

Staley has two consecutive 100-yard games, while Levens and Westbrook have combined for an average of 4.9 yards on 48 carries.

Donovan McNabb has done the rest.

McNabb is the first quarterback since Chicago’s Bobby Douglas in 1972 to post two 100-yard rushing performances in the same season. McNabb has gained 356 yards and is on pace for 813, which would be the highest total for a quarterback since Randall Cunningham‘s 942 in 1990 for the Eagles.

New York Giants offensive coordinator Sean Payton has gone from Boy Wonder to Boy Blunder in less than two seasons. The 38-year-old Payton was a hot coaching commodity when the Giants reached Super Bowl XXXV, but he was stripped of his play-calling duties by head coach Jim Fassel starting with today’s game against Jacksonville.

— Alex Marvez, South Florida Sun-Sentinel “Eagles fly on ground.”

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